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Gratitude Filled Leadership: Legacy Leadership & Technology

During my keynote presentations I laud the advances in technology that liberate our limiting beliefs. I tell my audiences that high tech challenges those of us who, over the years, have been too busy to study and familiarize ourselves with the new worlds that are right in front of us. We know the nomenclature but that’s about as far as it goes. I prove my point by saying that my fear arises out of an inability to reset the clock on my VCR. Good laughs at that somewhat worn cliché’.

How do we conquer these irrational yet real fears of modern advances? Many of my contemporaries accepted the challenge right away and stayed abreast of every new development that came along. I admire and envy them. But it seems like once you get two iterations behind the latest development you’re lost.

My initial attempt, 30 years ago, to stay up with the latest marvel was to buy one of the new Apple computers. I think it had a white case; not sure. How cool it was! I could do party invites and write reports with ease (hunt and peck of course). However I didn’t really embrace the full capability of this newfangled device. So it gathered dust on the shelf. I had moved into a leadership position so I relegated tasks enhanced by tech evolution to my younger charges. I respected high tech systems yet always asked my juniors to guide me in their use.

Deferring learning the newest systems and processes snowballed and I fell further and further behind the tech “curve.” The curve in aviation terms is used to graph the aerodynamic stall regime. Falling behind the curve meant you were getting closer to stalling and dropping like an autumn leaf out of the sky. Not a good thing. So being two generations behind became three, then four then five. Now it seems I will never catch up. Fortunately new advances have incredible user friendliness that makes us “dinos” much more capable than we ever thought we could be. For me the iPhone is a good example of technology coming out of the shadows to serve as a tool even the least tech savvy leader can use. Of course the realm of much more advanced tools is vast.

I am filled with gratitude to those who have created these incredible opportunities for increasing our productivity and efficiency. Modern leaders are certainly well equipped. Leadership though is more than the employment of high tech skills. Understanding what motivates those we nurture and lead is crucial. Combine your emotional intelligence with modern technology and you will find true GFL.  Afterburners, ready, now!

#GladToBeHere with Project Air: Supporting Trauma Survivors in Rwanda

John Foley and his wife, Carol Rees, have a huge vision to which they’ve committed themselves: help a billion people reach their full potential through a focus on purpose larger than self.  What that means to them is spreading the #GladToBeHere message and supporting the needs of people worldwide through charitable giving. It’s well documented in studies of happiness levels that when people feel deeply connected to their communities and to others, they lead more fulfilling lives; that when a person is able to feel and express gratitude for the positives in their lives, it enhances joy. John and Carol believe that seeking a purpose larger than self creates a ripple effect that spreads outward and impacts the world in a positive way. John Foley travels worldwide speaking to business audiences about #GladToBeHere, increasing team performance, and the power of gratitude to change our daily lives.

Seven years ago, seeking to connect more deeply to a purpose larger than self, John and Carol started the Glad To Be Here Foundation, through which they have supported more than 335 charitable causes worldwide to the tune of $1.6 million and counting. In order to enhance the impact of the Foundation, John partners with his business clients to identify charitable causes important to them, to which he donates up to $1,000 of his net speaking fees. Engaging in philanthropic giving together with clients allows John to increase the scope of giving, by discovering non-profits that have special meaning to his clients and their teams.

In the first quarter of 2018, John and Carol have chosen to spotlight a non-profit organization called Project Air in Kigali, Rwanda. Project Air provides critical programs, specifically therapeutic yoga and meals for girls and women who have experienced intense physical and psychological trauma. Referred to Project Air five years ago by a close friend, John and Carol have been donors since that time to this grassroots effort to help girls and women affected by regional violence heal their trauma through yoga and meditation.

“We in the U.S. can’t wrap our minds around surviving something like what they experienced. The emotional and physical scars are intense. These are people that need help to return to a fully productive life, and the Project Air founder is a woman who is giving her life to do just that,” Carol said. When asked what about the organization touched her most, Carol explained, “the wounds and trauma of genocidal violence are deep and difficult to heal and they will affect the following generations if left unaddressed. We need to help the healing of this generation to ensure all the generations that will follow will not be affected, too.”

When a person experiences trauma, Carol explained, “they shut down, these women haven’t been able to relate to their bodies, they haven’t felt safe in a very extreme sense, since the genocide. At Project Air, women have a private place where they can be comfortable with the group and it’s the first time they’ve laughed and smiled. They have the opportunity to re-learn to relate to themselves physically in a safe environment.”

A key component offered by Project Air is anti-violence education for boys. “Rape as a weapon of terror has escalated and the educational piece is important to help challenge the current culture and provide momentum to the prevention effort, “ Carol said.

