By James Gehrke

In the summer of 2009, on my first day retracing the 500-mile medieval pilgrims’ route across northern Spain, I stood on a bridge that spanned both a small river and more than 10 centuries of pilgrimage history that today is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was on this bridge and others like it throughout the mountainous corridors separating modern France and Spain that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims through the centuries have crossed as they followed “the Way of St. James.”

Most all of us from North America can trace our families back to immigrant “pilgrims.” Like medieval religious pilgrims before them, American pilgrims sacrificed everything they owned and risked their lives to make what they considered a sacred pilgrimage to the new world–a new promised land–where they could create a lasting legacy of religious, political, and economic freedom that has influenced the entire world!

Examples of pilgrims’ journeys offer important lessons for us today. Pilgrims of old were driven by core values and beliefs that compelled them to make these incredibly long, difficult, solitary, and, yet, exceptionally impactful journeys to far away and sacred locations. They believed that through their efforts and sacrifice they would gain enlightenment and create an enduring legacy. To create such a legacy where we work and serve, so too, our actions must be linked to core values and driven by a clear vision of the influence we may have on others.

While we may never make epic journeys like the pilgrims of old, as members and leaders of teams, organizations, and communities, we can make an equally important “pilgrimage” today. Our modern pilgrimage begins as an inward journey of self-reflection and development that guides and focuses our actions. Unfortunately, today we are so bombarded by day-to-day pressures that few of us ever take the time to stop and reflect on what motivates and drives our actions, or to clearly examine what makes each of us exceptional. As a result, far too often, we drift from project to project, job to job, year to year, and decade to decade, without ever clearly knowing where we are going or why we are going there!

Providence has embedded in each of us seeds of greatness! Unfortunately, too few of us ever fully realize, much less maximize, our full potential. For us to do so, we must escape the stresses of modern life and embark on the equivalent of a modern pilgrimage of personal development, self-leadership, and improved personal excellence. Such a serious inward reflection or “pilgrimage” helps us to:

  1.  Identify and anchor our actions to core values
  2.  Create a personal and career “compass” that directs our actions
  3.  Serve others
  4.  Focus time, energy, and resources on achieving an enduring legacy
  5.  Plan effectively
  6.  Adapt and persevere in times of difficulty
  7.  Communicate to motivate and inspire others
  8.  Celebrate both small and large victories along the way

About the Author
James Gehrke is a speaker, author, and learning strategist. Magnifying the potential of individuals and managers is a passion for him. He founded Magnify Leadership & Development LLC in 2005 with the goal of improving individual and organizational effectiveness through learning and development. He has an undergraduate degree in Organizational Communications and a minor in Spanish; a Master of Science in Organizational Management & Leadership; and a certificate in Spanish language and culture from the University of Salamanca, Spain. He has 20+ years of experience helping Fortune 100 companies and individuals in over 40 countries to “magnify” their full potential.

James can be reached at or (801) 266-0849 or