What is Your Legacy?
How do you want to be remembered? What is your lasting legacy in this world? When we ask ourselves these questions we plant seeds for living a life that we ourselves can deeply value. And, in the end isn’t it what we leave behind that matters most?
What Kind of Leader Are You?
Besides running Ocean SF which is my first priority and number one passion I do other things to pay the bills that allow me to invest every cent I made with Ocean SF back into Ocean SF. Therefore in January of 2019 when I was asked to teach a class at UC Berkeley called Effective Leadership I jumped at the chance. I took on this responsibility because I deeply wanted to understand what elements comprise a great leader and how do we strengthen those inherent characteristics in ourselves, learn new leadership skills, and become better at what we do? These are enormous questions with a billion facets. This challenge came a few months into both my children being away at college for the first time. I had time on my hands in a way I had not had for decades. So, I spent the next six months reading. In case your wondering it would take three life times to read all of the books written on leadership, leadership theory, and the thousands of biographies written on the greatest leaders of our time. This is not to mention the countless articles and videos on the subject. Layer on this the many movements of this current period of time #metoo #blacklivesmatter and so on.
I spent day and night reading preparing for this class, but the funny things is that when I read my student reviews the students said the highlights of the class was hearing about my experiences and the 20 years I spent working in tech start ups, corporations and the senate. They particularly liked my stories of sexual harassment.
Apart from my personal history and experience I prepared by reading the 1,300 pages I was assigning to my students that coming summer. I had inherited the class, syllabus and reading material. As per the Dean I could only modify the syllabus by 15%. I used that 15% to restructure the class and update three of the topics to reflect the current leadership issues of our time. One of the books I inherited was A Leaders Legacy by Kouzes & Posener. When I read that by determining our legacy we are forced to think of today’s actions in a larger context I stopped short because the essence of true leadership is this single question. What do we leave behind and how does every decision and action we take play into that?
The Work We Chose to Do
After my husband died four years ago I was forced to make money to support my children. My husband was a Chief Financial Officer for a mid-size company and he did, or did not, do most of our financial planning. Needless to say when he died of a sudden heart attack at 54 years old I had to scramble to pay the bills and get our two children into college and pay for it. I had just started Ocean SF and didn’t want to see it die as well, so I took on every side hustle I could find and fit into my schedule. I would often work 15 days in a row. Looking back I regret none of it because I taught my daughters how to work hard. It also showed me that hard work pays off.
One of my favorite side hustles was working for a wedding cater where I catered 26 weddings one spring and summer. Another was working for a distillery where I bottled boutique liquor with other day laborers. These were fascinating gigs that I would at this point in time pay to do again. Eventually, I gravitated to the jobs where I could have the most impact. Refilling a buffet of food was fun, but the impact I was making was minimal. Helping Gold Bar bottle whiskey had a significant impact because I saw in the owners the kind of dedication I had for my own company, and I wanted to be the sort of worker that I would like to have. That gig also had other perks which included meeting engaging people employed in the gig economy and for me lots of whiskey. Not everyone got whiskey, but I did, so I drank a lot of high quality whiskey that year.
Finding Your Legacy & Providing Impact
The legacy perspective explicitly reveals that we make a difference. Then the only question remaining to consider is, What kind of difference do I want to make? — A Leaders Legacy
When I started Ocean SF I knew it would have enormous impact and I wanted my time to matter. When someone you are married to for 20 years goes to work one day and doesn’t come back this gives you a very different view of the world and your place in it. I remember thinking at the time that everything I did moving forward would matter very much. I was changed by what happened and from then on I didn’t want to waste a single moment. I had no time for television, or hanging out with people I didn’t like, or doing work for difficult people and because my heart was broken I felt entitled to do this for myself. In the past I had let things slide. I would tolerate situations so as not to cause problems, but no more. There came a point where I simply could not compromise.
Since I began this chapter of my life everything I do every day has high impact and contributes to the legacy I will leave behind.
What’s your legacy going to be?