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Legacy

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

A world figure passed this week, giving us a rare glance into the incredible power of a man's actions driven by the purest of his conviction. Nelson Mandela's life is a towering story of determination, compassion, and reconciliation. Far from sainthood, 91 world leaders traveled great distances to honor a man with feet of clay, saint and sinner, lover and fighter. He was a man committed to removing the shackles of bondage from his people, doing whatever that took and paying a steep price. He was also a man who's jailer was his pallbearer, whose message and life of forgiveness will be a model for generations to come. Mandela's legacy? Reconciliation. If you distilled your legacy to one word, what's the word you will be remembered for?

A world figure passed this week, giving us a rare glance into the incredible power of a man's actions driven by the purest of his conviction.

Nelson Mandela's life is a towering story of determination, compassion, and reconciliation. Far from sainthood, 91 world leaders traveled great distances to honor a man with feet of clay, saint and sinner, lover and fighter. He was a man committed to removing the shackles of bondage from his people, doing whatever that took and paying a steep price. He was also a man who's jailer was his pallbearer, whose message and life of forgiveness will be a model for generations to come.

Mandela's legacy? Reconciliation.

If you distilled your legacy to one word, what's the word you will be remembered for?

12.16.13 0
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A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Dr. Foster Mobley // History, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Two days ago, millions of Americans commemorated the anniversary of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the U.S. into World War II. Millions more stop to remember the September 11 attacks, and smaller remembrances of historic events take place year-round. Why? Why do we commemorate past events so passionately? Is it artificial patriotism or wallowing in drama, or are we satisfying some fundamental need? I think we're assuaging a hunger for perspective, something that's sorely needed in many organizations. Most commemorative actions have some common elements: a reflective pause, silent gratitude, and a meditation on how far we've come. In other words, we stop for a moment and take in the big picture. We lift our eyes from the desk, computer screen, textbook or road and for a moment, see the larger narrative that's playing out around us-that we're part of. Story and narrative are integral parts of any organization, including a country. Commemorative days or celebrations remind us that we are all part of that story...and that we all play a part in shaping what happens next. For people in a busy organization, that can be a powerful reminder of the impact of their actions and the common bond they share. What are the commemorations that hold the greatest meaning for you?

Two days ago, millions of Americans commemorated the anniversary of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the U.S. into World War II. Millions more stop to remember the September 11 attacks, and smaller remembrances of historic events take place year-round. Why? Why do we commemorate past events so passionately? Is it artificial patriotism or wallowing in drama, or are we satisfying some fundamental need?

I think we're assuaging a hunger for perspective, something that's sorely needed in many organizations. Most commemorative actions have some common elements: a reflective pause, silent gratitude, and a meditation on how far we've come. In other words, we stop for a moment and take in the big picture. We lift our eyes from the desk, computer screen, textbook or road and for a moment, see the larger narrative that's playing out around us-that we're part of.

Story and narrative are integral parts of any organization, including a country. Commemorative days or celebrations remind us that we are all part of that story...and that we all play a part in shaping what happens next. For people in a busy organization, that can be a powerful reminder of the impact of their actions and the common bond they share.

What are the commemorations that hold the greatest meaning for you?

12.9.13 0
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It's All About Community

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables

Man is a social animal. While many of us have drives for achievement or power, a leader loses his or her most vital tool when s/he forgets that most basic truth of humans - at our core we are wired, through the millennia, for engagement with the world...together. The holidays and their traditions are a testimony to our need for community, whether that community is family, neighborhood, or larger society. If you think Thanksgiving is a tribute to the spectacular goodness of turkey, you might want to think again. For better or worse, for millions of us, it is a reaffirmation of, and reconnection with our primary community, the family. Everything we do around this time of year is an affirmation of the power of this need...lighting candles and reciting prayers, decorating houses, even shopping together. A wise leader understands the need for belonging and the incredible power it offers for any productive effort. What are the communities that give you the best sense of who you are? In what ways do they help define you and provide a sense of meaning?

