If you have ever thought that a Walter Mitty-esque sense of adventure and a stable business plan don’t mix, think again. Ilan Shamir’s secret for a personally fulfilling business is not what you might expect. His secret is the outdoors. For the past sixteen years, the founder and CEO of Your True Nature developed a company that seamlessly integrates a sharp business sense with a perspective of the natural world that encompasses the minutea of daily life and is simply and deeply inspiring. Being outside in nature, hiking, and living close to the earth proved to be the most valuable element of Ilan’s personal growth and the development of his company. Especially integral has been his willingness to get off the trail and forge his own path, and on the way find his true nature. Your True Nature is best known for their Advice from Nature products. What is less well known —at least to a first-time customer— is that the company’s ties to nature are deeper than the ink printed on a greeting card. These ties began on Ilan’s 11th birthday when he received a magnolia tree sapling as a gift. This early experience “shaped my love of nature and charted my green and leafy course in life” Ilan writes in his website biography. After college and a growing career in corporate business, Ilan was at a point to begin a new and adventurous chapter in life.
Hiking in the Alps
Standing in a post office to mail a letter to Kathmandu, Nepal, Ilan crossed paths with a man who would, seven days later, ask Ilan if he cared to join as the photographer and co-leader of a hiking expedition in the Swiss Alps. Naturally, Ilan accepted the offer. “The trips were amazing as I experienced the beauty of the earth, and literally walked away from a life that no longer worked” he says, recalling how this chapter fits into the larger narrative of his life.
Trekking Across Iceland
Directly after the Swiss expedition, Ilan made plans with a friend to explore Iceland during a long layover with Icelandic Air. But upon arrival his friend informed Ilan that he was going back to Chicago. Returning to a muggy St. Louis in August was out of the question, so Ilan continued with his plan to hike Iceland by himself. This proved itself to be one of the most challenging and impactful experiences of Ilan’s life. After twenty-one days in the wilderness, Ilan felt a marked change in how he interacted with the environment. “I could sense the weather and was more in tune with the insects, birds, wild horses… and the earth. Ibegan to feel the rotation of the earth coming up to meet the sun rather than seeing the sun set,” he muses. He walked in peace, even though rain fell for fourteen days straight. Thirty days into the journey a massive storm hit. Through heavy rains and fierce winds, Ilan ran for as long as he could stand and then army-crawled the rest of the way to what he discovered was a “Shipwrecked mariners hut for the exclusive use of those in distress,” which was written in both Danish and English on sign hanging on the wall inside the shelter. For four days Ilan sat in the hut, waiting out the storm and writing in his journal about his plans to leave his home in the mid-west and seek a closer connection to nature.
Incidentally, after leaving the shelter Ilan encountered a BBC film crew that snapped a photo of him (pictured above). Ilan’s hiking experience began a long train of events that led, finally, to some advice from a tree.
Advice from Nature
Years after his backpacking escapades, Ilan walked by a tree in his Colorado neighborhood that he had passed many times before. This time he stopped, and the tree seemed to offer him some advice: “Stand tall and proud…Be content with your natural beauty… Go out on a limb!” The simple brilliance of this advice started to smooth out the complexities and challenges of a particularly tumultuous period in his life. Soon, every aspect of nature had some advice to give. A trail said to tread lightly. A mountain recommended reaching for new heights and enjoying the view. According to Ilan, nature always has a way of simplifying life’s problems. He decided to share this advice with others, and in 2000, he jumpstarted Your True Nature with the Advice From a Tree poster. A bookmark, minibook, and postcard soon followed.
Ilan’s values have extended to the way he runs Your True Nature. Today, Your True Nature is an expanding business that is committed to keeping their business “green” in the most practical ways. 107,963 trees have been planted so that many more people can seek their advice. Reused paper is used in packaging so that recipients can continue to be inspired to make a difference through small actions. One percent or more of the annual sales are contributed to One Percent for the Planet to make this globe a better place for coming generations. Your True Nature’s mission is as multi-faceted as a mountainside and is firmly rooted in the exploration of nature’s beautiful trails. Around his home in Santa Fe Ilan continues on his path to explore nature’s beauty.
By: Anna Nichols, Summer Intern