Vision and Service with Dave Talamo, Founder of Wilderness Reflections
Coaching the Life Coach
Robert Harrison

Episode 8 - Vision and Service with Dave Talamo, Founder of Wilderness Reflections

In this episode of Coaching the Life Coach, Jason Interviews Dave Talamo of Wilderness Reflections on the importance of holding a vision and having the passion to see it through. You will learn how perseverance is an important characteristic for any entrepreneur or entrepreneurial endeavor. Additionally, you will learn how taking a genuine interest in the people in front of you and truly being in service of their needs and desires--can assist you in growing your business not only financially, but also in terms of building your reputation as someone who cares and is capable of providing the space your clients need to experience the transformation they seek.



Vision and Service with Dave Talamo, Founder of Wilderness Reflections

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Jason McClain:  Welcome to Coaching the Life Coach.  I'm Jason McClain, your host and your guide in the 21st-century marketplace.  I am here with Dave Talamo, the founder of Wilderness Reflections.

Dave Talamo:  I'm calling out to the world, “Hey, come and join us in this.  This is important.  This is valuable.  This is going to be fun and meaningful.  And yet you show up and you are holding the space for something.  And you don't know ‘if anybody is coming to your party or not’.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

Dave Talamo:  He was in his late 20s and about to become a dad.  He was really worried.  He said, “How can I possibly father someone else when I feel so in need of fathering myself?”  I said, “Yeah, that's a real dilemma.”

Jason McClain:  Thanks for joining us Dave.

Dave Talamo:  Thanks for having me Jason.

Jason McClain:  Dave is known for his passion for what he is doing as well as his deep compassion and bringing safety to whatever people are bringing to him.

Today on the show we will be talking about the need for enthusiasm and perseverance for your vision as well as the power of speaking from the heart and having a genuine interest in your clients.

So Dave, again, I'm excited to have you on the show.  First of all let's just talk about this idea of enthusiasm and perseverance and the need for a vision and a passion for that and for what matters.  Can you speak to what that means for you?

Dave Talamo:  Sure Jason.  Some of what that means for me - really I think the vision comes first, the sense of being called to something and having some reason to launch off on a path, whether it is becoming an entrepreneur or creating something for oneself, there has to be some spark and some reason to do that.  That's what carries people through the difficulties that inevitably come in doing that.  It's not necessarily the easiest path but it's that juice that one gets from having a vision and feeling called to it that carries you through and allows you to have the perseverance you need to face things that if they came up with something that mattered less to you, you might just give in and say, “Oh, forget this.  This is too hard.  I'm just going to let it go and do something else is easier.”

Jason McClain:  So you already answered part of this in that first answer but I'm curious, why is it important for coaches listening and entrepreneurs listening to really have a sense of perseverance?  Could you speak more to that vision calling you forth and maybe even give some examples in your own life of how that perseverance and that vision calling you forth has kept you in the game so to speak?

Dave Talamo:  So again, that vision feeds the perseverance in my experience.  At a certain point in my work we were doing Wilderness Rites of Passage work with teams.  We still do that.  I just realized that, although we are doing a contemporary version of something that has been a part of human experience as far back as we could trace, we are doing it without a real sense of community, and that there was a real need for that.  I had a vision for that and it grabbed me.  But it also overwhelmed me.  I thought, “How can I really build community around what we are doing?  It's off the mainstream.  People don't even really understand what we are doing and how to do this.”

So having that sense of calling allowed me to persevere through all kinds of stops and starts with getting the community going.  The ultimate outcome of that mattered less to me than that I really go for it and that I really give myself to it.  At this point the community aspect of what we are doing has evolved several significant steps.  In lots of places I have had to really sit with the perseverance and that place of knowing ‘OK, this really matters to me.  I am calling out to the world, “Hey, come and join us in this.  This is important. This is valuable.  This is going to be fun and meaningful.”’  And yet you show up and you are holding the space for something.  And you don't know ‘if anybody is coming to your party or not’.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.  So that perseverance becomes crucial in continuing forward even when it didn't go the way that you wanted, and not to just give up and go back to whatever it was or whatever else you might be doing that wasn't really satisfying you.

