Sometimes we need to veer from the path — Arela Simerson

Veering From the Path

How asking hard questions brought necessary change

Arela Simerson
3 min readSep 28, 2020


2020 has been a year of profound instability and change. I experienced, like many others, powerful feelings of sadness, stress and fear. Now as the year has progressed, I’m exhilarated with feelings of clarity and hope.

During the lockdown I got stuck in California, and many of my clients — in order to conserve costs — paused our projects. It hurt. With so much uncertainty over the future, I was totally freaked out. Then after processing the shock, a beautiful gift emerged; space to reflect on my practice, while tucked into the wild mountains of Northern California.

The lush green backdrop was a great nurturer, providing a soothing reduction in the noise of industry standards. In 2019 I was so fixed on the path of my career goals, I hadn’t taken the time to deeply think about some topics I had been mulling over. Namely:

How can I have a more positive social and environmental impact through my practice?

How can my practice bring more joy to both myself and to the world?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Answering these questions required discovering hard truths about my approach and self evaluations around my philosophy, perspectives and strengths. What I found was that a part of my practice approach wasn’t honouring my best strengths — namely, my divergent thinking, moral fortitude and drive for innovative excellence and sustainability.

I’m a blue sky thinker, a systems nerd, and a lover of creativity and purpose. My expertise is in strategy and perception around systems and behavioural psychology. I’m most excited by my work when it makes a large impact and enables bold innovation. However, there are too many times when my work has been lumped into operational HR, and clients have wanted “best practices” and NOT innovation to solve their needs.

This is when I hit the wall. My philosophy is that we can’t rely on the crutch of best practices in the areas of leadership and people strategy, but rather can only truly thrive on developing unique, specialized work ecosystems which broaden minds, break norms and elevate creativity and innovation.

But eek, many people don’t want to hear this. Not everybody is up for the hard work — and it is hard work — of unveiling their core needs. It requires an investment of resources, open-mindedness, humility and the ability to stand strong and stable in the purpose of the work.

Not every startup or leader needs to do this hard work, and I realize now; that’s ok. I believe the world needs, and is better with different opinions and approaches. My hard lesson was to understand;

I’m ready to stop clashing with those who are not in my same sphere of focus, and instead shift my drive and strengths towards partnering with the leaders who are.

I’m on a mission to help leaders elevate their organizations by embracing the different and driving impact. In a world where “different” often equals bad, it’s important that the leaders out there who want to make a positive and sustainable impact in the world, and who drive the change they envision, are supported and elevated in their work.

To make this mission happen, I’m partnering with leaders for intensive workshops and 1:1 coaching. Together, we find clarity, broaden understandings and develop strategies to enhance creativity and drive exponential progress.

I’m sure this next phase of my practice will be nothing short of an adventure. Even just writing this article has been fulfilling and I’m hoping I’ve inspired at least one reader to think about what’s next for them in their work. And to all the ones who’ve lacked the privilege to do so during this hard year, my heart is with you.