When John Quinlan’s publicly traded company failed in 1985 his employees were hurt and his friends scattered. His marriage soon dissolved, removing his young stepdaughter from his life. With the need to withdraw from the public humiliation as well as to mend his heart, Quinlan set out on a quest that took him to places few have traveled, or even imagined.
“The ‘Tau Bada’ tale I’m about to share is not simply an achievement or an outcome, or a recipe for the attainment of goals and self-improvement, or even a romantic happy ending. It is about the quiet transitions to real courage and the soul milieu that connects and binds us as mutual occupants of a shared planet.”
Thus begins Quinlan’s book Tau Bada, The Quest and Memoir of a Vulnerable Man. Tau Bada means “big white man,” which is what Quinlan is when he meets up with the tribes of Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, north of Australia.
Realizing his relationships are shallow and that he doesn’t really know himself – or like what he knows – Quinlan leaves his posh lifestyle in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to travel across the US on his motorcycle on a personal trek to self-discovery. Out west, he meets and falls for Fiona Delaney, a Papua New Guinea native who is working with a group of girls with disabilities. The instant bond with her is so strong that, in Quinlan’s words, “It’s like magic.”
Following his heart, John and Fiona, who eventually marry, travel through the South Pacificdetermined to create a sustainable livelihood business, since Fiona’s visa was no longer valid for the US. They make an attempt at a fishing business before settling on coffeeexporting in Papua New Guinea. There, Quinlan uses his expertise as a businessman to pull together over 2400 people from numerous different tribes to form a business focused oncoffee collection, processing, logistics and export. What he doesn’t count on are the culturaldifferences or the aura of fear and mistrust that surround some of the tribes regarding this “big white man”, as well as each other. Or – closer to home – the greed and vengeance that are apparently equivalent across the globe,whether in a boardroom in Grosse Pointe, Michigan or a tribal hut in the PNG mountains.
Fiona, a strong partner in both business and life, proves to be the rock John thought she was when he first met her. Her resiliency givesher the titles of “The Woman Who Would Not Be Shot” and for her outspokenness as a businesswoman, she is called “The Man in a Woman’s Body” by the tribes people where they worked in Papua New Guinea.
Michigan-born author John E Quinlan makes his literary debut with a book so fascinating on every level that he calls up the spirit of adventure in all of us while at the same time carrying the standard for being genuine and trusting of ourselves and authentic with others.–Grady Harp, Amazon Top 100 Hall of Fame Reviewer
Fraught with intrigue, danger, humor and of course, the power of love, Quinlan’s book is both a philosophical look at his inner man, and a page-turning adventure as they are shot at, participate in a tribal ritual to wipe a curse from their village, and fall at the hands of betrayal, sabotage, and even attempted murder. (All of this happens over the seven years he and Fiona run their businesses in the South Pacific, while Quinlan still keeps a finger in the corporate world in the U.S)
Quinlan, now an organization development specialist and the owner and CEO of Growth Strategies Global LLC in the United States,uses his 30 years of consulting experience to advise business owners, specializing in family-founded and closely held businesses.
“The world does not count mishaps or misfortunes, no matter how much you contributed,” says Quinlan. “It makes you feel foolish for contributing, for being vulnerable.” And yet being vulnerable is exactly what Quinlan works on with individuals when he consults.
“I find it fascinating to go into their inner sanctum where they can drop their guard and be real with me,” says Quinlan. “Then I can shift it to business practices. What do you want to talk about? Customer relations?”
Once employers and their employees are ready to open up, show their vulnerabilities, and discuss what it is they really want for their company, then Quinlan moves on to the logistical aspects of work. Some of his current clients include: Harvey Hohauser & Associates; Tarus Products; McClures Pickles and Merlo Constructions.
When asked if he has any regrets about his life’s journey, Quinlan replies, “I’m feeling distinguished. It was worth it. It was well worth it. It has enriched my life and individuated me to a higher degree.”
He is once again thriving, and although he is back at the top of his game, he says he will never be that same shallow man who started off on his motorcycle back after his first fall. His heart has changed, and whether in business or in life, he strives to remain vulnerable.
Tau Bada: The Quest and Memoir of a Vulnerable Man (ISBN 978-1-63413-956-4, 2016), MCP Books, paperback, 333 pages, available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and the author’s website: http://www.TauBada.com. View the book trailer here: http://bit.ly/TauBadaBookTrailer.