Jason McClain:  Thanks Dave.  Great answer.  Thank you.  I'm curious if you could give us some steps.  How specifically can you stay identified with that vision?  How can you develop that perseverance?  Could you tell us some things that you have done perhaps in your experience in developing that community?

Dave Talamo:  Sure.  You have to know where your source is or be able to find it and continue to find your way back there.  For me those sources are nature, obviously, and spending periods of immersion in the wild, natural world.  As well, some of those sources I think for most people are that there is other human support.  There are people who know you and believe in you and are able to communicate that with you randomly, but also when you really need it.  You're able to reach out to them.

Any person who is going to be following a vision is going to encounter significant obstacles.  I believe that's really part of why the calling emerges for someone.  In that it means developing new forms of support for oneself or whatever the growing edges are.  So again, it's really being able to source and continue to go back to the source for oneself.  What feeds you?  What renews you?  What reminds you of who you are and what that vision is and ultimately holding it in a way that you can let go of it?  You do everything you can.  And then you let it go.  And you see what happens.

Jason McClain:  I'm curious, what does it make possible in people's lives or in their businesses if they maintain connection with that vision that draws them through those ups and downs that we all experience when we are in business for ourselves and when they have a deeper and higher calling?  For what does that allow or open up or make possible?

Dave Talamo:  I think what it allows for is for someone to live a really full, rich, engaged life and they can live without regret when they are really persevering and going after what they want.  It doesn't mean that you get all those things.  But to pursue them is really an irreplaceable thing to do.

Jason McClain:  [laughs] Yeah, I think that's it.  Thank you.  Thank you.


Jason McClain:  We’re going to take a short break to support our sponsors.  We are here with Dave Talamo of Wilderness Reflections.  And we will be right back.




Jason McClain:  Welcome back.  I'm your host Jason McClain.  You are listening to ‘Coaching the Life Coach’.  I'm here with Dave Talamo.  Before the break we were talking about the need for perseverance and have a sense of vision pull you through those ups and downs.

Now we are actually going to talk a little bit about the work that Dave does.  Dave, tell us a little bit about this Quest Work that you do with Wilderness Reflections.

Dave Talamo:  Sure Jason.  That's something I can say a lot about because it is very close to my heart.

Really what we see in the center of it is people getting in touch with the deep longings they have in their lives, whether it is to mark a major point of life transition or a place where they are feeling stuck or in need of healing around things that have happened in their past, or really looking to the future and really seeking a sense of life direction, of vision or calling.  So people come to us with some kind of longing.  It may just be a need for balance and reconnecting with what has joy and meaning for them.

We help them get deeply in touch with that in a very felt and experienced way, not just as the ideas of what that is but really access that.  Then they take those longings out to the natural world.  They use a whole variety of different practices both in the uncovering of that longing and then into taking that out into the natural world in a ceremonial way.

What we see when that happens is magic and transformation.  I can't really explain it or make it happen.  I am kind of like the gardener or the midwife.  I can tend it.  And I know, “Oh yeah, this one needs a little more sun.  That one needs some more water.” - to go with the plant metaphor.  That's what I know about.  But exactly what it is that makes that plant person blossom, I couldn't really say.

Jason McClain:  You know Dave, I'm curious because I have met a lot of people in the transformation community but not very many that do with nature.  So I'm curious, if you could speak to two aspects - why it is important for you to do it in nature and also could you speak to the importance of the ceremonial aspect?  Could you speak to that?

Dave Talamo:  Sure.  Nature is a root.  That's what we are.  That's where we come from.  When you get people out in the natural world in some kind of wild setting - it doesn't even have to be wilderness - all kinds of things start to fall away.  And they start to get back in touch with their own inner nature, whatever that might be at any given moment.

Also there is a softening and a slowing down that happens.  Especially in the 21st century where we are all moving so fast and we are so occupied with technology and so many things, we can really lose track of who we are and what we're about.  Also in doing the kind of transformational work that we do, rather than say working with a dream that has symbology images that have arisen in a person, this is like stepping into a waking dream.  When you're out in the natural world and parts of nature seem really willing.  Whether it is the wind or the animals or the plants or the earth itself, they get deeply involved in people's experiences and interact with them.  It seems they move towards people and help give them what they need.

I could give you some examples of how I see that happening.

Jason McClain:  Please do. 

