This Thanksgiving, instead of reheating the same old helping of “What I’m Thankful for Stew” (friends, family and health), I wanted to serve up something new. To be clear, I am thankful for all of the above, but sometimes the moments that cause us discomfort also give us our greatest lessons. The following are a selected sampling of times that helped me grow as a leader this year, all of which I am grateful for.


As an steady runner, I maintain balance and mindfulness through outdoor exercise. This year, I had to have surgery on my “good knee.” (The bad knee is already missing cartilage and my ACL is MIA.)

The recovery took much longer than anticipated, but it helped me become more attuned to my health. It also helped me better identify with people who deal with physical limitations daily.

The surgery helped me realize how vital it is to incorporate a wide variety of exercise and movements into my routine, which led me to biking, yoga, hiking and best yet, more walks with my wife. What seemed like a setback ended up adding so much more value to my life.

Catching the bus

Every spring, business and policy leaders converge at the Mackinac Policy Conference to discuss an array of topics that affect our region, including job creation and regional transportation. I decided to forgo the conference to learn about some of those issues firsthand.

So, I spent the day roaming around Detroit by bus to simulate a day in the life of people who rely on public transportation to get to appointments, work, etc.

It wasn’t easy. I  walked along roads in need of repair, in the rain, and reached my bus stop only to be greeted by a long wait. By 3 p.m., I was physically and mentally exhausted. I used my time to talk to my fellow commuters and become better informed on what many go through each day. It’s imperative for all decision-makers to better understand the populations they serve, and this is one immersion experience worth trying.

5,437 Miles
When I made the decision to study at Stanford’s Institute of Design in California, I chose to drive out West rather than hopping on a plane. That  long, long, five-day journey (each way) taught me so much:
  • I garnered a better understanding of how Greater Detroit is viewed by individuals across the country — both good and bad. This opened up rich conversations about our region beyond the headlines.
  • In the fields of California, I witnessed migrant workers loading fresh produce onto trains that would roll across the Mojave Desert and make its way to the Motor City. This made me think about how our work can incorporate local foods and community garden projects as part of the solution to end childhood hunger.
  • Lastly, I saw the impact of our Interstate system on towns around the near-defunct Route 66, which made me reflect on Detroit’s rich automotive history. It also begged the question of the consequences of progress, and what that will mean for Greater Detroit’s future. Questions we have no answer for yet.

As you gather this holiday season, I hope you are able to reflect not just on the joyous moments of this year, but on the ones that challenged and shaped you. 


2 thoughts

  1. Mike,
    As always good to get a glimpse of what’s going on inside your head. You always give me good insight and perspective! Many of us can gain some huge lessons from your blog. This time of the year can be a blur and we miss the significance. Thanks for slowing me down a little.

    Be Well and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    Your Friend!

  2. I had no idea that you took the time to immerse yourself in the experience of a bus commuter this past spring. Reading this made me smile. I would love for more of us to take moments to get to know the experiences of the community we serve and are a part of by spending some time “in the field”. It is the BEST way to get a reminder of why our work matters.

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