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.

Why Mindfulness Matters

I posted this over a year ago and I returned to Andy’s TED Talk a couple of days ago. It was a great reminder of a precious gift.

So why does mindfulness matter? It matters because if you’re like me, there is a ton coming at you everyday. Social media, email, work demands, family issues, and the list could go on. I’m so thankful that I found yoga. It has helped me in so many ways with this war (mental in this case) we’re in. The mindfulness and physical lift I get are two big ones that leap out.

In the clip, Andy Poddicombe, points to some insights I plan on expanding in my mind. I want to do a better job of managing my thought-life in the here, and on.

The Value of Life, The Value of Today


Got to thinking this morning about worry and the time extinguished by it.  I can't think of one instance in my life where worry has produced a breakthrough, happiness or satisfaction.  You are probably thinking I've just entered the "duh" zone because we all know this.  Right?  The truth is many know, but few do.

So why bother worrying?  Who taught us how to worry?  Who wrote the book on the 10 Proven Success Strategies of Worrying?

The take-away is found in our lack of embrace of life and the time given (implies a gift) to us on this big ball known as Earth.  We don't see our life as a whole, but parts.  We pick and choose what we like (usually the pain-fee comfortable ones) and ignore or run from the others.  Believe me, I understand that it's not all a matter of choosing the path you might be on.  Some of us were influenced by parents, teachers, marketing, and society's version of the truth.  We thought we were making the right choice.  Like the person who places their trust in someone who seemed honest, but was just a good actor/actress.  Regardless of that, we cannot excuse ourselves from making a change for the better.

The value of today has all but been erased in our thought process.  We're too busy to stop and look around.  Wer're rushing to things and outcomes that we can't be sure have any value at all.  Almost like closing your eyes, jumping and hoping that what you've been taught will deliver.  This is really a vivid portrait of a culture taking much for granted.  We don't stop and ask the tough questions of why, does this fit who I am, is this meaningful to me?

So how much time do you have to get this life in order?

I'm throwing the following out to you as way of stopping you in your tracks:

  1. Stop denying who you are!  Stop stuffing the real you in a closet for the sake of the opinions of others.  I think Steve Jobs referred to this as "others dogma."  If you've decided to put all your chips on being someone else, then prepare to meet the real you further down the road.
  2. Stop thinking you have time to get around to X or Y.  This is akind to someone who continues to ignore their human relationships.  They figure the other person doesn't need to hear certain words (I Love You) becuase they already know it's true.  Goodbye is the usual outcome here.  Warped logic.
  3. Stop embracing your career as if having a great career will make everything else fall into place.  Listen up, I tried this and it does not work.  
  4. Stop bankrupting your opportunities for happiness.  This happens when you abdicate the choice of happiness to circumstances, people, etc.
  5. Create a stop-doing list and create the margin your life has been screaming for.  A stop-doing list is simply you evaluating the habits, events, etc. and making the concisous decision to stop.



The Problem with Busy

Busy 2 

I live in a community that has many families.  I think the last number I saw it was around 80-85% families.  Last night I took a step back and looked around a room of parents and wondered if anyone could look back on their day and find something meaningful (a mark left so that world would know you were alive and contributed) poured out?  Busyness is often a mask to hide our lack of purpose and happiness.  Despite that, I really believe most want purpose and meaningful pursuits.

One of the areas of opposition is living in an age where we've defined "leaving a mark" down and we've elevated busyness as our substitute.  In many ways we feel that a long list of activities produces substance.  It doesn't.  Enter stage left the mask of hypocrites.  We're great actors and actresses.  Giving the appearance that all is well and under control.  We even have calendars to prove it and make it so.  The problem with busy is it wears you down and out.  The scary part is found in our belief that the alternative (quality, focused priorities, meaningful work) is not an option.

Look around you, how has all this busyness benefited us?

I'm not here to define what should be meaningful in your life.  That's your job to tackle.  But here's an acid test to try at the end of your day today:

    The things i participated in today were meaningful because_________.

For some help, see my definitions of meaningful:

  •     Saying I love you consistently
  •     Time alone with God
  •     Laughter
  •     Helping my children answer the tough questions
  •     Being authentic
  •     Embacing nature
  •     Physical exercise
  •     Family dinners
  •     Encouraging people through Epic Living (the work within the org.)
  •     Managing and integrating what I value most into my daily existence

Forced to Be Authentic

What if we awoke to a world where you had no choice but to be authentic?  A flood causing  your authenticity, or the lack thereof, to be easily detected by those coming in contact with you.  This would have scared me to death 10 years ago.  Thankfully, not the case now.

I'm struck by how much time can be spent getting back our identity from a world that seems bent on taking and counterfeiting it.  Even more tragic are those who never get it back or care to attempt the feat. It's as if there's a daunting figure who scares you into giving up dreaming, giving up taking a chance, giving up the willingness to be laughed at.  And then you're convinced to take the position pill of safety and conformity.

The following concert clip is from Peter Gabriel.  I don't know if he ever confirmed it, but I've read that the song is about a major shift in our ability to see the authenticity in other people.  And instead of me trying to explain in a half way, take a peak at the clip or read the lyrics below the video:


When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings
Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There's no point in direction we cannot
even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters
On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters
The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You're a thousand minds, within a flash
Don't be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there's only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they'll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

There is no doubt, the only way you're going to have a life worth remembering is getting to (or back to) a place of being "real."  For whatever hell you encounter in doing it, worth the effort is an apt response to that crossroads.  My prayer and energy goes out to you.

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.