Guest Post: Leadership Wisdom & Uncertainty

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Scott Mabry is my friend. Scott has been a teacher and a business leader; he has taught me a great deal about leadership.

I know Scott through the online conversations we have shared. Scott is a good listener and a reflective, insightful thinker. He has a deep understanding of himself, and shares his true self with other people. I appreciate his sense of humor and perspective.

I enjoy talking with Scott, and always look forward to what he has to say.

Surprising Leadership Wisdom from my 94 Year Old Dinner Companion

If you have ever been on a cruise and you are an introvert like me you can appreciate the temporary panic that accompanies your first night in the main dining room with a table full of complete strangers.

On our cruise last week my wife and I were pleasantly surprised to arrive at our table set for eight and find it…empty. Dead center in the middle of the dining room, right behind the captain’s table a very large and romantic table for two…or so I thought. A few minutes after we settled in an elderly lady and middle aged man sat down at the far end of the table.

Before we had a chance to sort out the situation the elderly lady rose from her seat came down to our end of the table and introduced herself, “I’m Edna and this is my son Barry. We’re not trying to be rude but we have been sitting in these two seats the first two nights and we are creatures of habit. Why don’t you move down here so you can talk to us?” She had a wry smile and a sparkle in her eyes. The invitation was irresistible. We adjusted our seating and then got to know each other a little better. We were very surprised to find out she was 94 years old. Her energy level, mental sharpness and mobility led us to believe she was much younger.

Over the next five nights Edna shared many wonderful stories from her life. None of our other dinner companions ever showed up so we had Edna all to ourselves. We came to look forward to dinner each night knowing that Edna would be there and would talk to us about our day and make us laugh with her quick wit and the light hearted banter she shared with her son.

On the final night of the cruise I decided I would ask Edna a life question. You don’t often get the opportunity to learn from someone who has spent nearly 100 years on this planet. My question went something like this…

“Edna, what one life lesson would you share with others based on your many years of experience?”

Her answer was immediate but not a shock. In fact I would call it common sense. Yet because of her genuine personality, the stories of joy and tragedy she shared and her years of experience it really struck me deeply.

“Scott, the one lesson I would say I’ve learned is don’t worry about things you can’t control and live life fully.”

There is plenty of application in that statement for every aspect of life. I generally write about leadership so I thought about how worry and uncertainty plays out for leaders and what we can take away from Edna’s wisdom.

You can’t know everything. In every decision or action there will be some level of uncertainty. Edna was happily planning a trip to Israel for October 2014 not knowing if she would be around or physically able to make the trip when the time came to go. In fact, she put a deposit on the trip while we were still on the cruise. Often we treat uncertainty as something to be feared rather than an opportunity for adventure, learning and growth.  By taking the first step towards our goals we can shift our emotions from worry to anticipation despite the unknowns.

Difficult things happen. Edna lost two husbands. At least one of them to a long battle with cancer. Yet she did not talk about the experience with bitterness. She embraced these experiences as part of a bigger story and focused on the wonderful years they shared together. In leadership we will come into hard times. These experiences can teach us if we will see them as a natural part of living and leading.

Embrace the journey. When we choose to lead we step into a path that forces us to collide with people, choices, conflicts and more. While we can influence and directly impact many of the challenges we face there are many things we do not control. Edna had the benefit of perspective which allowed her to see that even the difficult things she could not control served a purpose. They made her stronger and deepened her faith.  We can choose a perspective that transforms our worry into faith so that we release our need for control.

Edna certainly influenced me with her life and message. As leaders we have a choice in how we see and respond to uncertainty and difficulty and our choice will influence those we serve.

“Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.” – Henri Frederic Amiel


Scott Mabry is a teacher and business leader writes about “bringing your soul to work” through leadership, love, community and purpose on his blog You can also follow Scott on Twitter @scott_elumn8 or on LinkedIn

Thank you, Scott.

[Image by Nicu Buculei]

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  • Jon Stallings

    Great story Scott, I have to admit that for too much of my life allowed fear and worry to rule the day. Maybe it is my mid-life crisis but I am learning to live each day to the fullest.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Strategic Monk

    Thank you, Jon, and thank you, Scott!

    I enjoy the opportunities for conversation that trading blog posts create. We remind each other of deep truths as we share our perspectives.