Echo-Boomer Legacy Rises From The Ashes

Thanks to a great woman boomer legacy leader, Marlo Thomas, for her article on the young women who lost parents during the 09/11/01 events of 10 years ago.  The "Daughters of 9/11" she profiles and asks us to listen to are also legacy leaders

I was particularly struck by the example of Susan Esposito Lombardo, whose 51 year old father, Billy "Scoop" Esposito went to work that morning at financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald. She was getting ready for school and had a phone conversation with him at around 8:20 am - the last she would ever have. At 8:46 am the World Trade Towers were hit and he never came home again.

Her father lived by a motto that his mother taught him – and he taught her: "If you have it, you give it." Though he worked in the financial services industry, his own upbringing had been meager and he valued education, which he struggled to get and made sure his own children had the opportunity to get more of. His biggest lessons to his daughter were “to be kind to everyone, love one another and believe in yourself.” And she took them to heart.
 
From the ashes of the tragedy that was 9/11, Lombardo and her family decided to start a charitable foundation in Scoop's honor. True heartfelt underlying values and people's personal experiences and passions always form the basis for such activities. In this case, they culminated in the formation of the only bereavement center for kids in Manhattan called "A Caring Hand."  Its mission is "to meet bereaved children and families wherever they are in their grief and fulfill their needs in a caring and knowledgeable environment through services to help them with their emotional journey and financial assistance to aid their future education."
 
Lombardo explains the legacy she is building, and the involvement of others who have been attracted to support it, this way: "Contributions from all of you will help my father's legacy live on and help touch so many other children that have experienced the tragedy of losing a parent as my brother and I have experienced." Indeed, "Scoop" should be proud of her efforts to help his memory live on, via the creation of a tangible on-going operation – a living, breathing, caring effort – that can likewise live on for generations.
 
This project so well embodies my definition of legacy beyond the typical estate planning view of who-gets-what-property-when-I-die; rather, it's "the conscious contributi­on of your authentic gifts, talents and resources that adds value in a lasting way." And that conscious contribution is very much about living fully – true success and full self-actualization by active involvement in building something that makes a positive difference and leaves the world just a little bit better than the way you found it. Or in some cases, like Lombardo's, a LOT better.
 
I especially love legacy stories arising from the Millenial Generation. These 'echo-boom­ers' often embody the idealism of their boomer era parents. They are undaunted and unstopped by financial concerns – perhaps because they are coming of age in a time of financial crisis (what money? what social security?) and the daunting issues of terrorism, numerous long-standing wars, climate change and environmental degredation. These Millenial legacy leaders can't be bothered to let those things stop them. Instead, they look for what's truly wanted and needed, and find a way to do something about it. In so doing, they find their own heartfelt callings – and answer the call.
 
They are living from the heart – and that is a form of capital stronger than any other. They will lead us all on to measure the true values in life, the tangible and countable, as well as the intangible and truly precious.  And witnessing that does my heart a lot of good.
 
Blessings to all on the 10th anniversary of 09/11/01.

Dealing With Your Own Dry Spells

Red Rock CanyonLegacy Journal readers, like our clients, tend to be accomplished and successful, mid-career business owners and professionals looking beyond their current work to building “what’s next.” Not for retirement, that is mostly a foreign word and applies perhaps to finances but not to life and work in the world. While financial independence – minding your business – is definitely a part of what’s next, continuing to be productive – minding your profession – is as well. Some need to get businesses or professional practices set up in a way that frees them to focus on what’s next, and some have already done that or are in the process. Others feel stuck or lost, or just can’t see what’s next after being so immersed for so long in what has made them successful to begin with.

They can see milestones – like, my kids will all be in college or out on their own in the next few years, or my investments have reached a point where I can draw some of my income from interest, dividends, lease payments and the like, and not rely on earned income alone.  But they can’t see “what’s next.”  And considering stepping away from a business or professional identity they’ve long held can be a bit immobilizing – “who will I be then?”  

Does that resonate with you?  

I’ve been there; asked similar questions. And ultimately what I learned is that “who you will be then” is all you’ve ever been (you bring it all along with you) … plus. You get to use the best parts of it all in new endeavors about which you’re really passionate.  But getting there is a process, and sometimes that process starts with simply feeling lost.

So, here are some ways to address feeling lost, confused or like you’re dealing with a real creative or productive personal “dry spell” that you don’t seem to be able to see your way out of:

1.    Accept Your Current Situation. First, maybe foremost, is to accept that’s the way things are … for now.  Having the awareness of your situation, and then fully accepting it, are the only “ways through” to do something about it.  Denial or pretending things are fine don’t even get your started – the nagging feeling that you know the truth, that you’re ready for things to change – can start to eat away at you.

