Jeffrey David Dykstra

Jeff Dykstra
Learning Log

Jeffrey David Dykstra

Report date
January 2019
Fellowship term
24 months
Learning log 1

Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. – St. Augustine

Going back to the moment of being accepted as a Bush Fellow still strikes me as a moment of receiving an unlikely, but welcomed, gift. The Fellowship came during a season filled with other milestones: a 25th wedding anniversary, the 10-year anniversary of the organization I co-founded and lead today, the launch of a new organizational strategy, a first-born child graduating from college and more. In the midst of this, the Fellowship represented an opportunity to pause and think about where I’ve been, what I had accomplished and, more importantly, reflect on how I can create even greater impact in the years to come.

The greatest gift of the fellowship these first 6 months can be summarized for me in a word…Intentionality. The generosity of the Fellowship - and my desire to steward it well - has put me in a place of “forced thoughtfulness” examining and thinking about my life and leadership in ways I might not have without this opportunity. I think in our society today, and certainly my life, we move too fast, talk too much, listen and reflect too little and generally spend much of our time dealing with the tyranny of the urgent. The Fellowship for me has represented and intentional time to push back on this reality and be more thoughtful, reflective and mindful about my life and actions.

As I worked on my original plan I received some helpful feedback that has deeply impacted the first 6 months of my Fellowship. My original plan was filled mostly with academic experiences/head learning, but fortunately, someone from the Bush team encouraged me to include somethings that would be recreational and rejuvenating. What a gift this simple idea has proved to be. I realized than many of the things I love to do also had the benefit of being things that sparked creative thinking…almost any new idea I’ve ever had has come to me when I am moving under my own power…running, biking, hiking etc. and that being immersed in wild places is life giving for me.

With these things in mind I added several elements to my plan these first 6 months that have given me some rich experiences doing what I love…I’ve run/hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a day with friends, I’ve climbed mountains in Colorado and I am now training to do a back-country ski race in March. The permission to invest in these things have put me in the best physical shape I’ve been in in years, and given me the mental clarity that can often accompany physical health. Not surprisingly, these times have also yielded additional fruit that I intuitively thought they could…new ideas, plans and thoughts that might not have occurred without this time. One example – a long training run for the Grand Canyon sparked an idea that now, 5 months later, has led to a $16MM fundraising campaign with $3MM of that likely already raised…

The life-long lesson for me is that taking the time to do things that give us life are absolutely essential to long term health and leadership effectiveness. Planning these things into my days, weeks, months and years will be something I continue to do with the same spirit of intentionality as I move forward.

Another key part of the first 6 months has been a re-grounding and re-centering in my core beliefs. When our kids were little my wife and I wrote down what we believed and wanted our family to strive for and be about. We’ve succeeded (some) and failed (often) in all of these over the years and they have led us to make decision we may not have made absent the conscious effort of grounding ourselves in these ideals.

1. We seek to love God as he loved us first and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus...
2. We seek to love one another and others by placing their needs ahead of our own...
3. We seek to be graceful (filled with grace) for others and with ourselves...
4. We seek to follow our hearts and be willing to take meaningful risks for the purpose of the greater good or adventure...
5. We seek to pursue the "life of the mind" and to value the gift of learning and education...
6. We seek to be wise stewards of our financial resources...to be generous with our money and to avoid debt and raw consumerism...
7. We seek to honor our bodies by pursuing purity and good health remembering that our bodies are a gift from God
8. We seek to live our lives with a daily sense of gratitude and thanksgiving choosing to see the goodness that is all around us...
9. We seek truthfulness and wisdom is all things...
10.We value honesty, courage and beauty…

It has been good to come back to these truths and marinate in them in this new chapter of mid-life and through the lens of the purpose of the Fellowship. These beliefs anchor me as I consider how I might be even more effective and useful in the years ahead.

As we turn into 2019, the one full calendar year that will start and end with me immersed in the Fellowship, I am energized and excited about all that is ahead. Starting next month, I begin my program at Oxford studying towards a Diploma in Organizational Leadership, and from there things don’t let up (in a good way) until the Fellowship ends in mid- 2020. I’m relaxed and grateful right now and seeking to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.