Man is a social animal. While many of us have drives for achievement or power, a leader loses his or her most vital tool when s/he forgets that most basic truth of humans - at our core we are wired, through the millennia, for engagement with the world...together.

The holidays and their traditions are a testimony to our need for community, whether that community is family, neighborhood, or larger society. If you think Thanksgiving is a tribute to the spectacular goodness of turkey, you might want to think again. For better or worse, for millions of us, it is a reaffirmation of, and reconnection with our primary community, the family. Everything we do around this time of year is an affirmation of the power of this need...lighting candles and reciting prayers, decorating houses, even shopping together.

A wise leader understands the need for belonging and the incredible power it offers for any productive effort.

What are the communities that give you the best sense of who you are? In what ways do they help define you and provide a sense of meaning?

12.2.13 0
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We're All Young At Something: "Seniorpreneurs"

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

In my last Weekly Wisdom, I spoke about professional athletes' careers ending when they're around 40, forcing them into occupations in which they are very young. Now I want to talk about something similar but different: retirees starting businesses. According to an AARP survey of about 1,500 adults aged 45 to 74, one in ten people who work for someone else say they plan to start their own business when they retire. The survey also found that 15 percent of workers in that age group are currently self-employed. What makes this extraordinary is that these "seniorpreneurs" are voluntarily becoming young in their new lines of work. It takes courage, confidence and passion to leave a lifelong career and branch out into something as challenging as running your own business. Even if you start a company in the same field in which you worked for 40 years, being a small business owner is like being a first-grader all over again, with a lot less room for error. Millions are doing it, or planning it, but why? I think, in part, it's because becoming young at things renews us. We go from "been there, seen that, done that" in our previous profession to "I don't know, teach me" in our new one. While potentially frightening it's also thrilling and energizing. Part of the attraction of being young in something is that we get to be kids again. Sure, we'll make rookie mistakes. But we also get to discover new gifts that we might not have believed we had. That's magic. How has being young in something reinvigorated you? How can you bring that to the people you lead?

In my last Weekly Wisdom, I spoke about professional athletes' careers ending when they're around 40, forcing them into occupations in which they are very young. Now I want to talk about something similar but different: retirees starting businesses.

According to an AARP survey of about 1,500 adults aged 45 to 74, one in ten people who work for someone else say they plan to start their own business when they retire. The survey also found that 15 percent of workers in that age group are currently self-employed. What makes this extraordinary is that these "seniorpreneurs" are voluntarily becoming young in their new lines of work.

It takes courage, confidence and passion to leave a lifelong career and branch out into something as challenging as running your own business. Even if you start a company in the same field in which you worked for 40 years, being a small business owner is like being a first-grader all over again, with a lot less room for error.

Millions are doing it, or planning it, but why? I think, in part, it's because becoming young at things renews us. We go from "been there, seen that, done that" in our previous profession to "I don't know, teach me" in our new one. While potentially frightening it's also thrilling and energizing. Part of the attraction of being young in something is that we get to be kids again. Sure, we'll make rookie mistakes. But we also get to discover new gifts that we might not have believed we had. That's magic.

How has being young in something reinvigorated you? How can you bring that to the people you lead?

11.25.13 0
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We're All Young At Something: Over the Hill At 40

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Sports, Wisdom Leading

One startling thing about professional sports is that the participants are considered washed up and unemployable at an age when most of us are just hitting our stride in our careers. Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, you name it (golf might be an exception)-if you're lucky enough to make a living at your sport until you turn 40, that's about the time you'll be handed your gold watch and told, "Thanks. Good luck with what's next." Imagine being over the hill when you're just figuring out who you are and what you're capable of! In sports, that's reality; everything, from reaction time to speed and durability, declines in middle age. That turns sports into a real-time experiment in forced transition from being old in what you know to being young in something new. Knowing their inevitability, how can we best handle such transitions? Many of us don't anticipate, nor face transitions well. We either hang on to what we know and are comfortable with far beyond its value to us, or flail around chasing the first butterfly that passes our gaze. The point is, becoming young can and does happen in an instant. How we manage those transitions is about our humility, openness and wisdom. What skills and beliefs can you call on for your next rookie assignment?