Dave Talamo:  Great.  For example, one man came to me quite a few years ago now.  He was in his late 20s and his wife was six or seven months pregnant.  In fact, it's the only time that I ever agreed to carry someone's cell phone out and to go to a place where we could be contacted.  Usually I say we are going somewhere and we can't be reached.  In fact, this person that I am taking is going beyond your reach.  They kind of have to in order to do what they need to do.

This time I had his cell phone.  I told his wife I would keep it on incase she went into labor and we were near enough by that he could make his way out to the hospital if that's what needed to happen.  But he was in his late 20s and he was about to become a dad.  He was really worried.  He said, “How can I possibly father someone else when I feel so in need of fathering myself?”  I said, “Yeah, that's a real dilemma. I can really understand.”

Jason McClain:  [laughs]

Dave Talamo:  Yeah.  And you really feel that.  It was really clear that there was this sense of ‘stuckness’ and insecurity and really wanting something else.  That doesn't come from me.  That comes from nature.  That comes from creation.  So he went out and found a spot in an area that I knew really well.  But I had never seen what he found.  This happens over and over.  There is a very intimate and personal way of interacting with the natural world that happens.

So he went out.  Usually our programs include a period of solo time and he had 24 hours of solitude and fasting out in nature.  He found this grand old fir tree.  Next to it was growing a smaller tree.  The two had grown into each other.  Maybe you have seen that.  Two trees are next to each other and they start to kind of go around each other.  And from that place where they were grown together sap was dripping.  It was a wound of some kind where these trees were growing into each other and this man said to me, “I realized that that was the father tree and the son tree.  I went around to the back of that tree and there was this big cavity in the back of the tree.  I lay down in there.  That's where I spent the night.  There was a lot of emotion moving and I was praying.  And somewhere during the night I got it as I was being held by this father tree.  It's like the father and the son grow together and there is wounding.  There is blood dripping - tree blood in this case.  And the only way that I am really going to be able to be the father that I want to be is by fathering.  In fact, that is what that tree gave to me and I understood that in that moment that I will get what ever I need to be a father in the process of doing it.  And I'm not going to get it before hand.  It's not going to be something neat and packaged that I walk into completely confident.

“But, having had this experience of being fathered by this grand old Douglas fir tree I really trust that I am and I have been fathered and that is innately in me.  And I will be able to bring that to my daughter when she comes into the world.”

Jason McClain:  Thank you Dave.  I got chills twice through that story. [Laughs] That's really fantastic.  Wow.  So, not to switch contexts so dramatically but one of the things I have thought about, especially with environmentalism becoming so important nowadays is that if we stop thinking about man against nature or humans against nature or this war going on, that really we are a part of nature.  Once we realize that then the rest will fall into place.  We won't need to go in the struggle of convincing people that we are destroying nature.  We are really destroying ourselves if we destroy it.

But can you speak more to what it makes possible when you really connect in this deep way with nature and do whatever transformational work people are doing there?

Dave Talamo:  It can really make amazing things possible is what I see.  For one, I totally agree with you that we are nature.  We are nature being human.  And we get so cut off and separate.  Even we talk about going out into nature as if we could be somewhere else.

Jason McClain:  [laughs] Right.

Dave Talamo:  As if the plastic in this chair is not made of nature, highly altered by humans, which are part of nature.  But we are part of it.  And there is such a deep sense of disconnection and of longing I think to belong.  People even forget that in a way what we do is just get people to slow right down and say, “Just sit right here and don’t move.  Let yourself be again.”

I take people out sometimes to the desert where they look at first and think, “Oh, there's nothing here.  It's so empty.”  And yet inevitably, once they come back from being out there and they have slowed down, they go, “Oh my God.  There is so much here - so much life and so much moving.  And I forget.”  So regaining a sense of belonging can bring a deep sense of safety and peace, self trust.  Also at heart I am an activist and partly I am doing what I am doing because I really see that once people have experiences like the one I just recounted to you of this man with the trees and his own sense of being able to be a father, they can't detach themselves from nature the same way that perhaps they were detached beforehand. 

Jason McClain:  That’s right.