Excerpts Tau Bada
The “Tau Bada” tale I’m about to share is not simply an achievement or an outcome, or a recipe for the attainment of goals and self-improvement, or even a romantic happy ending. It is about the quiet transitions to real courage and the soul milieu that connects and binds us as mutual occupants of a shared planet.
The ceremony was perfunctory in most respects. But his opening remarks were quite entertaining. “My friends, as we gather here today to see the first white people ever to be married in our village, let us not forget not too long ago we would not be marrying them, we would be eating them,” he said. The congregation said: “Amen.” Fiona and I responded: “Amen.”
Had all of this work and progress been thrown away by one person’s desire for personal gain, and was that possibly condoned by the community at large? … I felt compelled to confront this culture of stealing and demonstrate the morality of transparency.
In all directions, wheat fields are stretching out as far as I can see. This is the “beauty road” attested to by our own Native Americans. I just left South Dakota, riding over a bridge into Wyoming, peering down on the Missouri River. I enter the Standing Rock Indian reservation. On a bluff, I gaze at the road just traveled. I am in sync. My inward man and outward man are one.
Whether it is a PNG sorcerer/chief casting or supporting fear-ridden spells or a Western corporate CEO or politician implementing marketing strategies, the results are similar. Well-constructed cultural fortresses are nearly impossible to penetrate. Leadership’s defensive routines and behaviors are intransigent.
Brusquely, the vehicle veered to the center as an object loudly and forcibly hit the Land Cruiser. Fiona screeched. To our left, five hooded men, three of them armed with what looked like spears, lunged out of the bush and pumped cartridges from rifles at our vehicle.
Fiona is now known as the woman who would not be shot. They are at loss to explain how she could be as powerful and invincible as a man.
The highway behind gives me courage to move into the future. I desire to see the first light of tomorrow.
The quotes below from the book are highly representative.
The cowboy, leaning over his horse, asked the bartender for a six-pack of beer. I turned around and looked up and said, “I would like to buy you and your horse a drink.” He said no thank you … turned around and rode out. … A patron informed me that I had just met the “Zen cowboy.” … With one fluttering upper tooth, he stuttered out a Buddhist koan uttered by the Zen cowboy. He said: “It is what it is. It ain’t what it ain’t. Never say never. Let it go.” … This would stick with me during frequent squalls and a few storms over the course of coming years.
The lure of the future was more powerful than the fear of the present.
To my right was a pretty woman with blonde braids, milky-blue eyes, and a tender and engaging smile that sprang from a soft, beautiful pale face. I liked the strength in her look. … I grabbed her attention. She quickly remarked: “… I’m Fiona Delaney, from Papua New Guinea.” My response was automatic: “Papa what?”
I started my first diary at the age of 10. I don’t think it can ever be completed.
Self-importance and the illusion of invincibility eventually ended my reign as chairman and CEO of a publicly traded company. I failed my organization deeply, hurting employees and shareholders alike. … Truthfully, I evolved into an asshole. Many of my friends disappeared as the king’s castle collapsed. Such insights were mortifyingly obvious.
Fear is viral and has few boundaries. From the Potomac River think tankers to a microdot island village in the Solomon Sea, we are interconnected.
I wanted to enter into the mind of God in order to reach a higher consciousness and a consequent new way of being. Like a wrestling match, this can be a dirty, sweaty and smelly affair; I gained glimpses of my core rot in secret places.
We carried the roasted coffee beans back to the village of Tabuane. The orchestrated villages’ sing-sing would be lifted to a new level of energy by a caffeine buzz never before experienced. They would taste and drink their coffee for the first time since planting began in 1963.
To my right and then quickly to the left, two warriors jumped out from behind the welcome committee, thrusting spears at my feet to signify I was welcomed. Highly stimulated, my response was typical. I almost crapped in my pants. Fiona reassured me by saying, “Everything is fine darling. The closer the spears the more you are hailed.”
The take I am talking about is a legal buyout and corruption of one’s soul. It is an inner larceny I am referring to. Sucking up to power is part of the game. … You become part of the system you were ordained, elected or hired to change.
We never conceived the community where we were helping to build a sustainable business would become jealous enough to erupt…
The emotional healing has been an evolvement where we are feeling almost whole. The financial ruin is still a challenge. … Even more disconcerting was to conjecture that equal love for the most part is a figment of my imagination.
