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Dean Blount's Blog
  At several key transition points in my life over the last 25 years, I’ve found myself in the Sonoran Desert
  At several key transition points in my life over the last 25 years, I’ve found myself in the Sonoran Desert.
 

Visualizing our Path Forward
February 25, 2011

Professor Harry Kraemer is about to publish a book on values-based leadership in which  he focuses on four principles, including the importance of self-reflection and balance. One of the things that I am doing to make sure that I get the balance right in this new job is to block a few days each quarter to get away—to leave work and Evanston behind. In the summer, it will continue to be the week-long silent retreats that I wrote about last August. At other times, the break won’t be quite as extended, but will still give me an opportunity to separate and reflect.

This week, I took off and headed to the Sonoran Desert in the southwest. This desert holds a lot of personal meaning for me. For some reason, at several key transition points in my life over the last 25 years, I’ve found myself here, and have spent hours hiking and taking in the breathtaking scenery. The last time was two years ago—when I was in the middle of several important life decisions. It is wonderful to be back with no big transitions looming in front of me.

I guess that’s the benefit of being in mid-life and an empty-nester. I’ve made it through many of life’s toughest transitions. There are fewer what-ifs or maybes left. The kids are off at college and happily settled in. I know where I’m going to be living and working for the foreseeable future. The general outlines of my life have been revealed.  So this trip, I get to spend my days in the desert experiencing a sense of gratitude and delight in life’s abundance.

Note that all of this is not to say that life is completely without challenges now. The day before I left for my trip, I delivered Kellogg’s annual strategic planning presentation to Northwestern’s president and provost. In that presentation, we outlined a seven-year plan that will take us from September 2010 (around the time I started) to September 2017. Between now and then, we plan to be fully transitioned into our one-of-a-kind lakefront business campus; we’ll have undertaken a significant brand positioning initiative; we’ll have refined and extended our global footprint; and we’ll be in the middle of implementing our second five-year planning cycle under my deanship.

It’s a lot to accomplish in seven years and pretty daunting to see it all laid out on a PowerPoint slide. I have to admit that I couldn’t resist quipping during the presentation about how strange that felt. On the other hand, I think that a lot of us are finding it energizing to be able to visualize our path forward.

I welcome your comments, feedback and ideas at sallyblount@kellogg.northwestern.edu

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