Dave Talamo: They can't deny that I am a part of this and I just have to trust that that is going to make them a little more open to whatever kind of environmental cause or action might cross their path in the weeks and years that follow.  If I really didn't believe that that happened and I didn't see that happening I would have to do some other work other than what I am doing.  It's people and nature of our most sacred and important to me.  If I'm not serving both I can't sit comfortably with myself.

Jason McClain:  Thanks for such a wonderful response Dave.


Jason McClain:  I'm here with Dave Talamo.  You're listening to Coaching the Life Coach and we will be right back.




Jason McClain:  Welcome back to Coaching the Life Coach.  I'm here with Dave Talamo.  Before the break we were talking about his work with Wilderness Reflections and how humans are part of nature and how transformational work can be so powerful in nature.

Now, in terms of again what can make you successful as a coach, I want to talk to Dave about speaking from the heart and taking a genuine interest in people who are in front of you.  Dave, can you say what that means for you to speak from the heart and take an interest in the other?

Dave Talamo:  Sure Jason.  I think speaking from the heart, partly it is important to know that you are doing really what you are doing.  Often people say, “Oh yeah, I really want to follow my bliss or pursue my calling.”  Joseph Campbell said those words, “Follow your bliss” but that does not mean that I feel good and I am happy all the time.  It is not like that.  What I have seen are some of the hallmarks of what really is a calling to something.  It's one part ‘Oh yes!’ And another part ‘Oh no! I have to do that?  I have to really face myself?’

Jason McClain:  I saw David Dadon speaking one time in Sacramento.  He said, “What is the thing that scares you the most to do?  That's your purpose.” [Laughs]

Dave Talamo:  Yeah, there is some part of that in there.  And also there is that part ‘What’s the thing that you are most longing to do?’  There are really both of those in there.  It's that ‘Oh yes!’ And ‘O crap!’

Jason McClain:  [laughs] Right.

Dave Talamo:  And some of that is to be discovered.  Part of the reason it is our calling is because it is what pulls us out into the world including the places where we have held back and been afraid either of being successful or facing our own shadow.  And really following a calling means doing that.  I think where that dovetails into, really being openhearted with people who are coming to us, is that we remember that.  We stay in touch enough with their own calling that we are in touch with the vulnerability of that.

For my part, every year I try to go out and fast alone in the wilderness.  I know I am usually really in trouble when I think, “Oh yeah, I know just what this is going to be.  I've got this under control.  I'm in charge.”  That's usually when I'm going to take a big ride and have difficulty with something, when I forget my vulnerability.  So really being in touch with that when I am listening to another person or someone who is coming to us is crucial I think.  And in that, remembering, “Well, I may have a ton of passion for what I am doing and I have this vision and I want to talk about that.”  That's not what they are coming for ultimately.  There are places for that but really they are coming to be received by me.

Really where I try to start with people is, “What brings you here?  Why are you coming here?”  And then really listen from the heart and listen in a deep way.  And if I am attached to, “Oh, I want them to sign up for this quest that I'm doing or come on as an apprentice with us.  That's what they should do”, that's time for a timeout.  Really it is about them and what they want and what is right for them.  And I know if I'm getting too attached, it's really a place for me to let go and really take a deep interest in the other and genuinely and with integrity with what is right for them.  And that's where I really want to invest myself and my energy.

Sometimes that means saying, “You know, this wilderness quest doesn't really sound right for you.  It sounds like what would really be good for you is counseling or pursuing your passion in your music.  What about that?  What do you think?”  And in that, when I become that kind of person who is really taking a genuine interest in them, I am an incredible resource for them.  I have had people really think me and say, “You know, you are right.  What I really want to do is go back to school and study music.  And I don't need a vision quest to figure that out.”  It's like, “Yeah, you go.”

Jason McClain:  One of the things I talk about in the other show Evolutionary Sales is that you need to come from a place of service and contribution.  If you are trying to close a deal with somebody, if you are attached to a particular outcome for them that doesn't necessarily serve them, you are really not serving the long-term relationship, which is what is so important today.

So Dave, I'm curious how specifically do you - what techniques do you use or what kind of space to create to really connect with the people I come to you when you open a relationship with them?