One startling thing about professional sports is that the participants are considered washed up and unemployable at an age when most of us are just hitting our stride in our careers. Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, you name it (golf might be an exception)-if you're lucky enough to make a living at your sport until you turn 40, that's about the time you'll be handed your gold watch and told, "Thanks. Good luck with what's next."

Imagine being over the hill when you're just figuring out who you are and what you're capable of! In sports, that's reality; everything, from reaction time to speed and durability, declines in middle age. That turns sports into a real-time experiment in forced transition from being old in what you know to being young in something new. Knowing their inevitability, how can we best handle such transitions?

Many of us don't anticipate, nor face transitions well. We either hang on to what we know and are comfortable with far beyond its value to us, or flail around chasing the first butterfly that passes our gaze. The point is, becoming young can and does happen in an instant. How we manage those transitions is about our humility, openness and wisdom.

What skills and beliefs can you call on for your next rookie assignment?

11.18.13 0
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We're All Young At Something: Misplaced Certainty

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Think back to when you were, say, 22 years old. Did you think you had life all figured out? Did you roll your eyes at anyone who told you otherwise? We all did it. It usually resulted in us taking a few shots on the chin later in life, as we discovered that we didn't know everything after all. That's what's known as misplaced certainty, and it's a hallmark of the young. Unfortunately, it's also a hallmark of the older and more experienced. The more you know about a field or subject, the more tempting it is to assume that you've got all the answers. For example, in 1899 Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, made this statement: "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Outrageous? Sure. Arrogant? Absolutely. But all too common. When we presume that we know everything about a field and everything that's possible in it, we close ourselves off to discovery and learning...and we close off the teams we lead as well. The great British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell said, "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." That's wisdom. That's humility. That's also something we should all try to emulate. In what parts of your life do you owe yourself a look with new eyes?

Think back to when you were, say, 22 years old. Did you think you had life all figured out? Did you roll your eyes at anyone who told you otherwise? We all did it. It usually resulted in us taking a few shots on the chin later in life, as we discovered that we didn't know everything after all. That's what's known as misplaced certainty, and it's a hallmark of the young.

Unfortunately, it's also a hallmark of the older and more experienced. The more you know about a field or subject, the more tempting it is to assume that you've got all the answers. For example, in 1899 Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, made this statement: "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Outrageous? Sure. Arrogant? Absolutely. But all too common. When we presume that we know everything about a field and everything that's possible in it, we close ourselves off to discovery and learning...and we close off the teams we lead as well.

The great British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell said, "In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." That's wisdom. That's humility. That's also something we should all try to emulate.

In what parts of your life do you owe yourself a look with new eyes?

11.11.13 1
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We're All Young At Something

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

In your chosen field, you might be the guru. You might be the one everyone comes to for advice and wisdom. That's great. But what about outside your narrow field of expertise? Do you even step outside your area of greatest competence long enough to find out what you don't know? I know that I don't do it often enough. When I do, I find the same thing that I suspect you find: while I might be a source of wisdom in my field, in most others I'm a babe in the woods. We're all young at something, and that can be both humbling and exciting. What are the characteristics of youth? If you said inexperience, a short attention span, and a tendency to throw a fit when you don't get your way, welcome to the humbling side of things. We all have fields where we're babes in the woods. I stepped tentatively into the world of writing books a few years ago and found out how little I knew-how young I was. Slowly, I'm learning, mostly by making mistakes but also by listening to those who know more than I do. Youth leads to maturity. What about the exciting side? Well, children are also curious, full of energy and don't care one bit about failure. We could all do with more of those qualities. Who wouldn't want to be curious about new areas of life and work and ready to explore new pursuits with zeal, joy and fearlessness? This month, I'll be exploring what it means to be young at something from both sides: inexperience and curiosity. Let's begin our exploration with a provocative question - at what are you young?

