(Spoiler alert: My discussion about my three-day silent retreat has a spiritual foundation 😉 )

Wow! It is hard for me to believe that another year is almost over. The good news: I always end the year with my three most important days — my three-day Jesuit silent retreat at Demontreville, near Lake Elmo, Minnesota. As I mentioned in my blog post last year, I have been attending a retreat here for the past 30 years with my father-in-law, Tom Jansen. My brother Steve has accompanied me the last 20 years.

Students and colleagues have always asked me: “Harry, how does someone who likes to talk as much as you do stay quiet for THREE days?!?!?” The answer is that it is a huge part of what I call the FIRST principle of Values-Based Leadership……SELF REFLECTION. As I have discussed many times, everything for me starts with self reflection, the ability to become self aware and know yourself. Here is what I call the “three-part logic” as to why self reflection comes first:
1) If I am not reflective, is it possible to know myself?
2) If I don’t know myself, how can I lead myself?
3) If I cannot lead myself, how can I lead others?

I included in a recent Kellogg Insight piece some of the key questions I ask myself on a daily basis, and here are the key questions I ask myself on the retreat every year:


This year our retreat leader was Father J.J. O’Leary from Marquette University. He is an amazingly insightful person who challenged us during the retreat to really focus on what matters. Here are a few examples from the many pages of notes I took during his talks (get ready for some SELF REFLECTION!!!!!!!!! 😉 )

  • One needs to be silent to truly listen to what God has to say to you
  • Reflect on how much I love my spouse and children…it is a small way of understanding how much God loves us
  • We see best when we lose something…be aware and thankful for what you have, not what you don’t have (your health is a good example)
  • What do I put First in my life? If it is money or power, that becomes my “god”…be careful what you put first in your life
  • “Control the data”…control your thoughts or they will control you (example of pornography)
  • Weakness makes us more compassionate to others
  • Prepare for death by dying every day to our pride
  • The only thing we leave this life with is what we leave behind. How do you want to be remembered?
  • Don’t react to the bad behavior of others, but rather, act in a way consistent with your values
  • What spirit do I bring to my home? Is it love or impatience?
  • The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother
  • Do I think I am better than others, or do I truly respect every person with whom I come in contact?
  • One of the hardest things in life is to forgive yourself
  • Sometimes the worst things that happen to us are the best things for us
  • We have to fail in order for God to pick us up
  • Check my heart and spirit…am I filled with CONSOLATION or DESOLATION?
    • Consolation is self reflective, knowing yourself, peaceful, prayerful, grateful, the more I know my heart, the more at peace I will be
    • Desolation is filled with worry, fear, anxiety, stress and pressure
  • Mother Theresa: “The greatest disease is a lack of love.”

As always, I enjoy your feedback, comments and questions.

Have a wonderful holiday season!!