Dave Talamo:  I really liked to have personal contact with people.  That means a least a voice conversation, not just e-mail or great, you clicked on our website and if I was perfect for you and you sent us money.  I really try to have more of a sense of personal contact because what we are doing is a big commitment.  We want to make sure the people are making the right choice about that and that ultimately what feels good is doing the work that we do with people for whom it is right and who really want to be there and doing that versus doing the work with people who are there out of some idea that really doesn't align with what we are doing.  That's not best for anybody.

So we really try to have personal contact with the people, invite them to be in touch with people who have worked with us before if they want that.  But really looking for the right fit.

Jason McClain:  Right, I do. [Laughs] And during the break you mentioned something about having a calling and discovering a calling would help people with connecting with the other.  Can you speak to that?

Dave Talamo:  Yeah.  I think that having that calling, especially if you're working with people around that calling or around anything that is vulnerable, if you are in touch with your own calling and your own vision, you've been taken down in the process of doing that.  You have been undressed, if you will, by life and humbled.  So you remember that humility and that whoever is coming to you for whatever reason is looking for something.  There is a longing in that.  And there is vulnerability in reaching out for help, vulnerability in feeling like, “I have no idea what I am doing.  Maybe this guy or this gal can help me.”

But people want to be received with tenderness and compassion.  Who doesn't, especially at a time of feeling stuck or lost or seeking something or a time of launching something new?  I think people come to a coach because they have some vision – ‘I want to do this thing in my life’ - whether it is personal life or professional life.  And that's exciting but it's also scary, just like having our own calling.  It's that excitement and that fear that are happening together.  We really need to make room for both and not only barge ahead where “Here’s what you need to do.”  But also holding, “How is it to be sitting in this place of not knowing and hanging out with that?”  And in that place, that's that place of gestating the creative force, would you call it a live wildness that we have or creativity or our true nature coming through.  I don't care what we call it.  But it is that other thing that it is exciting and vulnerable to be in the presence of.

I think when we are in the presence of that ourselves, other people know that.  They feel that and they start to feel safe and coming to that in themselves.

Jason McClain:  Fantastic.  I think we will just stop that one right there. [Laughs] We are going to take another short break to support our sponsors.  You are listening to Coaching the Life Coach.  I'm your host Jason McClain.  And I'm here with Dave Talamo.




Jason McClain:  Welcome back to Coaching the Life Coach.  I'm here with Dave Talamo of Wilderness Reflections.  Before the break we were speaking about the importance of speaking from the heart and connecting with the other.

Dave I just have one more final question for you.  Before I ask you that question, first of all I would like our listeners to know that they can reach me, your host Jason McClain at [email protected].  And for transcript of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, go to

Dave, before the final question, where are you located?  How can people reach you?  What services or experiences do you provide for people?

Dave Talamo:  Sure Jason.  Thanks for asking.  We are located in western Marin County, California.  Easy ways to reach us include our website,, or call us at 415-488-1917.

In terms of what we do, we have programs that are a day to weeks or even months in length.  We have youth programs including daylong programs and our longer Youth Quest Wilderness Rites of Passage Programs.  We have programs for adults including Day Quests, which are daylong programs happening locally here in the bay area.  And longer Wilderness Quest Experiences that are nine to 12 days in length happen all over beautiful wilderness areas in California as well as in southern Utah.

We have apprenticeship and training programs for people who are interested in doing work similar to what we do as a Wilderness Quest Guide or working as eco-therapists or eco-psychologists, working in a therapeutic way with people in nature.  We have apprenticeship programs in that as well.

Jason McClain:  Fantastic, thank you.  So if you were to have one organizing principle or one distinction or one insight or piece of wisdom or even a word of encouragement, anything in that range, that you would want to leave people with more listening - entrepreneurs, small business people, life coaches - what would that be?

Dave Talamo:  Yeah, I think of the quote from Mary Oliver, from a poem of hers – “What is it you choose to do with your one wild and precious life?”  So really find a way to live in touch with the wildness of life, and to embody that.  To be a big part of what that means is really having encouraged to ask ourselves the real questions that are coming up and to turn towards them and not look away from them and have the courage to hang out for and seek answers to those things, to whatever those may be.

Anybody who does that has my huge respect, because that's no small thing to do.


Jason McClain:  Thank you Dave Talamo.  Thank you for joining us.  Again, it's  Join us next week when we will be interviewing Katerina Rando of

I'm your host Jason McClain, and your guide in the 21st-century marketplace.


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