When did my focus change?


I began to notice as I moved into midlife, that I was not really very interested in enhancing my resume. Yes, I would update it, but generally not until someone asked me for my bio. It just wasn’t that important to me. By that time, I was already five years into a major entrepreneurial endeavor, with a visionary partner, and it was something we were very proud of. Not because of how big it would ultimately grow (76 Chapters on 6 continents), or how much press we would ultimately get (which we did), or that it would make us rich (which it did not) but because we were doing something important for woman all over the world. Something to change lives, and change the way boards looked at women as potential board members. This really mattered to me.

In the succeeding years, my focus was more and more about my footprint after I am gone, how I would make a difference in the world, or at least my small part in it. Where should I spend my time, and our money? What really mattered to me as I moved into the later years of my life?

Friends had always been important, and it was one of my priorities to keep in touch, so that connection would not be lost. And today, with more time, my connections are stronger and there are more of them. And now we also have grandchildren, so my husband and I are building on our close relationships with our kids and with each other.

A while back I wrote about a TED talk, featuring the columnist and author David Brooks, on this subject: “Should you live for your resume…or your eulogy?”

Within each of us are two selves: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks connection, community, love — the values that make for a great eulogy.

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Brooks talks about the values of each self, and it makes one think about which values now matter most to you. It doesn’t mean you as a person change. To me, it is more about which values begin to take on more weight, and which diminish in importance.

I would add to Brooks’ thoughts that legacy, something beyond your eulogy, is also on our minds. What am I leaving to my children, and their children, that are not material, yet far more important? Do they know who their mother and father really are, and the footprint they left? Do they know anything about their parents, their grandparents, and earlier generations, and what did they do in their lives. It doesn’t have to be “big” to make an impact on future generations.

My grandmother was abandoned by her husband during the depth of the depression, and left with a business $5,000 in debt in 1932. That might as well have been a million dollars! The two oldest siblings left school and went to work in that business, and ultimately they settled all of the debts, and scratched out a living. My mother frequently would tell me, that if anything happened to our father, she would always be able to keep our family of 6 kids fed and a roof over our heads. That determination became a very big part of who I became, and I have passed this on to my children.

Resilience. Hard work. Persistence. Courage. These values are also an important part of your legacy.

Photo by Alice Wu on Unsplash

Resume vs. Eulogy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues.
— David Brooks

So opens a TED talk featuring the author, commentator, and current columnist for The New York Times.

Within each of us are two selves, suggests David Brooks in this meditative short talk: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks connection, community, love -- the values that make for a great eulogy. (Joseph Soloveitchik has called these selves "Adam I" and "Adam II.") Brooks asks: Can we balance these two selves?
TED Ideas worth spreading

I have been thinking a great deal about legacy in the years since I retired from my full time career, and as I have focused more on helping families take a more explicit approach to planning for end of life, I find that how we want to be remembered becomes something we think about the older we get. The list of what matters most to you changes. It is more focused on relationships, what you have done to make a difference, what you can still do to be a better person. 

Once one has achieved success, the law of diminishing returns begins to apply…the incremental money we earn has a smaller impact on our lives than it would have earlier in our career. 

As that happens, it seems to me that the side of us that also seeks meaning begins to come into our consciousness with greater weight as we cross into our 50’s, and grows in importance as the years go by. Though it's interesting to note that for all the flack given to millennials, that generation seems to be seeking meaning even earlier in life.

Are you leaning more now to your Adam II?