Beautiful words – aestivate


I love the power of language, and of well-chosen words. A little over a month ago, I wrote a post bringing together a number of the words and short phrases I’ve mused on over time on this site with links to those posts. That post is called

Beautiful words bring dimensions of meaning

In that post I highlighted the power of language for leaders: “we follow leaders partly through rationality, through thinking about what they say. However, we also process (often unconsciously) other ways in which they communicate. Are they calm? sage? energised? fierily passionate? purposeful? resolute?”

By choosing words and phrases of rich meaning, we bring depth to our expression and so our leadership. One such word of resonance to me right now is:


Thank you to Robert Macfarlane, who posted this on twitter:

Word of the day: “aestivate” – to pass the summer in a state of torpor, drowsiness & lowered metabolic rate (from the Latin aestas, summer); also to summer in a place. A creature or person may emerge from “aestivation” in autumn as from “hibernation” in spring.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been talking about “back to school” energy, as recently as yesterday, in fact, in “When will you next recharge..yourself?“. In fact, in the middle of writing this blog, I saw she had “liked that post”, so messaged and then jumped on an ad hoc skype call with the amazing Vanessa Bennett of Next Evolution Performance in Sydney, Australia. Vanessa is all about performance in leadership and I’ve loved mentoring her over the last few years as she has developed her business. As with the very best mentoring relationships, Vanessa and I continue to connect regularly as there is a mutual exchange of energy and learning, and I learn a whole lot from Vanessa around energy and performance every time we talk!

So, today I shared some thoughts with her around “back to school” energy and this post.  Yes, schools have just gone back in this part of the world after the summer break, and yes, I’m always energised to be back into the full flow of my work at this time. However, somehow this year it is even more so for me. Musing on why I go back to that word aestivate. In contemplating the word and definition above, I recognise that, having spent most of my adult life on an island that is even hotter than the hottest London summer, that Caribbean heat did not result in such a “state of torpor” as it was air conditioned everywhere. London, however, is not air-conditioned, so with this year being the hottest summer in recorded history, there was absolutely a huge slowdown in activity and energy over the period.

Awareness is key, and such a word as aestivation is of value at this time of year.

An example is that about ten days ago I had dinner with a mentee who is in mid capital raise for their amazing and huge potential startup. This is not their first rodeo, they’ve done this before, so they are aware of the challenges and stresses at this key phase. They are, as Vanessa might say, focussed on building in “proactive resilience” for themselves and their team (will write more on that later!), managing expectations and energy.  Even with all of that awareness and proactivity, my mentee still showed some frustration about the fact that potential funders and others weren’t responding to them as fast as they’d like.

I simply noted to them that it was just at the beginning of September, that “back to school” energy would begin in London in the next week, so to be patient.

If I’d know this new word at the time, I may have said: “London will soon emerge from aestivation, ready to move after a summer of torpor, of slowing right down”!

Writing this reminds me to check in with them this week and see what has happened and if things have picked up speed and momentum!

In closing, that list of words and phrases linked to in the post “Beautiful words bring dimensions of meaning“. What words can bring depth, awareness and energy to your leadership of self and others? :

  • Petrichor
  • Ikigai
  • Ipcha Mistabra
  • InnSaei
  • Shoshin
  • Memento Mori
  • Yūgen
  • Nyepi
  • Hamba Kahle
  • Haal
  • Zemblanity
  • Amor Fati


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