2013 End of Year List: Part Two


December 26, 2013

I began my “end of the year” lists in my last blog by discussing important news events, music and books. If you missed it, you can see it HERE. Now, I will continue my reminiscing of 2013 by sharing my take on movies, travel, people and my final thoughts for the year. 


I don’t see a lot of movies – it’s hard to keep my interest for two hours, so I will include a few documentaries as well. Here it goes: (Click on links to see the trailers)

  • “Captain Phillips” – Somali Pirates. Seal team snipers. More tension than anyone eating popcorn should have to endure. The last 20 minutes are brilliantly and hauntingly acted by Tom Hank. 
  • “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” – Secrets, governments, security and redefining our right to know and share information. We produce more information than ever before in history. We also produce more secrets. But truth eventually comes out – for better or worse. 
  • “Dirty Wars” – The story of the ever-expanding covert US wars. We really have no idea of what’s going on in the world, who’s doing it and who’s being impacted by it. 
  • “U.N. Me” – The UN gives new meaning to the idea of dysfunctional organizations.  When an organization cannot even agree on a definition of terrorism and their Commission on Human Rights membership includes Pakistan and China, it might be time to rethink a few things. 
  • “Saving Mr. Banks” This is NOT the kind of movie I would usually enjoy – or at least I didn’t think I would. But the account of adapting “Mary Poppins” for the big screen is truly a good story. And I like stories – especially when, like in this one, they remind us of how to get beyond the past and regrets and move into the future. 


I travel a lot for my work. This year alone I found myself in at least a dozen different countries either conducting leadership conferences, lecturing or researching. My view of travel might be different than others. I think the world is full of beautiful and interesting places, but I don’t pack my suitcase for that. Travel is such a privilege and something that many people never get to enjoy – so I view it as a tool to understand the world, gain perspective, and if possible, bring hope and truth to those you meet. Here are a few of my favorite places where I worked/visited this year: 

  • Benghazi, Libya: I went looking for answers and insights from the September 11, 2012 murder of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. A highlight was talking my way into the former US Consulate – it still looked like a crime scene seven months after the event. Getting a visa into the country was no easy task – but I was reminded again of how much work it takes to get what you want. 
  • Mumbai, India: The one remaining terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks was executed in November of 2012 – but it didn’t bring much closure to the nation of India or help their difficult relationship with Pakistan. I visited the sites of those attacks, talking to eye witnesses and interviewing experts on terrorism and security studies. It was eye-opening. 2014 will be a crucial year for India for variety of reasons, not the least of which involves Afghanistan and the declining security situation there and its likely impact on militancy in Kashmir.
  • Oxford, UK: The location of probably one of the best executed leadership conferences of my career. Great training sessions, activities, sites around England and an engaging group of students. It reminded me of how trying to master the art of something constantly draws you forward in life and keeps you engaged. 
  • Cairo, Egypt: I never seem to miss a major event in Cairo. This year it was being there for the June 30th protests and the July 3rd takeover of the army. I have provided training sessions, run internship programs and created relationships in Egypt for so many years that what happens there always matters to me. More than I wish it did. 
  • Edinburgh, Scotland: This is my favorite city in the world to go and do nothing in particular. It’s beautiful and somehow without pretense. It feels like home – not in the family way, but in the “meant to be” way. I hate to share it. Sometimes I do. 


  • Smartest: Charles Krauthammer: Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. His ideas are fact-based rather than emotion-driven. His measured way of communicating about complex topics is refreshing. And most of the time, I think he’s right about everything. Most of the time. 🙂
  • Most Unstable: Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s supreme leader. He is 30 years old, recently had his uncle executed, likes to build nuclear bombs, and has an odd obsession with Dennis Rodman. Oh, and he commands an active army of 1.2 millions soldiers. 
  • Most Creative: Jonathan Ive: Apple designer. He’s not only a visionary in the field of technology development, but also an expert in connecting with his team. He has the ability to get people to work harder for a distant idea than for immediate gratification. And he’s responsible for most of the products that I love.  
  • Bravest: Malala Yousafzai: Activist. She stood up to the Taliban and for education for girls. She took a bullet in the head for her troubles, but lived to continue to speak out and inspire others. 
  • Who I’d like to be: Simon Reeve: Author, UK-based TV presenter. He writes books about terrorism. He makes documentaries about little-known or war-torn places where others wouldn’t go. His latest project is called Pilgrimage on BBC. I just discovered him last year. Would I trade lives with him? Probably. 🙂


As 2013 fades into the history books, I can’t help but reflect on all the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the ideas I’ve read, the words I’ve written, the opportunities I’ve taken (or missed) and the people I’ve spent time with. I’m always trying to encourage people to live bigger, to find out who God designed them to be and to be part of something bigger than themselves and greater than the moment. And then I came across this line in a book I was reading – and it seemed to be a fitting final thought for the year. 

“If you’re lucky, there are moments in your life when you step into the outline of the person you might always have wanted to become, perhaps without even knowing it.  You then feel truly comfortable for the first time.” (Clive Davis, former President of Arista Records) 

Here’s to a great 2014 for all of you – I hope that you all become the person that you always wanted to be – the person that God designed you to be, and that the world is better because of it. God bless.

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