In your chosen field, you might be the guru. You might be the one everyone comes to for advice and wisdom. That's great. But what about outside your narrow field of expertise? Do you even step outside your area of greatest competence long enough to find out what you don't know? I know that I don't do it often enough. When I do, I find the same thing that I suspect you find: while I might be a source of wisdom in my field, in most others I'm a babe in the woods.

We're all young at something, and that can be both humbling and exciting. What are the characteristics of youth? If you said inexperience, a short attention span, and a tendency to throw a fit when you don't get your way, welcome to the humbling side of things. We all have fields where we're babes in the woods. I stepped tentatively into the world of writing books a few years ago and found out how little I knew-how young I was. Slowly, I'm learning, mostly by making mistakes but also by listening to those who know more than I do. Youth leads to maturity.

What about the exciting side? Well, children are also curious, full of energy and don't care one bit about failure. We could all do with more of those qualities. Who wouldn't want to be curious about new areas of life and work and ready to explore new pursuits with zeal, joy and fearlessness?

This month, I'll be exploring what it means to be young at something from both sides: inexperience and curiosity. Let's begin our exploration with a provocative question - at what are you young?

11.4.13 0
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Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable #4: In Costume

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

When we're children, we don't restrict the wearing of costumes to Halloween. Kids take every opportunity to dress up as ballerinas, cowboys, superheroes...you name it. There's no consideration of being made fun of. Rather, exercising our imaginations is cool, and way more important than what other people think. Then we become adults. We might get into costume once a year. If we don't have a Halloween party to attend, we may not get into costume at all. We judge dressing up to be silly, frivolous, immature; certainly, it's out of our comfort zone. As adults, we worry we'll feel ridiculous if we let loose our inner pirate or vampire. We're uncomfortable pretending to become someone else. But isn't that the point of putting on a costume - to unleash something different from within without fear of running afoul of the ordinary restrictions of polite society? What would it make possible if we let those unexpressed parts of ourselves loose more often without worrying to the point of inaction what others might think? Wise leaders not only encourage those they lead to express their unique talents, passions and experiences-they express their own and lead by example. What aspect of your hidden talents, passions and experiences are you uncomfortable expressing? How might expressing them inspire those you lead?

When we're children, we don't restrict the wearing of costumes to Halloween. Kids take every opportunity to dress up as ballerinas, cowboys, superheroes...you name it. There's no consideration of being made fun of. Rather, exercising our imaginations is cool, and way more important than what other people think.

Then we become adults. We might get into costume once a year. If we don't have a Halloween party to attend, we may not get into costume at all. We judge dressing up to be silly, frivolous, immature; certainly, it's out of our comfort zone. As adults, we worry we'll feel ridiculous if we let loose our inner pirate or vampire. We're uncomfortable pretending to become someone else.

But isn't that the point of putting on a costume - to unleash something different from within without fear of running afoul of the ordinary restrictions of polite society? What would it make possible if we let those unexpressed parts of ourselves loose more often without worrying to the point of inaction what others might think?

Wise leaders not only encourage those they lead to express their unique talents, passions and experiences-they express their own and lead by example.

What aspect of your hidden talents, passions and experiences are you uncomfortable expressing? How might expressing them inspire those you lead?

10.28.13 0
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Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable #3: No Resorts, Please!

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

I've been blessed in my life to travel to many locales around the world. Along the way, I've been out of my comfort zone many times, dealing with unfamiliar languages, customs, and cities. That's one of the most broadening aspects of travel: you're placed in a situation where you have no choice but to deal with your discomfort and grow as a result. Embracing discomfort in business is like traveling to an exotic country with nothing but a backpack and a phrase book. In contrast, you could choose to visit an all-inclusive resort whose grounds you never leave. You might say you visited, say, Croatia, but in fact you stayed on the resort grounds, never spoke the language, and never interacted with the locals. Traveling that way might be more comfortable as you've simply recreated your present existence in a new place, but it doesn't help you grow, truly discover, or connect with new people and new ways of living. In your organization, are you more likely to operate as a backpacker trekking from Kathmandu to New Dehli, or as a guest at a Sandals resort in Jamaica? The less-comfortable option, where you have no choice but to lean in to new situations and learn how other people get things done, leads to new skills and a broader point of view. Consider what kind of travelers your people are-and how you're encouraging them to travel. Whether an explorer or a comfort traveler, what can you be doing more of to model the imperative to grow through challenge?

