Is there such thing as a successful lone wolf?

lone wolfnoun
a person who prefers to work, act, or live alone

Is this wolf alone?
Ask yourself “What’s outside the frame?”

Earlier this year, I chose to hand over the reigns and step away from a successful nonprofit organization (White Pine Programs), after serving as a co-founder and leader for twenty years. It was a premeditated, long-emerging decision that has significantly changed my life. In looking back over my tenure, it’s clear to me that, for the past two decades, I’ve been careful to tend well to scores of relationships: kids, teens and adults in programs I taught; parents of those kids & teens; partner organizations; vendors; school & municipal leaders; a robust peer network, etc. Did all of my interactions & relationships leave me smiling and content? Nope. Did I upset a handful of people along the way (despite good intentions)? Yup. Like any ecosystem, my life has benefited greatly from a diverse network of connections and interactions.

When I shared the news that I’d be stepping down, I heard from a lot of thoughtful people – online, on the phone, at the grocery store, at kids’ soccer games, etc. They’d often say something akin to: Congrats! You should be proud of what you built and all the people you reached.” OR “Well done, Dan – You’ve enriched so many lives.”

“Thank You.” I’d politely, tell them. Then, I couldn’t help but edit the narrative a bit – mostly because it’s just not accurate. I’m no “Self-Made Man,” “Solo Entrepreneur,” or “Lone Visionary.” Did my 20 years of work include a lot of time working alone, being creative and carrying a vision? Heck YES. Nonetheless, very little of what I achieved would have been possible without the kind, consistent, and vital support of many, many amazing connections. To illustrate that point, here are a few significant people in my relationship ecosystem who’ve contributed to my success:

  • CONNIE GARDOQUI | Mother | Gave unconditional love & support, even when she didn’t understand what I was doing. Checked in on me via the “magic network of moms.” Busted me when needed. Lifted me up throughout. Thank you, Connie.
  • Jon Young| Mentor| Stoked my curiosity as a teenager while creating space for me challenge myself in nature. Made me look at my responsibility as a caretaker of this planet. Treated me as a colleague and a student while I cut my teeth in the world of nature connection and mentoring. Gave me unconditional love & support. Thank you, Jon.
  • JUANITA URIBE | Family | Cared enough to pay attention, notice my love of nature and nourished that passion. Gave me access to college by offering zero-interest loans. Served a role model naturalist, observer, artist and advocate for the wild. Thank you, Juanita.
  • ROGER “DOC” LOCANDRO | College Professor & Mentor | Showed me professional paths I didn’t know existed. Shared the refined skills of a hunter-gatherer-mentor. Role-modeled empathy, ecological thinking and top-notch, authentic networking. Thank You, Doc.
  • KATE GARDOQUI | Partner in Life | Taught me generosity in ways I didn’t know possible. Challenged me to do better, think bigger. Stayed beside me during hard times. Role-modeled a life change designed to bring one’s gifts to more of the world (and she made many amazing pies, muffins & salads along the way). Thank you, Kate.
One wolf cannot kill a moose alone.
On Isle Royale (Michigan, USA), a wolf pack works together to hunt a cow moose.

Anything significant I’ve achieved has been because of the access granted, support given and knowledge shared by others with me. I am the result of my connections, family, relations, teachers, adversaries, supporters, students, privilege and more. I’m no lone wolf.

Enough about me..Lone Wolves DO exist in nature…and, despite being poorly-named, they’re vital to the well-being of both larger wolf populations and the landscapes that support wolf packs. The “lone wolf” moniker evokes images of long life of solitude. The fact is, these wolves are rarely single for long.

So-called “lone wolves” are usually dispersers. That is, sexually-mature wolves that have chosen to disperse (travel far from their home territory – sometimes hundreds of miles) in order to find a new mate and start a new pack. For many wolves, this dispersal is a survival adaptation – as the resources (space, food, den sites, etc.) of their natal habitat can’t support an endless stream of wolves. Dispersing wolves (aka “Lone Wolves”) are a temporal phenomenon – marking a rite of passage as a young adult.

To Sum it Up: Every wolf (or human, or bark beetle or apple tree) is the sum of its relationships. And…as long as there are habitats that wolves can migrate into, there will always be successful “lone wolves” – I mean… dispersers.


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Lead with Nature | Cape Neddick, Maine