Life Lessons 18-02: You’re Closer To 7 Ways to Cultivate an Extraordinary Life and Business Than You Think

Written by Stephen Hobbs

Pass Along Your Learning as a Reflective Practitioner

You become wiser in thought and action when you heed “Allow life to be your educator in both the smallest and largest events; cultivate a reflective life.”

In reading this wisdom, ask yourself, “What small and large events bring stories of lifelong learning to your mind and heart? What was it about these events that spur you on to leveraging this learning in living your extraordinary life and co-creating the well-living workplace today?”

It’s in response to these two questions I share one of my important life-work stories.

life lesson 18-02

A Small or Large Event, Shapes Living And Working

In 1987 I had the pleasure of working in Uganda, Eastern Africa for the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. I was given the job title Development Delegate with the Ugandan Red Cross. The work was open and fluid, with a surprise each day. I managed an environmental disaster-planning program while supporting primary health care initiatives. 

One particular program I was assigned upon my arrival. It had not been included in my pre-briefing in Geneva before the trip to Uganda. I was to develop and begin implementation of a health education/promotion program on HIV/AIDS. I was tasked with researching what a country knows about HIV/AIDS (1987). From the research findings I was to map and plan actions with the help of the Ugandan Red Cross and other Red Cross Societies.

This experience had profound consequences both personally and professionally. Through the work my frame of reference of living and working did a 180-degree swing, and to the better I know! In addition, the work I do today is the outcome of that experience. And there was one encounter that was pivotal - a life pivot!

Driving around Uganda meant stopping at roadblocks for military checks. It was less than a year ago the new government forces ousted the past regime. Roadblocks were signified with a pile of rocks in the middle of the road with soldiers present. Daylight hours meant stop. Nighttime meant speed up.

On this particular day we stopped and the soldier stepped forward with a Russian-made machine gun and poked the gun into the cab of the truck. While not able or unwilling to speak in English the solider spoke through my driver. The questions and answers began. Because the barrel of the gun was so close to my face (touching the tip of my nose at times), I would use my pointer finger to move the barrel to the side rationalizing a loss of hearing was better than my head. Quickly the gun would return to my face.

After about a minute the barrel began to dance in front of my face. I heard laughter from the other soldiers. I continued to answer the questions and realized the gun barrel was wavering even more. While focused on the gun barrel, I heard my driver say we are going.

The gun was withdrawn and I nodded goodbye. As we drove on I looked at the side mirror and asked my driver, “How old was the soldier?” He casually said she is about 14-15 years old.

Yes – that is correct ‘she’. Here was a young woman recruited or volunteered into the military holding a machine gun in my face. The soldiers’ laughter was their recognition she couldn’t hold the gun up, thus its wavering. 

Sitting back in my seat, I decided that there had to be a better way in which to be in this world. I said to myself, I would do what I can to not have another young soldier, especially a young woman stick a gun in the face of another. Because of her, she inspired me to work from a place of education to help others. And that is my job today!

As an epilogue, to this day I wish I could find her and hug her for the lesson she gave me that day. Unfortunately, I would not know where to start and therefore, I leave my fond wishes to universal transmission.

 Allow life to be your educator in both the smallest and largest events; cultivate a reflective life.

~ Stephen Hobbs

Learning from - Leveraging - Living with Your Story

This experience - while profound in the moment - situated and redirected my efforts for the remainder of my mission. And, my life moving forward. 

Of the many ways I summarized my learning and educated others included putting pen to paper. I authored three books:

Living YOUR Great Life
Creating the Well-Living Workplace
Co-Creating the Well-Living World


In celebration of my experience, here are 7 insights - life and business lessons for you to ponder - action - share: 

  1. Draw insights from the smallest and biggest events through challenging your beliefs, assumptions, opinions and perceptions. Picture these four words as four sides of a window frame. The more you challenge and comprehend this window frame the more you keep the window open. And in turn, live your great life and create the well-living workplace. Therefore, let no small or big event go by without reflection to leverage the learning. 
  1. Take the words “learn and educate” and think of them as two sides of a coin. That is, you cannot have one side without the other. You cannot have ‘learn without educate’ and vice versa. A phrase worth repeating to yourself is, “When I listen I learn, when I share I educate.”
  1. Consider, “Who are my life educators–from whom do I learn? Who am I educating–what are they learning from me?” It’s helpful to believe your life involves the sum total of your educators and your learners. And just as important, “You educate what you love to learn.” Upon reflection, do you experience life as an educator?
  1. Further, “Who are your educators at work? What are they sharing with you? Who are you educating? What are you sharing with them?” In other words, from workforce learning and workplace educating perspectives, “Are you working the solution or frustrating the problem?” 
  1. Demonstrate courage in commitment to learn-action so others see how you inspire and encourage them. Whether you’re managing operational systems or leading strategic meetings, remain reflective. That is, engage in reflection-in-action so you can manage forward, to encourage others and to enjoy the variety of activities on the dance floor. And, engage in reflection-on-action so you can lead fromward, to inspire others and to enjoy the view from the balcony.
  1. Urge others to become aware of, pay attention to and demonstrate intention for creating the well-living workplace from the insight that words matter. Language defines the world. We do not describe a world we see, we see a world we can describe. Each day you encounter a field of internal and external forces that interactively determine your behavior. Therefore, as you listen to your words and reflect on their meaning, glimpse possibilities and cultivate actions for a job well done!
  1. Determine “In your living and working, are you a reflective practitioner?” Are you creating learning like these six insights from your reflections?

Traveling – it leaves you speechless,
then turns you into a storyteller.

~ Ibn Battuta

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