Mississippi Leaders: Terry Powell

Martin Willoughby, columnist

If you have never been on www.TED.com to watch a TED talk then you are missing out. This site contains hundreds of videos by the world’s leading thinkers. Two of the most watched videos in the history of the organization are by Sir Ken Robinson, PhD. Dr. Robinson’s 2006 and 2010 TED talks have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in 150 countries. He is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of education, creativity, and innovation, and his wit and sharp insights capture your attention. In his best-selling book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Dr. Robinson makes a compelling argument that we should seek to find that unique place where our passion and skills meet which he calls the “Element.” He shares numerous stories of people who found their “Element” and went on to great success. He teaches and encourages people to re-think what it means to be creative, and to purposely and intentionally find their “Element.”

I recently visited with Terry Powell, CEO of Powell Place Landscape Services, Inc., about finding his “Element” and the value of working in your sweet spot. Powell grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, but spent a lot of time on a family ranch in West Tennessee where he developed an appreciation for the outdoor environment. From the age 15, Powell knew he wanted to be a landscape architect, and he proceeded on to get a dual degree from Mississippi State University in landscape architecture and landscape contracting. He had an opportunity to intern with well-known golf architect Robert Trent Jones during college, and upon graduation, Powell worked for the Mississippi Department Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks as a golf course consultant. In 1998, Powell decided to start his site planning and construction company and has been operating a very successful business ever since.

Powell shared, “I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a field that I am passionate about. I feel blessed and rewarded that my profession allows me to work with my hands, my mind and my heart.“ He enjoys being interactive with clients, helping them develop and implement their vision for their outdoor experience, as well as being “hands on” during the implementation of the design. His company which provides everything from master planning residential subdivisions to perennial garden installations, allows him to have a sense of accomplishment as he sees projects completed and clients enjoying their new improvements. We discussed that he has purposefully kept his company a size where he can still interact with clients and share his passion for landscaping and design. This is an extremely important point about finding your “Element.” While conventional wisdom may be to grow, grow, grow, it can actually cause you to lose your passion and enjoyment for what you do. Michael Gerber in his bestseller The E-myth Revisited does a great job of helping entrepreneurs address the problem of moving from doing something you love to running a business without losing your passion. For Powell, he has a clear vision for his company and the size he wants to be so he manages to that level instead of arbitrarily trying to grow his business just for the sake of growth.

A Renaissance man at heart, Powell is also an accomplished musician and regularly plays engagements around the state with his long-time friend and fellow landscape architect, Andy McCrory, when their busy schedules permits. One of the key things I learned from visiting with Powell is the reinforcement of the value of finding your “Element.” Powell, like others who are intentional about working in their areas of passion and skill, experience the joy of fulfillment and know that they are working in their area of their true “sweet spot.” While everyone can’t necessarily change his or her path overnight, I do believe that we each have the opportunity, if not the responsibility, to seek out and make sure we are truly working in our “Element.”

 

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