5 Questions with Dr. Andrew Thorn, Author of Leading with Your Legacy In Mind

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This edition of 5 Questions features Dr. Andrew Thorn. Dr. Thorn wrote a guest post on legacy last year, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to interview him about his new book Leading with Your Legacy In Mind. I know you’ll love our conversation and the book as well.


In the preface for the book, you give a personal take on the struggle between career and family. What’s one strategy from the book that could help someone breakthrough?

Choose to be guided by purpose instead of passion. The purpose of your work is not to be passionate, it is to be useful, to be honorable, and to be of value to your community. When we align with our passion we are constantly caught in the struggle of trying to feed our own self-interests. When we align with our purpose we make a difference, we add value, and we connect our actions to our values.

In our society, fame (even on a small scale), money and status drive many of us to leave our legacy in the dust. Is legacy becoming a forgotten art?

We have forgotten what legacy means and so naturally creating a legacy is a forgotten art. Too often we confuse it with impact, but that is what others feel. We carry our legacy with us. It is the ultimate answer to the question “Who am I?” That is why it is so important for each of us to live and lead with our legacy in mind.

You have a chapter in the book addressing the move from change to growth. What’s that all about?

Change is always driven by external pressures. None of us change because we want to, or because we like to. We may tell ourselves that we do it for those reasons, but in our most truthful moments, we recognize that we only change when we have to. When we do for external reasons, we rarely can sustain the change.

Growth on the other hand is internally motivated. It is the answer to our deepest yearnings and aspirations. It comes about as a result of true desire. This is what makes growth easier to sustain. There are still challenges and trials along the way, but we are committed to our own idea, so we keep at it when the going gets tough.

I read recently, that organizations spend billions on leadership development annually. Are we getting a good ROI in developing leaders?

Sadly, most leadership development initiatives fail to live up to their promise. This is because they are generally focused on the wrong things. Leadership is not a competency or a skill. It is a behavior. Most organizations are ill equipped to measure and manage behavior, but they are very effective at measuring and managing performance. Naturally, and without a lot of effort, most leadership development initiatives become nothing more than just another performance management strategy. When a leadership initiative becomes tied to performance the game is over. Instead of reaching deep into authenticity, it remains an effort to cover up weaknesses and threats. To grow, our weaknesses and threats need to be exposed so that we can understand them and even use them to our advantage.

Another reason why so many initiatives fail is because we forget that leadership is an individual journey. This makes it difficult to teach it in a group setting, but organizations are afraid that it will be too expensive to work with each individual. They know they have to do something so they invest in ineffective strategies, just so they can check the box. We can never check the box on our leadership development efforts. It must be ongoing or we will create a stagnant culture. No one wants that.

Do you believe we’d have better balance in life, if we made legacy a top-of-mind matter? What kind of positive outcomes might we see there?

I think balance happens naturally, so the only time we feel unbalanced is when something is wrong. In life and in work, the unbalances we feel are directly related to our own inability to focus on the things that matter most. We are easily distracted by our business and busyness and we run out of time and energy to deal with what really matters. This is an easy problem to fix. All we need to do is adjust our focus. This doesn’t mean that we forget the things that matter least, which would be impossible because they are directly tied to short-term demands. It simply means that we take time each day to put the big picture in perspective and then do our best to allow our short-term actions to be aligned with bringing that picture to life. When we do this, our legacy is strengthened and we are happy. Most people are surprised by how easy it is to focus and recalibrate their life and work experiences.


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A pioneer and leader in the field of work/life balance; Dr. Andrew Thorn is widely recognized for his breakthrough thinking on how to help people discover their sense of purpose and create greater meaning from their personal and professional experiences. He personally guided 2 of the top 50 business thinkers, currently listed on The Thinkers 50. His work extends to over 50 major corporate clients and over 250 Senior Leaders from many of the Fortune 500 Companies.

Graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Dr. Thorn also holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology and a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching.

