Steve Grant was always full of wisdom and challenging us to be better leaders. He wrote this blog shortly before he passed in December, 2015.
When you have a terminal diagnosis like I do, you tend to have an immortal perspective. In other words, most of my life was spent trying to gain independence, career respect, love, monetary independence and to raise daughters that were healthy, kind, generous, respectful, joyful and unconditionally loved by me.
When you realize the odds of dying within a year are over 95%, you tend to quite thinking about your life’s resume. You reflect often about good decisions, bad decisions and downright ugly decisions. You reflect on life beyond death and even more importantly, you think about your legacy.
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently did a TED talk titled, “Should you live for your resume…or your eulogy?” It was a very interesting and thought provoking talk extolling the virtues of living for your eulogy. In his talk he references Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who wrote a book in 1965 that explores the 2 sides of our nature, Adam I (the worldly, ambitious, external side of our nature that builds, creates, innovates) and Adam II (the humble side of our nature that not only wants to do good, but wants to be good). He believes it is a constant war between external success and internal value. I found it very compelling, however, to me it came up short because the focus is still “me”. For me to truly live a life that makes a difference in the lives of others, the focus becomes a selfless desire to improve the lives of others; our fellow employees, neighbors, friends, spouses, partners and children.
After 19 years of researching mid and large companies and analyzing the question, “Do you feel valued as an employee?” we discovered most employees surveyed for the first time do not feel valued at work. I also discovered after interviewing thousands of employees, the best managers care more about others than propelling their careers. In other words, the highest rated managers built teams of experts that exceled beyond their own capabilities. They understood that the job of a manager is to create a team of experts and facilitate greatness among the team. Most great managers aren’t the technical/clinical experts. The best managers were experts at facilitation, hiring, project management, validation, valuing people, encouraging others, effectively resolving conflict and ensuring that team members have the training and resources they need to be successful. If you want to be a great manager, quit trying to be great and help others be great. I wish we would have asked the question, “Do you value yourself”? My focus group experience over 20 years has revealed a very consistent metric: the worst managers dislike themselves. My advice is to do the personal work you need to do to love yourself again and to understand what drives your anger. If you cannot do that, you will never really be able to love and value others.
A Eulogy really isn’t really a complete synopsis of one’s life, primarily because the focus is on the achievements and virtues of the one who died up to the point of death. What really matters is what happens after the body is buried and the potato salad and sandwiches are consumed. What really matters is how the person who died made YOUR life better because you knew him/her. That legacy can live on in perpetuity. A eulogy is printed in the paper, spoken at the funeral and then placed in a scrap book. A legacy is internal and eternal; it lives on through those who knew you and written on their hearts.
So my encouragement is to start thinking about how you impact those around you now. Don’t wait until a Physician gives you 1-3 months to live. Start living now for a future that will exist long after you and I are gone and so is the potato salad. The result will be evident. Better companies, better relationships, loved children and spouses, better career success, internal satisfaction and amazing contentment.