Doubt is part of the process. So, go ahead and just say so: “Whether things are just fine, or not, I’m ready for a change even if I don’t know what it is yet and I’m not sure if I’m capable.” There. How does that feel? Lightning didn’t strike. Like everything else, this too shall pass.

2.    Let go.  Start by dropping or at least temporarily letting go of the things you can’t control. Tune out the mainstream media, for sure, at least for awhile.  Let go of your current expectations – for yourself, others, or the direction the world is going (or not going).

There is an old saying that ‘expectations are pre-meditated resentments.’ Meditating on them, that is, holding them in your thoughts, takes energy. When that energy is of the negative form (a resentment) you are really turning your capacity away from what you could be doing something about – what you can control, like you and your life, and the consequences of your actions. 

Clean UpMaybe there are some things you need to clean up and get complete with. Maybe there are some things you want to do for you – like take the time to work out, read, write or learn something new. These are things you can do now, and finding the time is just about letting go of things that are not yours to do.  

This is not about abandoning responsibilities, though you may have to get yourself out of a few you’ve already agreed to and are ready to let go of.  It’s also not about being self-ish; it’s about being self-directed rather than other-directed.  Only from there, can you begin to engage in things that truly excite you. Remember, whatever they are they will benefit someone else in some way, too – so you can still be responsible to others.  But benefitting others without also benefitting yourself is choosing to play win/lose, and agreeing in advance to be the loser.

3.     Re-charge yourself. Recognize the ebb and flow of nature.  Like waves and tides, our creative and productive energies sometimes wax and wane. We can’t be at our peak all the time. To be our most effective, we may need to challenge ourselves with big meaningful goals. But that doesn’t mean we have to pursue them 24/7/365.  In fact, we can’t.  There needs to be a balance of self-care time for rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, fun, laughter, and enjoyment.  So when you don’t know what else to do, choose something that fits in one of those self-care categories and re-charge yourself.

4.    Focus on your spiritual nature.  When you’re ready to take some action, but are still not sure what’s next, focus on the spirit that moves you, whatever form that takes. Connect with what is meaningful for you. Visit environments you find soothing and inspiring, where you can breathe deeply and fully.  Engage in prayer and meditation. Spend some time simply engaged in the wonder of it all. (Here’s a poem by Mary Oliver to help you remember this). Ask for help from the powers greater than yourself you most resonate and connect with, by whatever name you call them. See what comes up for you when you do, and what shows up serendipitously in your world as a result of your requests. Keep track of this information in an idea journal.   

5.    Create rituals that comfort you.  Often when you are in that “space in between” – where you know you don’t want to stay where you are but have yet to devise a plan for where you are going next - it is most helpful to just relax, take one day at a time, and do things that you know are good for you and that you’ll feel good about. 

MusicDevelop and engage in pleasing routines you may not otherwise because it seems too indulgent. (Be a little indulgent!) Listen to soothing music and just relax and breathe and “just be” for a bit, without doing anything.  Fill the open space that appears in your mind with gratitude for all the good in your life. Create a new exercise routine, and stay with it. Walk in a beautiful park on a regular basis at a similar time each day and learn what nature has to teach. Visit a labyrinth and engage in a moving meditation – or participate with a group in a gentle yoga class. Now’s the time to be gentle with the current you, while the “new you” is forming and getting ready to emerge.

6.    Muster some courage. It may only take a tiny bit to begin considering what’s next. The English word courage derives from Old French, based on the Latin root “Cor” meaning heart.  So focus on your heart, and what you deeply need to feed you. Then consider what having courage really means.  It has three parts – one of which we’ve already addressed: doubt + commitment + action. That is, courage is to make a commitment to act even in the face of your doubt. The actions you choose can be small steps, and they will likely be at least a little uncomfortable – though they should be bearable. Getting out of your comfort zone is what making a change entails. Turn doubt into wonder or curiosity or exploration and just take one step.

7.    Interact with your communities. Get together with people you know care about you, who are nurturing, will listen and will help re-charge your batteries (not the ones who drain you!) These are supportive people who will lovingly tell you the truth, rather than just what they think you want to hear.  Engage with bigger groups who are doing something important in the world that you support.  Notice who you’re drawn to and what their qualities are.  What might you emulate? Where do you feel yourself wanting to be engaged?

When all else fails, just do something completely different. This doesn’t have to be a big change. Just engage in some things you’ve never done before – for an hour, an afternoon, a day, weekend or even longer. Go somewhere new. Stretch yourself. Immerse yourself in something you’ve wondered about. Take a friend so you can compare notes (and so you’ll actually do it).  
       