He resides near Los Angeles, CA with his wife of 25 years, Stacy, and their seven children.

The Tempest Inside


Originally posted back in late 2012, it’s one of my favorites and timely considering this.

Do you have a tempest inside you? I do.

I can’t speak for you, but I’ve learned it’s the catalyst for my creativity. Pulsing and demanding to get out, I don’t fight it any longer. I used to see this, at times, as a curse. A cruel burden to carry in an even crueler world.

The tempest I write about is the one that is a gift. It’s the type that spurs on great pursuits and the impossible. Yes, the impossible stuff. It’s the evidence of authenticity and clarity.

I’ve heard many a great thinker (Seth Godin, Scott Griffin, Sir Richard Branson) who has said that future will not be kind to the doer, but will embrace the creators. Before you think me special, being a creator is in everyone. Don’t wait until your forced into being a creator. By then it may be too late. The issue comes down to the willingness to let this creativity out.

I am a man who allowed the “world” to dictate my view, and it cost me. My story is in process and it is happy. Happy, because I chose to embrace the “tempest” and let it launch my creativity.

The following are some things to consider about the tempest:

  • There will be failure. Get over it, embrace it, work through it, but it’s there to refine you and test you. Learn.
  • You will be embarrassed. You’ll pronounce your great idea or work and people will cock their head like a dog wondering what are you doing?
  • You will feel more things you never thought you would.
  • It will teach you to do things that you’d rather avoid. You won’t regret this. The end of the comfort zone.
  • It will lead you to the place of dreams and legacy. Most everyone wants this, I would dare say needs this.

When You’re Ready

Talked with a friend some weeks ago and he told me that he believes people can only be helped when they're ready. I over simplify when I write that I agree. My coaching business is really predicted on the beginning that is being ready. Those that I support are fertile at the point when they're ready. What concerns me is how many don't find themselves ready or even thinking about it. Asleep.

Ten years ago I never took the time to do what I did this past week. I stopped in the middle of a project with the start-up and I went outside to watch my son do his thing on a trampoline. Flips and the joy of telling me about his newest achievement. I was tempted not to. You know, the voice that says the project is very, very, very important. I've learned to ignore that voice most days. I strain here, but readiness took root in me some years ago. My son will be what I was not.

When will you be ready?

The following are some things to consider as you look at your condition of readiness:

  1. Readiness sometimes comes out of nowhere. It's really not an issue of when, but what you will do.
  2. You'll be ready when you realize how little time you have.
  3. Readiness comes when arrogance desserts you and you discover you're not as great as you market yourself to be.
  4. Humility enters where arrogance ends. You'll definitely be ready then.
  5. Readiness is fully clear when you have no other options, not a single one.

Knowing Your Limits

This post is from back in 2008. We'll need this in the future to come.

Navy Seals Insgnia

The above insignia is for the U.S. Navy Seals.  I didn't realize how significant the symbol was until I talked to Erik, whose brother is a Navy Seal. 

Erik and I didn't talk much about war or fighting, but we did talk about knowing your limits.

The Seals go through very difficult training in the pursuit of becoming elite.  A part of that training is discovering your limits.  My understanding is when a Seal discovers their limits they are better prepared for the extreme situations inevitable in their job.  Some say enlightenment arrives as well with a discovery of one's limits.  I would agree.

So how about you? Have you discovered, and do you know your limits? 

In years past I didn't want to know.  I thought knowing my limits would bring me too close to the "brink."  So many times I chose the expedient and practical  The brink is good for you though.  I say this, knowing how painful it can be.  No one signs up for it (except maybe the Navy Seals) and many times we just want a break.

