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?”
This is definitely worth 5 minutes of your time. Watch Video
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.