Reflections From A 20-Year Mentee of Bob Buford
We all want to maximize our time on earth. Greater dividends in our relationships and our endeavors for the time and sweat equity we put in. Being a 20-year mentee of Bob Buford has taught me just that – how to have leveraged impact in all that I do.
Bob Buford was intent on a “100X return” – one hundred times the benefit or life change, as a result of giving his time and money to meet others’ needs. His standard wasn’t just multiplication – it was 100X multiplication! Now that’s something to study, isn’t it?
At mid-life, we develop a greater realization that our time on earth is limited and it helps us get serious about what is most important. Last week, I shared the first five of the “10 Keys to Mid-life Renewal”; including specific questions we each need to work through during this season.
Today, I’m sharing #6-10 of the “10 Keys to Mid-life Renewal” reflections from two decades of sitting under Bob Buford.
(For Part 1 of the “10 Keys to Mid-life Renewal,” CLICK HERE.)
6. LIFELONG LEARNING
Bob and I shared a common love of art and spent several wonderful days together at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. He believed that art would bring depth to my thinking and strengthen my ability to observe.
A package arrived at our home with two oversized art books and a hand-written note: “I want you to tear out a page of art each day and pin it up in your dressing room and just look at it. The best way to really learn art is to just look at it … And don’t worry, they were not expensive, I bought them used.”
In this and other ways, he modeled a commitment to life-long learning. For many summers, Bob was a facilitator at the Aspen Institute, exposing him to the widest range of ideas and perspectives. He even hired a tenured professor of literature to come to his office each week and tutor him through the classics.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What will be your rhythm of lifelong learning?
7. SETTING LIMITS
I asked my three closest friends to each send Bob an email with their observations of my life, my risks and opportunities. Sent only to him, not me. When we met next, he was armed with three very different, honest perspectives.
“It’s obvious your friends care deeply about you but having reflected on their comments, I believe that in this next season you’re going to have to learn to live within your limits.”
Ouch. What did that mean? Which limits was I oblivious to? How has he lived within limits that have kept him safe from embarrassing himself or God?
Now this is worth noodling on.
His advice was to read Jim Collins’ book How the Mighty Fall. “But it’s a corporate book,” I claimed. “Yes,” Bob replied, “but the factors that cause companies to fail apply to leaders in their personal lives as well.”
QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Who in your life can reveal blind spots to you? What limits do you need to be more aware of?
“Friday through Sunday I’m at the farm, with just Linda, my wife. I may spend 7 or 8 hours reading in a weekend. I take long walks and watch the cows chew their cud…nothing’s more relaxing than that. It’s about silence, reflection, and time with the Lord and Linda.”
At first, this struck me as overly rigid. But his intentionality had profound results over time.
Today I have seemingly rigid rhythms:
– I take three silent spiritual retreat days spread throughout the year.
– I block off one workday each week as a “spouse day.”
– I have a standing appointment on the calendar every morning to start my day with God.
– I have a reoccurring 90-minute block of time to reach out to ten sons in our extended family and friends.
Each of these fit in the priceless category.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What adjustment in your rhythms might take your relationships and effectiveness to a new level?
9. BALCONIES & BASEMENTS
After I turned 50, I went to Bob with a fear that I was losing my mojo, my drive, or my focus.
“Lloyd, you’re not likely to lose your focus. In fact, you’re so focused that you run the risk of becoming uninteresting.”
My family quickly affirmed that he was right. I just couldn’t see it. In fact, I sensed from them that I was already a little uninteresting or at least lop-sided. One of my top strengths, according to the StrengthsFinder Assessment, is Focus. Any strength taken too far becomes a weakness.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What strength are you most likely to take too far?
During the last mentoring conversation I had with Bob, he asked me what I was learning. A simple but powerful question. I told him that I was learning contentment. If “godliness with contentment equals great gain” (1 Timothy 6), then I have focused on living in godly ways but not on being content.
“Oh … you’ve caught up with your dream. That’s what you do when you catch up with your dream – you learn to slow down and savor the journey. You learn contentment.”
Hmmm, I didn’t know that. Some things in life have a natural progression. I had never actually expected to catch my dream but the instant he said those words I knew it true.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Have you caught up with your dream? If so, what do you do now? If not, what will it look and feel like when you do?
YOUR NEXT STEPS
I shared this much detail with you not because all these learnings apply to you, but rather, that in seeing Bob’s wisdom in his own words applied to my life, you would be encouraged to have such a source of wisdom in your life.
LAST QUESTION: Who do you know who could be this sort of mentor to you? Who can ask you deeper questions? Who can help you grow in wisdom?