Or you could hire a coach (especially recommended!) who can help you explore your deepest desires and interests, shed what is no longer yours to focus on, design what’s next based on your gifts, talents and resources – and then begin actually doing something about them.  Finding that sense of authenticity and personal integrity, and then demonstrating it in the world feels great and can lead to amazing things you feel truly proud of. That will allow you to feel more like the “you” you are ready to become.  

The first part of the “7 Steps to Creating Your Legacy” program is built around these notions of defining, discovering and designing, and we utilize them in working with private clients one on one as well.  From there, we help you get into action on building what’s next when the gentle rains begin to fall and nurture the growth of both you and something that deeply interests you.  

I’d love to join you in that journey!
Cheers, Dolly

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Legacy of Words

Today, June 14, is Flag Day – and ironically it also is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

I love the story of her life and the legacy of words she wrote in a small novel that became a worldwide phenomenon. Not something a woman living in the early 1800′s might ever expect.  But then it’s not something many people living in this day and age expect they’re capable of either.  (And yes, you are!)

That book was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  It was not the first or the only book she wrote. But writing, and getting clear on the message that was important to her to impart, was the means to creating her legacy. She may be remembered as the woman President Abraham Lincoln called “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war” which of course could never be true, and it might have been some notoriety at the time.  It was the work itself, however, that became her lasting legacy.  For a fascinating conversation about the book, her life and all that history, catch the podcast of Diane Rehm’s inteview with David Reynolds who has now written a book all about it called “Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011). At that link, you can also read an except from his book.

What I love about Harriet’s legacy though, is how it provides an example of what can happen when someone decides to take a small action on something they are passionate about.  Harriet was one of 10 children raised by her father and step-mother, since her own mother died when she was five.  The family held social reform as a high concern and after her move from Connecticut to Cincinnati, Ohio, Harriet became passionate about the plight of the African-American slaves in the south.  She knew of them from their family members who worked for the family.  The split in views about the treatment of these people – who were still being treated like property – between northerners and southerners, became a story line that told of truths not many people wanted to speak about.

Harriet is described as a small and dreamy woman – nothing like a media powerhouse or celebrity of today. From her deepest convictions, however, she told a story that captured hearts and minds, and now people are even writing about her history.

Do you have a story filled with powerful observations or simply a good idea to share with the world? Do you need support to make it happen? 

Like Harriet’s story, yours may just well make history – or at least a positive difference in the lives of other people – which is history enough.  There are many ways to bring that story to the world – books, workshops, tangible goods, programs or services, and many other forms. It would be great to see your legacy come to life in a similar way. 

If you’re ready to start, it’s something we can help you develop.  It would be a joy to help nuture your project into fruition!

Cheers, Dolly

Are We Entering An Era of Caring?

I sure hope so.

This morning on the other side of the world, once again, the Ring of Fire snapped many people out of their alpha state thinking mode of going through their everyday motions, with big news.  The earth errupted 80 miles off the coast of Sendai in northeast Japan with an 8.9 earthquake was followed by aftershocks measuring 7.1, 6.5, and 6.4 in magnitude.  The tremor was felt in Tokyo, and generated tsunami waves up to 3 miles inland on the island of Japan.  Three miles.  Imagine that distance from where you sit right now (and then imagine the wave itself …)  The quake prompted tsunami warnings for much of the Pacific Rim, which in our part of the world includes Hawaii and the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, where evacuations resulted.

A Bloomberg television reporter covering the story said the wave that washed up on shore “was mixed with mud, with ships and cars smashing toward wooden houses, dragging those into rice fields, and basically bashing them into pieces.”  The quake was not as destructive as the 9.3-magnitude earthquake that shook Indonesia – the second-largest in recorded history in December of 2004, the tsunami from which killed more than 300,000 people in over a dozen countries – but you get the picture.

In the world of cause and effect, I don’t believe the Earth is trying to send a message of unification – we’re all in this together, as Marshall McLuhan has said “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We’re all crew.”

But I sure hope that is the result.

Modern technology has created an amazing transparency that gives us the opportunity to really experience the truth of that perspective  - toppling dictatorships in the Middle East and disasters thousands of miles away that can and do reach our shores, not just the one’s that happen on (New Orleans and Katrina) or near (Haiti) them - do affect us all in one way or another.

That technology allows us to see and learn about things that were once only in the hands of a privileged few, who we trusted to govern things until we learned that their control was more selfish and greedy than caring. It allows us to see – and experience – that we are not so far removed from the struggles of other humans who happen to speak different languages, wear different clothes and have different customs. And it allows us to take different actions to address these things.  As a nurse, I’d like to think that caring could be a really good underlying operating principle for humanity in taking those actions.

We all want the same basic things: to love and be loved, to be safe, to care for our families and friends, to be productive and feel accomplished, to be nourished and rest, and have our daily needs for healthy living addressed. