Figuring Things Out

I once heard that you’ll never achieve or acquire what you really want until you figure out exactly what that is. It took me until my fiftieth year to figure out what I wanted to achieve and what I wanted to be. I started the Red-tail Land Conservancy, and the rest is history.

But the process of “figuring out” started in 1979, when I was on a nationwide Public Relations tour. I got a week off near Indiana and made my way to Shakamak State Park, where my mom and dad were camping with friends.

One quiet morning Dad and I took out our fenwick fly rods and went out on the lake fishing with Shorty Haskett. Shorty had the knack of cutting to the quick in conversations. He asked me, in this quite, peaceful setting, what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I was a veteran of the US Navy, my first marriage, and Pepperdine Law School, with this fantastic, but obviously temporary job and little or no career path in mind. I let my mind wonder for a while, then said that I wanted a job where I could get up in the morning, saddle up a horse, and ride across vast acreages of which I was the caretaker. I think my inspiration for this revelation was the very popular Marlboro Man, an image implanted in many minds by a gargantuan advertising campaign, back when tobacco companies were allowed to do so.

I never forgot that moment, because I knew that answer came from deep within. Twenty years and many jobs came and went. Because I had no natural science credentials, when I saw appealing, environmental positions ready to be filled, I never applied. I remained content to volunteer and send an occasional check to those organizations that helped preserve wildlife and our planet.

Until one day in 1998 when I received a promotional brochure from The Nature Conservancy. The concept was new to me. One can help preserve the planet and local habitat by merely buying land or permanently preserving natural areas with conservation agreements. It was a life changing moment for me. I did some online research and came across an organization named Land Trust Alliance, a clearing house for land trusts. Looking into their reference library, I found and purchased a book entitled, “Starting a Land Trust”. I followed it step by step, and the result was a sixteen year-old land trust permanently protecting 2,503 acres…and counting.

The key to success is to find what you really want to achieve, set your course, and never, ever consider failure as an option. One cannot be too old or young to find your path. You just have to figure it out.

Barry Banks

Executive Director & Founder