Here are some ideas around discovering and knowing your limits:

  • When the storms (business drop-off, health issues, job loss, relationship troubles) come, stop.  You're heading into a time of discovering your limits.  Ironically, the choice is yours as to the staying and fighting.  You could choose an easy route to escape, and many do.
  • Focus on what is being produced inside of you.  This is a future-forward perspective.  In other words, a seed is planted, but you don't see the fruit for some time to come.  You have to believe.
  • Prepare for people to desert you.  It's not personal, but it is true.  Limits are markers for what many people see as dangerous, frightening or pure madness.  When you find someone willing to stick with you during your discovery and knowing, you've found someone you can count on. 
  • Don't get bitter or resentful over anything.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself when the mistakes are made.  Mistakes are a part of the process.

The Navy Seals are an elite group of people.  They've set a good example of what we all should be willing to do in our career, relationships, health and dreams.

Discover and know your limits.

Human Beings Being Human

To understand the human psyche is a gift.  To understand it because you've lived it is matchless.

Why do people continue a pattern that they know in the end will lead to undoing?  Fear and a warped view of the world in which they live, I would say, are at the top of the list.  To face these two demons is very daunting for most.

If you're in the world of growing something, if you have a calling, if you are moved to make change, then you need to realize that often the choices people make are based on human beings being human.

Yesterday Follows, As I Learn

Leadership means everything…ask Churchill, King, Jr., Jobs, Graham, Teresa. 

I usually write with strong opinion and certainty.  Not wavering here, but I hope those leaders mentioned would agree that yesterday's lessons only took root when they "learned."  And isn't learning a vital part of influence?

It's a mysterious thing walking into a future.  We need yesterday to be a follower.  We need yesterday to be the threads of a tapestry called life. 

If it doesn't matter, then why the smile and the pursuit.  Certainly, we were made for more.  Now I know that everything does matter…every dance, every embrace, every sip, every beautiful melody.

Bear with me as I try to understand what I have become.

"I'm crossing that bridge with lessons I've learned."

– Seal

Top Finds/Discoveries For 2009

Almost a tradition here, so the following are my finds/discoveries for 2009:

  1. Love is stronger than death.
  2. The way of entrepreneurism has many twists and turns.  I'm learning to be comfortable with what I don't recognize.
  3. Brancaia Tre…2006 to be precise.
  4. Tony Cefalu.  He's the real deal.
  5. Pennington Insurance Services, LLC (a little self-promotion never hurts).
  6. Those that love you need time to process change, just like you do.
  7. I still miss my dad.
  8. Started eating this food on a regular basis and its made a difference.
  9. Legos (really), they've opened a window into how precious the moments are with my son.
  10. Marcella'sis the restaurant where I celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary.  I was wide awake in a dream.
  11. Running became a way of life.
  12. I found this discfrom Gino Vannelli.  He reworked a lot of his old favorites.  A beautiful voice set to beautiful music.
  13. This organization stuck with me, even though I haven't given them a dime in almost four years.  Integrity filled with love matters.

I'm sure there's more, but I didn't think you'd make it to 25.  Cheers to your new year!

A Life of Imitation-Updated 2010

I wonder about the identities of high-level executives in today's corporate world.  To be fair, I wonder about your identity.  This is not meant to judge you, but to express my concern.  Sorta like, if you knew I was planning on driving drunk, you'd tell me to hand over the keys.  Identity isn't always that straight forward, but it is as important.

Maybe like the CEO, you're someone who became what the organization demanded or seduced you with.  What about that burning desire to perform?  Regardless, somewhere along the line, a career of imitation began.  Now before you say that I'm picking on executives or corporate types here, these statements are for all of us. 

Are you who you really are, or are you an imitation?  What does the face-behind-the-face look like? 

Being authentic requires a willingness to be real.  It requires the courage to say, "I don't believe in this crap."  Pardon my frankness, but maybe that's where authenticity begins.  Saying what we really feel.  I'm not recommending that you just blurt something out just because you "feel it."  I am recommending that you be honest with yourself by admitting and doing something about it. 

So what gives with the imitating?  Find the vision and you'll realize that you don't have time to be anyone other than who you are. 

In the end, the only people who matter are those who dig the authentic you.