A Beautiful Journey

“I am saying a journey is called that because you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you will find, or what you find will do to you.”
These words by the African-American social commentator, James Baldwin, resonated deeply as I sat in the darkness on a flight to the USA, watching an enthralling documentary on his life.

While journeys are often associated with travel, it’s not the travel that makes a journey. It’s whether or not it opens up and transforms your thinking in some way. In this sense any experience can be a journey. A movie, a talk, or just facing into our daily challenges with a sense of discovery and adventure. When we engage our minds with the anticipation that something interesting might just happen, it’s a journey.

A franchisee’s journey

My destination for this particular journey has been Orlando, to attend the North American Kumon conference. While the resort has promised us a journey into the magical world of Disney, the real magic occurred this morning listening to Australian franchisee, Sue Leffers, deliver a mind-blowing a keynote address “33 Years and Still Here: the Journey of Kumon in Bondi Junction”. Sue’s story reminded me how it is possible to run a business for over three decades and still remain passionate and growing. I also gained valuable insights into the psychology of learning by listening to how she has expanded the minds of thousands of students through her Kumon education franchise.

Yes, Sue is in the business of business. But more importantly, she’s in the business of taking students on a learning journey to help them fulfil their potential. This morning she took us on a learning journey, expanding our thinking on what can be achieved in business when you have an attitude of service, determination and fearlessness. After seeing a video of the positive manner in which Sue interacts with her staff, clients and students, it is no surprise her business has maintained its record breaking growth trajectory for 33 years! Who says you can’t do well and do good.

Photo of Sue Leffers

A centenarian’s journey

The week before embarking on my journey to the USA, I went on a road trip with my wife and 101 year old mother-in-law, Joan, to her sister Jean’s funeral. Jean Thatcher was one month off 103 when she died peacefully in her beautiful home town of Bathurst. I enjoyed listening to stories of Jean’s fascinating and productive life. Her sense of adventure, starting her married life in a remote shack built in 1830 on the banks of the Macquarie River. Her creativity, which she expressed through music, painting and writing. Her insatiable curiosity and her generosity, such as her voluntary work as a guide at the local gallery and deliverer of Meals on Wheels to “the old people” in town, which she continued until just a year ago. Jean didn’t just live a life, she made it a journey, involving and evolving herself and others right until the end.

Jean’s funeral service included the following prayer of intercession. “We pray for musicians, writers, artists, gardeners, and all who add beauty and depth to our lives.” I love this. Whatever we aspire to do with our lives — be it making a difference to others, or making it past 100 — why not make it a beautiful journey?


Greg Nathan is a psychologist, author and an international expert on the franchise relationship. Connect with him on Google+ or Linkedin.

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