A mystical leader doesn’t really have a plan. A vision, yes. A mission, yes. A direction, yes. Talents, yes. But not really a plan.

I like to describe the experience of mystical leadership as like being a seasoned whitewater rafter. You are responsible for what (and who) is in your boat. You know what direction you are going. But you also know you can not control the pace of the water, the obstacles, the hazards. Even if you’ve been down this river before, you know that no river is the same twice. There’s always something new. …


The ego-mind is a great employee but a horrible boss. When it is an employee, it can assist in an inner critique of your soul, heart, mind and body. When it is the boss, it becomes the dreaded inner critic.

We all have an inner critic. It is one of our survival tools; the part of our mind designed to keep us alive and in the tribe. In a group survival situation, the inner critic is absolutely essential. It uses projection, comparison and assumption to discourage selfish or risky behavior, protect hierarchies and order, and encourages customs and operating procedures.


Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell

Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal

The Platters

I love Ryan Holiday. But I think he was wrong. The ego is not the enemy. On the contrary, it’s your friend. I get that “ego is the enemy” is good alliteration for a book title. But I also think that referring to the ego as an enemy is contributing to the rising neo-fundamentalism…


“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
- Black Elk

“Iteration” is one of my favorite words. So is “liminal”. Both of these words speak to me of the perpetual evolution that we are all participating in, consciously or unconsciously.

In essence, life is art. As such, understanding that it is both iterative and full of liminal moments helps us to understand how to use our time, energy…


“Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled …” — General Maximus Decimus Meridius

Boundaries are a new idea for me. Until late last year, I had essentially one boundary: in or out, ride-or-die, loyalty or betrayal. I realize now that this was a remnant of survival and connection-seeking; of trying to protect myself from pain and rejection. Thanks to self-reflection, friends that model healthy boundaries and a great therapist, I now have a much more clear picture of what my boundaries…


In the years I spent as part of a fundamentalist church, “Grow where you’re planted” was a common trope. It was typically used as an admonishment to someone’s complaining about their circumstances.

I never liked this phrase. We aren’t plants. We can move. We are the only creatures with the gifts of consciousness and choice. Plus, it is the antithesis of Jesus’ teachings.

I understand the intended sentiment of the phrase. But I also observed it was most often used as an excuse to do nothing other than taking care of your family and consistently attending church services.

The phrase…


“Building the Ark” by James Tissot, ca. 1900

I’m learning each day the difference between striving and receiving. Striving is mostly how I operated the first 50 years of my life. Set a vision or goal. Put a plan in place. Work until it happens. This may sound great in theory. But in reality, the vision was often either too hazy or too rigid. The plan I created was based on wishful thinking (which is scarcity mindset disguised as faith) and/or assumptions. The work I did was often based on obstinance and proving others wrong.

In reflecting on the past 30+ years, I have noticed that the most…


We say we want simplicity. However, modern life invites complexity. There are so many moving parts and time-bound commitments. There is so much demand for our attention, our energy, our money. There is too much information to consume and too many choices to make. A microcosm of this issue was pointed out to me by a dear friend who is from another country: we have too many toilet paper choices!

It’s important to remember that our minds are wired to solve complex problems. This is one of the primary reasons we humans ended up running the place. The shadow is…


One of life’s many paradoxes is that we are each sovereign, unique beings while also being community-oriented animals. This paradox causes us to get twisted up in what we can only generate for ourselves and what we can only receive from others.

People more individualistically wired tend to play the part of the “lone wolf” or the “solitary woman/man”. Their ability to be alone with themselves can create a false sense of not needing anything from anyone. This can lead to isolation and walling off of the heart.

People more wired to be pleasers tend to play the part of…


As I’ve done at the end of the past few years, I am sending out some journal prompts for personal reflection time. Whether you are going to take a day or so for a personal retreat or just find a quiet space on your calendar that’s just for you, here are some questions to ponder:

  • Where is my ego influencing my heart?
  • Where are there signs of drift or exiling myself from my core self?
  • What feeling(s) am I avoiding?
  • What actions(s) am I avoiding?
  • Who do I need to forgive?
  • How consistent am I in living a true story…

Justin Foster

When you show someone their soul, you set them free. Co-founder of branding firm Root + River. Speaker, writer based in Austin. @fosterthinking on Twitter/IG

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