Bob Buford was a pioneer in the cable industry, but he is perhaps most known for his impact on leadership. He wrote books like Halftime and Finishing Well, and he launched organizations like the Leadership Network and the Halftime Institute. He died April 18, 2018. He was 78. When I stepped away from Prologis in 2012, I began some soul-searching about how I could make a difference in the lives of others during the next phase of my life. The seeds of my first book, Transfluence (out tomorrow!) were planted with some of the guidance I received from my experience with Bob and the Halftime Institute. What follows is what I wish I could share with him if he were still with us.
Some might find it odd that I’m writing you a letter. I’m not too worried about it, though. I’ve arrived at a milestone moment, and this just felt like a good way to express my gratitude for your part in my journey and to describe the somewhat counter-intuitive feeling I am having.
Tuesday is “pub day” for Transfluence: How to Lead with Transformative Influence in Today’s Climates of Change. It’s been available for pre-order and I got some advanced copies a few weeks ago, but tomorrow is the day it’s officially out. If someone already ordered a copy, that’s when it should get shipped. And new orders should go out immediately.
Traditionally, this is a big day in the life of a would-be author, especially a first-time author. For me? Well, I don’t want to say it’s not important, but I’m just not that jazzed about the “wow, I wrote a book!” part of it. That really misses the point, as I think you know from our previous conversations.
On the other hand, I am extremely excited about the message of this book, and I’ve come to see the timing of its release as somewhat providential. The world is a mess, as you know, and desperately needs emerging leaders who will have a positive influence. So, it’s not the milestone moment in my life that has me energized but the potential for the book to make a difference.
I also have something to confess, and I think you’ll understand: It’s been an incredibly busy summer of working on things related to the book’s release, but I’ve found myself preoccupied by another thought: What’s next?
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The thing about milestones is that you pass by them when you’re on a journey. The Romans were one of the first to use milestones way back when they constructed the Appian Way. They had a “Golden Milestone” in Rome that represented the center of the empire, but it was lost or stolen, which confirms my point that milestones aren’t meant to be a destination. And that’s the way I view this book. It’s part of the journey, not a place to stop.
That was really the heart of your message, Bob – that no matter what we’ve accomplished, there’s always more for us to do. Here’s the way I view it: Always take pride in what you’ve accomplished, be content with where you are, and be engaged in the work of your future. It’s a pretty simple formula and, like most formulas, easier said than lived.
I’ve always tried to live with that attitude, but you really helped me bring it into focus for this phase of my life. I was sitting in one of your Halftime workshops in Dallas several years ago when the lightbulb began to flicker in my head. When we talked over dinner, I felt like I was getting a master class in finding and living out my next purpose. And then you followed up with phone calls to see how I was doing, the last of those coming about six months before you passed away.
It wasn’t any single thing you said that changed or shaped my course, but more the totality of your messages that left two key words seared into my soul: be influential.
There are many ways of being influential, and one of them is by writing down my thoughts on leadership and sharing them with others. Transfluence reflects the essence of what I’ve learned about leadership – that it’s not about you, it’s about having a positive influence on others. And the book will help shape my work going forward. If I stopped here and celebrated for too long, however, I wouldn’t be true to the message that you gave me or the message that I’ve written.
The fact is, I never feel like I’m done. That can be a bad thing if it means I am failing to find satisfaction or contentment in my work. Most of the time, however, it keeps me thinking about the horizon – the next thing in my journey to be influential. The day I feel like I’m done is the day I feel I no longer can make a positive impact. I can’t very well challenge others to have a transformative influence if I’m not actively working to do that myself.
So, thanks in part to your wisdom and encouragement, I’ve reached this milestone moment of seeing the book I’ve worked on for several years officially launch into the marketplace. I feel satisfied that this is another step forward in the journey, but I don’t feel as if I have nothing left to say. And that’s what excites me about the future.
Thank you again for your wisdom, Bob. You were a positive influence on my journey, and hopefully this book will have a positive influence on future leaders.