Tips From The Top: One On One With Doro Bush Koch

I spoke to Doro Bush Koch, New York Times bestselling author of “My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush,” honorary chairwoman of The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and co-founder of BB&R Wellness Consulting about her best lessons and advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Doro: I captain a motorboat that I love to spend my free time on. I use it to cruise up and down the coast of Maine and often picnic with family and friends in sheltered coves. On occasion I cast a rod near the rocky shore hoping to catch a wiley striper! Being on the water is as close to heaven as I can get.

Adam: What is something that would surprise people about life in the Bush family?

Doro: That we spend a lot of time laughing and that we don’t sit around talking politics. We are tight-knit and all love and respect each other. I thank my parents for that. We have recently taken up pickle ball and hold a family tournament every summer.  We are competitive (not a surprise) but it’s all in good fun.

Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Doro: I am a work in progress, so I’m not sure where I am. I have suffered with mild depression in the past and have wrestled with negative thoughts. Mindfulness helps me, which is why I like to present it as a tool for others. Mindfulness helps me be aware of how I exist in the world and when I fall short, I try to learn from it and do better next time. Mindfulness helps me treat myself with kindness when I fail and stay curious to what is going on so I can reset. 

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Doro: Someone who leads from the heart, who is strong and kind, and sets an example others can emulate. For me, those are the qualities of an effective leader.

Adam: How would you describe the leadership styles of your father and your brothers, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush as leaders? What makes each of them unique and what do you believe we can learn from each of them?

Doro: They all view public service as a noble calling and are honest, intelligent people who care deeply about the United States of America. My father never complained and never had an unkind word to say. He was the master of the small gesture and taught me the importance of kindness. My brother George W. Bush taught me serving with integrity should be the goal, not popularity. Jeb taught me to think big, bold ideas and to work hard. You may not know that I also have two other amazing brothers — Neil, who taught me the importance of giving back and volunteerism, and my brother, Marvin, who makes people feel seen and heard, and taught me the importance of strong relationships.

Adam: What can leaders learn from Barbara Bush? How would you describe her leadership style?

Doro: My mother was no-nonsense. You knew exactly where you stood with her.  She was not afraid to speak her mind. She was also able to diffuse stressful situations with humor.  She was a strong leader in our family and a strong advocate for literacy for over 30 years.

Adam: Notwithstanding members of your immediate family, what leaders have you been around that you admire most and why? What did you learn from them?

Doro: Two leaders I’ve had the privilege of meeting were Amma and the Dalai Lama. Amma, the hugging saint, taught me the power of a simple physical embrace and the power of love to change people’s lives. His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught me that great leaders can be kind and that showing love and kindness to every person we encounter can foster inner happiness and peace.

Adam: You have long been passionate about mindfulness, a topic that has become increasingly more mainstream. What inspired your interest in mindfulness?

Doro: I became interested in mindfulness because I was struggling with my own crazy thoughts. Mindfulness taught me that my thoughts were simply thoughts — that they weren’t necessarily true.  By learning to step back, observe my thoughts without judgement and let them go, I was able to enjoy my life in the moment.  

Adam: What are your three best tips on how to live a more mindful life?

Doro: 1. Make listening without judgement a priority.  

2. Remember that our thoughts are simply thoughts and don’t necessarily correspond to any reality.

3. Spend time in nature, breathe in the fresh air and notice the beauty all around you.

Adam: More broadly speaking, what do you believe everyone should understand when it comes to health and wellness?

Doro: That the health of the mind is equally as important as the health of the body.  We spend hours at the gym toning our bodies, yet we often neglect our minds. We can care for our minds with a mindfulness practice that promotes present moment living and the cultivation of positive thoughts and compassion. I’ve developed a concept that addresses the health of the community called co-mindfulness, which is about bringing our attention, integrity and compassion to our relationships and into our communities. Co-mindfulness recognizes that our individual growth only becomes meaningful in how it lifts up the lives of others. It’s about the healing and happiness that we can expect when practicing mindfulness together.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Doro: My mom gave me really good simple advice which is… look for the good in others and leave the rest behind.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Doro: I love racket sports… tennis and pickle ball. In tennis and pickleball remaining calm and not getting discouraged when you’re behind can make all the difference in a match. Racket sports have helped me to stay resilient. 

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Doro: Make time to perform an act of kindness each day. The ripple effect can be tremendous.

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