Recently, Project Air’s landlord raised rent on the studio space where the programs are held, risking a loss of the safe space where women and girls are learning to heal. The founder, Deirdre Summerbell, made a video where women tell their stories through song and dance, their traditional way of showing respect to honored people, while preserving their privacy by not speaking directly about what they have experienced. It was challenging to get them to appear on camera, but to preserve their beloved space, they worked together to create this video requesting support.

Carol and John saw video and learned about stories of individuals served by the program, and were moved to increase support. “A dollar spent on a woman has profound impacts on her family and her community,” Carol said. She and John chose to support Project Air exclusively in the first quarter of 2018 to help them advance the healing of a traumatized, underserved population with wonderful potential. Carol described her connection and commitment to Project Air, “all of these causes grab you. It’s emotional. But this one…”

You can learn more about Project Air’s work to support women and girls in Rwanda here. For more details on the impact of the Glad To Be Here Foundation, see here.

Gratitude Spreads at the Naval Academy

Eating dinner last weekend in King Hall with 4,400 Midshipmen was so special. When I attended the Naval Academy, I spent four years taking three meals a day in that cavernous room. Now I was back, sitting at a table alongside the superintendent and General McMaster, the head of the NSA. As a Midshipman, I never pictured that I’d return to deliver the opening keynote at the academy’s biggest leadership conference. It felt amazing to come full circle and share my experience with tomorrow’s leaders.

At an event like this—where I’m speaking alongside vice presidents and heads of state—I like to focus on differentiators. Strong leadership starts with fundamentals, but there are subtle things that elite teams and performers do differently. Take, for example, mindset. The best of the best see the world through a different lens. That’s why I encourage audiences to adopt an attitude of gratefulness and positivity I call Glad To Be Here.

Gratitude is especially important for teams, because one person can be like a spark that lights up an entire organization. I saw this happening after my speech last weekend. My escort for the event was so fired up, he asked me for 4,400 #GladToBeHere stickers, one for every Midshipman in the academy. He has made it his personal mission to share this mindset with every individual cadet. His passion is an inspiration to me, and it’s a reminder of how Glad To Be Here takes hold organically. Gratitude is contagious. It starts with one person, and it spreads.

I challenge you to be that spark in your world too. It starts with a simple question: what makes you Glad To Be Here? Find the sources of gratitude in your life, and share them with everyone around you. I’ve even created a simple tool I call the Glad To Be Here Wakeup that will help you begin every single day with this life changing mindset. Be the change that you want to see in the world today.

Carpe Diem!


Next Year It’s Ours

Standing on the field at Saturday’s Army-Navy game, I felt the sheer significance of the event all over again. As the snow fell, I looked around the arena and saw a sea of midshipmen and cadets on the journey of their lives. I thought about my Dad, the countless story lines overlapping, from General MacArthur to Roger Staubach.  All the men and women who have or are currently serving our great nation.  Pride, professionalism, and commitment at its finest.  There’s a special growth that occurs when you attend the academy, both professionally and personally. It’s part of the process of taking on a higher purpose. Everyone who was at that game was playing a part in that story.

I cheered from the sidelines with two Blue Angels, former Boss Tom Frosch and the current XO of the team, Matt Kaslik. As we watched Navy fight through the heavy snow in the blue and gold uniforms imbrued with the Blue Angel colors and crest, I felt a deep sense of Glad To Be Here. I’m grateful to be reminded what this game represents to so many people, and to play my small part in keeping that spirit alive.

Congratulations to Army on winning the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.  Next years it’s ours.

Go Navy!

Navy Football honors the Blue Angels with Under Armor designed uniforms

There’s something special happening this weekend that I try to represent every time I speak to a team.  This is a big moment for me personally because it brings my message of high performance into the national spotlight.
This Saturday for the Army-Navy football game, the Midshipmen are donning special uniforms that honor the Blue Angels. They chose these commemorative uniforms to represent the culture of excellence the Blue Angels stand for.  This is the same emphasis of leadership and team performance that makes my keynote experience unique for our clients. I have figured out from my own career and from incredible leaders and teams , how do the best get better and what are the common variables of elite teams. I’m am grateful to be able to help people achieve their full potential and enable teams to build their culture of excellence.
Seeing Navy in blue and gold is going to touch my heart. It’s a powerful reminder for everyone to push their belief levels and aspire to reach their full potential. But also, these things just look really cool! I bet wearing them gives the Navy a 3 point advantage, at least.
I will be at the game representing one of just three Navy Football alumni who went on to become Blue Angels. But it is not just about Navy football. It is about being part of something bigger. My father graduated from West Point, and my uncle was captain of the Army football team under Earl Blaik and Vince Lombardi. Taking the field in Annapolis, I understood that I was part of something larger than myself.
I’m so proud to be with my Teammates again on Saturday. It gives me the ability, once again, to represent something larger than myself.
Go Navy!