I've been blessed in my life to travel to many locales around the world. Along the way, I've been out of my comfort zone many times, dealing with unfamiliar languages, customs, and cities. That's one of the most broadening aspects of travel: you're placed in a situation where you have no choice but to deal with your discomfort and grow as a result.

Embracing discomfort in business is like traveling to an exotic country with nothing but a backpack and a phrase book. In contrast, you could choose to visit an all-inclusive resort whose grounds you never leave. You might say you visited, say, Croatia, but in fact you stayed on the resort grounds, never spoke the language, and never interacted with the locals. Traveling that way might be more comfortable as you've simply recreated your present existence in a new place, but it doesn't help you grow, truly discover, or connect with new people and new ways of living.

In your organization, are you more likely to operate as a backpacker trekking from Kathmandu to New Dehli, or as a guest at a Sandals resort in Jamaica? The less-comfortable option, where you have no choice but to lean in to new situations and learn how other people get things done, leads to new skills and a broader point of view. Consider what kind of travelers your people are-and how you're encouraging them to travel.

Whether an explorer or a comfort traveler, what can you be doing more of to model the imperative to grow through challenge?

10.21.13 0
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Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable #2: Beyond Belief

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Jerry DeWitt was in the news quite a lot this summer for his book, Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism. He was a Pentecostal pastor in a small Louisiana town, part of the community's spiritual fabric. But after 25 years of ministry, he decided that he didn't believe in the idea of Hell. This led him to question first his faith, then all faith, and ultimately the existence of God. Today, DeWitt has become an atheist activist. I'm dumbfounded by the courage of such a change. To turn your back on a belief system that has defined your entire life-and the community and culture that surround that belief system-seems impossibly difficult. DeWitt has said that when he first let go of his faith, he lost all possibility of hope. But he didn't rush back to a belief that he no longer held; he went looking for people who had already gone through what he was going through. We all have beliefs we cling to, and in many ways, define us. Some they are about religion or politics, while others might be about ethics or the best way to lead an organization. In every case, those beliefs are comfortable. What if they're wrong? What if the best way to reach new heights of performance and growth is to question them - examine them in the harsh light of reality and how they are serving you at this moment? This is never easy. It can leave us feeling frightened, alone, and without support. Yet doing so can also open new doors to growth, discovery and purpose. Sometimes, leaving the safe harbor of comfortable beliefs is the only way to find the truth. What unquestioned beliefs are you clinging to that limit your highest levels of performance, growth and fulfillment?

Jerry DeWitt was in the news quite a lot this summer for his book, Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism. He was a Pentecostal pastor in a small Louisiana town, part of the community's spiritual fabric. But after 25 years of ministry, he decided that he didn't believe in the idea of Hell. This led him to question first his faith, then all faith, and ultimately the existence of God. Today, DeWitt has become an atheist activist.

I'm dumbfounded by the courage of such a change. To turn your back on a belief system that has defined your entire life-and the community and culture that surround that belief system-seems impossibly difficult. DeWitt has said that when he first let go of his faith, he lost all possibility of hope. But he didn't rush back to a belief that he no longer held; he went looking for people who had already gone through what he was going through.

We all have beliefs we cling to, and in many ways, define us. Some they are about religion or politics, while others might be about ethics or the best way to lead an organization. In every case, those beliefs are comfortable. What if they're wrong? What if the best way to reach new heights of performance and growth is to question them - examine them in the harsh light of reality and how they are serving you at this moment? This is never easy. It can leave us feeling frightened, alone, and without support. Yet doing so can also open new doors to growth, discovery and purpose. Sometimes, leaving the safe harbor of comfortable beliefs is the only way to find the truth.

What unquestioned beliefs are you clinging to that limit your highest levels of performance, growth and fulfillment?

10.14.13 0
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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams