Being fully present and appreciating the past are key to mindfulness

Jessica in Vietnam on boat in canal

By: Jessica Munday |
Cloud Nine Nonprofit Advisors, Co-Founder

Last year, my business partner stepped away from the daily grind to participate in a mission trip in the Bahamas. She returned with a profound new perspective: “Be where your feet are.” Her reflections on being fully present resonated with me, and whenever the opportunity arises, we remind one another to stay grounded in the moment. While not always easy to do as working moms and entrepreneurs, we really do try to embrace it wholeheartedly.

Being fully present may mean different things to different people. One way to embrace being present is by scheduling focus time to dedicate to things that deserve attention. Focus time isn’t just about work; it can be personal. It can be for a passion project or spending quality time with family creating lasting memories. Embracing these moments enriches our personal lives and infuses our professional endeavors with fresh perspective and energy. That’s exactly what I did last month, and it was transformative in the most beautiful way. I felt I was exactly where I was meant to be, my feet planted firmly in Vietnam.

I was standing on the very soil where my father stood 55 years ago to the day. It was surreal. My father died in a car accident when I was in middle school, a loss I’ve carried throughout my life. When I turned 40, my stepmom gave me the letters my dad wrote to my grandparents during the Vietnam War. It was important that I take the letters with me on my trip, so I made room for them in my luggage.

After settling into our homestay, on April 15, 2024, I floated down a lush canal in the Mekong Delta on a small wooden sailboat, holding my dad’s dog tags in one hand and a letter he wrote on April 15, 1969, in the other. Being present in that exact location at that moment felt profoundly meaningful. I felt his spirit in ways I can’t fully describe.

The gratitude I felt for being on the trip was immense and something I don’t take lightly. I’ve had many travel opportunities since joining the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in 2019. When EO announced the 2024 Global Leadership Conference in Singapore, I jumped at the chance to attend. I’d never visited that part of the world and looked forward to exploring it. With Vietnam only a short flight from Singapore, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to experience the Mekong Delta, a place I’d read about in my dad’s letters, now part of a book project called Zeke’s War. So, with encouragement from those closest to me, I took off the month of April to be fully present and embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

People often ask if my trips are for personal or business reasons. This trip had roots in both, and most often, that is the case. My entrepreneurial life integrates family, friends, learning, business, and personal time into one fulfilling existence. Even “working” with EO, a volunteer-run nonprofit, is a growth opportunity that I enjoy tremendously.

As entrepreneurs, we often get caught up in the relentless drive to succeed, forgetting the importance of focus and freedom time, as Dan Sullivan’s 10x philosophy champions. This three-week journey, my longest extended time away from the business, taught me invaluable lessons about presence, trust and growth. Although daunting at first, stepping away allowed me to recharge and gain new perspectives to lead effectively.

Our first leg of the trip landed us in Singapore. The city is truly remarkable and advanced in many ways. Every city in the world should take a page from their book. Their focus on sustainability, community health and the environment is impressive. Singapore blends urban sophistication with greenery, balancing nature and technology. My husband and I were in awe as we explored the immaculate streets. The city’s ability to prioritize economic growth and environmental stewardship was inspiring – no homelessness, litter, crime and bubble gum (yes, chewing gum is illegal in Singapore).

Before heading to Vietnam, I spent time in Singapore working on my book, so heading to Vietnam came with a lot of anticipation and excitement. When I worked on my book, my mind was fully immersed in the letters and the Vietnam War, so I was unsure how I would feel, but I knew I had to go, no matter what. I felt an incredible connection to my father in Vietnam, particularly in the Mekong Delta. With its bustling river life and serene landscapes, the Delta is a place of profound beauty. Amid the intricate network of rivers and canals, my father served his country, fighting for “the cause.” Knowing that my feet were planted where his once were deepened my understanding of being fully present and honoring the legacy of loved ones. It reminded me how our past shapes our present and future.

While exploring the Mekong Delta, I reflected on the parallels between navigating these waters and steering a business through challenges. The Delta’s unpredictable currents and hidden obstacles mirrored the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship, reinforcing the importance of adaptability, resilience and the value of gaining a broader perspective.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this trip was how well my team performed in my absence. They didn’t just keep the business running—they thrived. This experience underscored a vital lesson for all entrepreneurs and leaders: we build a stronger, more resilient company when we work on the business rather than in the business. My team’s exceptional performance reminded me that empowering others and trusting them with responsibility benefits the business and fosters a culture of growth and innovation.

After Vietnam, we flew to Bali where we met up with 30 more entrepreneurs from around the world. In true EO fashion, they did not disappoint. Bali was magical. The serene landscapes and warm hospitality provided the perfect backdrop for introspection and connection. While in Bali, our group visited a local village where the residents cooked, served and performed for us. They opened up their homes and welcomed us in, offering a truly memorable experience. Immersing myself in the local culture and reflecting on the past few weeks was transformative, allowing me to return with renewed energy and fresh ideas. It reinforced the importance of balance—how stepping away and experiencing new environments can lead to profound personal and professional growth.

After Bali, I returned to Singapore for the final leg of my journey, where I attended the 2024 Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Leadership Conference. Being with fellow EOers from around the world is always invigorating. We shared ideas, experiences, and aspirations, engaging in meaningful discussions. As an area director with EO’s U.S. East region, these interactions make me a better leader. Together, we hold ourselves accountable to being fully present and focus time.

Dan Sullivan’s 10x philosophy emphasizes the importance of focus time—uninterrupted periods dedicated to deep, strategic work. During my trip, I carved out moments for this, particularly while working on my book in Vietnam. These periods of focused effort were incredibly productive, proving that even amidst travel and exploration, dedicating time to important projects can yield significant progress. This balance of focus time and freedom time is essential for any entrepreneur looking to achieve sustainable success.

This journey made me immensely proud to be a co-founder of my business and to serve others through my professional talents. The insights gained and the connections made have enriched my perspective and strengthened my resolve to lead with purpose. The experience highlighted the importance of being fully present, trusting in my team, and embracing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Returning from this trip, I carry with me a renewed sense of purpose and clarity. The time away recharged my spirit and reaffirmed the value of taking deliberate breaks to focus on what truly matters. As entrepreneurs and leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, but it’s crucial to step back, recharge and trust in our teams. By doing so, we grow as individuals and cultivate a thriving, resilient business.

So, here’s to embracing freedom and focus time, being where our feet are, and leading with renewed energy and purpose. Practicing mindfulness in these moments allows us to fully appreciate and absorb the experiences around us, enriching our understanding and perspective. Whether it’s a mission trip to the Bahamas, walking in our fathers’ footsteps in the Mekong Delta, or connecting with fellow entrepreneurs in Bali and Singapore, being mindful of our surroundings and present in the moment enhances the transformative power of these experiences. These mindful moments shape us into better leaders and, ultimately, better humans.