Bookends and Rearview Mirrors

Don McGrath, Ph.D.

Have you ever experienced something very small precipitating into something big? A thing that made you recognize something about your life that stayed with you for days, weeks, months, or years?

I did, and it all started out with a goofy video in an airport while passing time waiting to board a flight from California to my home in Colorado. You can watch the video here.

You see, I was on my way home from speaking at an event in Los Angeles, and at that event, there was a panel of entrepreneurs who shared what motivated them to give so much of themselves to their businesses. It struck me how most of them shared something very painful from their past. For one it was that her family cast her out for being different. Another shared how he had earlier felt lost on his spiritual journey and wanted to help others through theirs. Another person shared their struggle as a cancer survivor. Their stories were emotional and very touching.

One of the panelists or the moderator, I can’t recall who, shared a thought that stuck with me. They shared that the reason we have a rearview mirror is so that we can be aware of what’s behind us, but that mirror is very small compared to our windshield, which is our future. And how the panelist had managed to take something powerful from their past and turn it into something amazing now, and how what they are doing has such promise for the future. Wow…I thought that was really powerful, so I made that goofy video! Okay, I was a little bored too.

A short time after hitting the post button in Facebook, my cell phone pinged telling me I had a text message. It was my eldest sister, Mary Ann. We are the family bookends, with my sisters Kathy, Gerri, and Donna being between in age.

Her text read, “Saw your video clip that mentions the rearview mirror…One that I’ve heard and love is: look in the rearview mirror, but don’t stare!”

To which I replied, “Love it! I love this analogy.”

I continued to muse, “Why are they tinted at night?”

Mary Ann replied, “Supposedly to reduce glare?”

To which I said, “So you don’t get blinded by glowing things from your past?”

Not knowing when to stop I said, “Why are they adjustable?”

A few minutes passed before the next ping, “Ah…like it! Adjustable…to accommodate different perspectives…yes, this is fun!” she said.

I then suggested, “We should write an article about this little exchange. We could call it bookends and rearview mirrors!”

So, that is what precipitated this article, and further thoughts about the rearview mirror analogy. Maybe in a future article I’ll share some of these.

But, that’s not the big thing. The big thing is that my eldest sister and I, though furthest apart in age, and living a thousand miles apart, can instantly connect and collaborate on writing an article so effortlessly.

Maybe it’s genetics. Maybe it’s the history we share. Maybe it’s our shared love for understanding people. I don’t know. What I do know is that I find writing this article with her extremely fulfilling.


Mary Ann Rafferty

We are both fired up and enthusiastic about the work we do, so when we connect, it’s like sparks running along a wire!  Like Don, I am matched with work that continues to bring out the best in me and in others.  One day a couple of years ago, I was driving across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco on my way to a business meeting – clear and confident and full of energy and optimism, thinking: “I can’t believe they pay me so much money to have this much fun!”.

When our sibling energies have an opportunity to connect, the sparks fly and there’s no telling what can happen.


About the Authors

Don McGrath, Ph.D. is an award-winning author and speaker, having written 50 Athletes Over 50, Vertical Mind: Psychological Approaches for Optimal Rock Climbing, and The Climb: A Leadership Fable About Navigating Challenging Change. He led high-performance engineering teams in Fortune 500 companies for nearly 30 years, and is also an accomplished rock climber, having scaled thousands of difficult climbs around the world. He now combines his passions for rock climbing and achieving high-performance to help individuals and teams claim their own summits in their lives and their businesses. You can learn more about Don at, and you can reach him directly at


Mary Ann Rafferty is an Executive Coach and Corporate Transition Expert for Life Sciences Industry. Mary Ann offers broad life sciences industry knowledge and demonstrated success in strategic issue assessment, pragmatic problem-solving, organizational development, executive compensation, and talent   development. She is proud to have successfully aided numerous corporate leaders in realizing both their own and their organizations’ potential during times of change.