|Kellogg as Preface and Coda
July 21, 2011
My 50th year has been a big one — not only symbolically, but materially. During this period, I not only returned to Kellogg to serve as dean, but also sent the last of my three children to college, moved away from the home in which I raised them, as well as from my sister and her family, and experienced the passing of two friends unexpectedly.
These are big life transitions. To get through them all in one year tested me, particularly as I had to do this while transitioning into a new, much more public role. Finding time to process all that I was experiencing — professionally and personally — was an ongoing challenge.
So I decided to spend the month of July by the ocean on the New England coast. During the early part of the month I was with friends at a rustic resort on a northern island; now I’ve moved south to a cottage on another island. This part is my catch-up time — my time to feel, question, integrate and prepare myself for the next phase of my life. I’ve been reading a wonderful book by Richard Rohr entitled Falling Upward. It’s all about the second-half-of-life journey.
Mission and meaning
I’m often told that I convey a sense of energy and passion for my work. People ask me where it comes from. Given that I’ve never been any other way, I’m not quite sure how to respond. But I do know that what gives my life meaning are my faith, my family and my friends, and the sense of mission that I get from what I do.
I believe in the power of education. I believe in the power of markets, and I am fundamentally intrigued by why people behave the way that they do in organizations and how we can make those organizations stronger. Working at Kellogg, where we study and teach those things and do it with a very distinct approach, is deeply gratifying. I know of no other institution that can state with conviction: “We believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative and world changing.”
Gratitude and wonder
This month as I look out over the ocean, I have also been reading poetry, including Mary Oliver’s book Red Bird. She writes:
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
As I reflect on my first 50 years, I am astonished. It’s been an incredibly rich half-century — full of blessings, heartaches, challenges, and accomplishments. And who would have guessed that its coda would be returning to Kellogg as dean?
The sense of mission, gratitude and wonder that I feel as I start my second-half-of-life journey energizes me. I can’t wait to see what the coming years will bring.
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