Fear is a powerful conditioner and has little regard for honest conversations with oneself. Fear is the master builder. Until the threshold of pain becomes greater than the fear to change, I remain in a buoyant state.
A sardonic grin materialized in my passenger window reflection. Times had changed since those hard-charging days, and I had paid a steep price. Self-importance and the illusion of invincibility eventually ended my reign as chairman and CEO of a publicly trade company. I failed my organization deeply, hurting employees and shareholders alike. Truthfully, I had evolved into an asshole. Many of my friends disappeared as the king’s castle collapsed. Such insights were now mortifyingly obvious.
Fiona and I must have looked like any typical motorcycling couple, out for a simple pleasure ride, but, unexpectedly, I noticed tears running down my cheeks. I glanced into my left-hand mirror and saw that she was crying too. I realized we were unexplainably connected, and I felt really good…It was magic.
We were holding hands as we walked down the coffee-garden path to our home. I glanced up as a military truck pulled up. At least a dozen uniformed men with automatic rifles piled out. The sudden pandemonium, screams, wailing, and sense of fear were overwhelming. These militant “pigs” took over the village. We were stunned – like an avalanche or tsunami stunned. We were ill prepared for such an event. Survival skills for such a mishap were not a priority.
I did not feel courageous. I felt like crapping my pants. I was, at that moment, empathetically extending myself by not redirecting the truck back down the Kweno Mountain road. The vehicle veered to the left and missed a significant bog. The headlights erratically fell onto the faces of one hundred villagers. Standing in the dark and mist with the stoicism of granite statues, they had been waiting in silence for Fiona and me to arrive. The rain began to fall harder.
A series of out-of-body experiences (OBE) unfolded in the span of two weeks after I landed in Detroit, confirming my insanities.
About John E. Quinlan
John E. Quinlan is the founder and CEO of Growth Strategies Global LLC, an organization development consulting firm that specializes in family-founded and closely held businesses, as well as executive development, organizational change management and strategic planning.
Formerly, Quinlan was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of a publicly traded financial services holding company. Between 1972 and 1985 he guided this organization from inception to 300 employees and $430 million in assets, and with 28 offices in 14 states.
He’s been a leadership/CEO coach and a management consultant in the United States, and owned a fishing business in the South Pacific. He also owned Java Mama, a Certified Organic & Rainforest Alliance export coffee company in Papua New Guinea where he ran a cross-cultural business with neighboring tribes.
The seven years he spent with the Papua New Guinea business rose from the search for a different kind of life. After the humiliation of losing his publicly traded company in 1985, Quinlan began a motorcycle trek through the United States – a quest for self-discovery that led him to realize that vulnerability and honesty are the foundations for a strong character. Pulling from his experience of the past 40 years, Quinlan has written the book Tau Bada: The Quest and Memoir of a Vulnerable Man. The experiences he writes about are what give him the strategies he uses today that make him so effective as a consultant. Quinlan incorporates a strong behavioral science approach to his work, allowing him to operate from a unique philosophy that has shown proven success across the board.
His consulting experiences include: Former Governor Buddy Rhoemer of Louisiana, F. X. Coughlin Co., Acorn Windows, Cadillac Coffee, McMillan Bros, Industrial Radiant, Inc., Panell Kerr Forster, BDO Siedman, Broad Voght & Conant, Comerica, Vistage, formerly The Executive Committee (TEC) International Display Producers, Gail & Rice, Cox Hodgeman & Giarmarco, Central Detroit Warehouse, Office Pavilion Inc., Great Lakes Woodworking, Michigan Seat Company, Engineering Services Group, Inc., Detroit Art Services, C.A. Muer Company.
As the lead change consultant working with Detroit Mayor Dennis M. Archer and Freeman Hendrix, Chief of Staff, Mr. Quinlan developed the first Integrated Values Based Change Strategy Plan for the City of Detroit, encompassing 43 departments and 19,000 employees.
John Quinlan holds a BA degree in Economics from Albion College, Albion, Michigan and a Master of Science degree in Organizational Development (MSOD) from the American University, Washington, D.C. where he graduated “with distinction” for his written comps in 1990.
Married to Fiona, he has three stepdaughters and resides in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and Cairns, Australia.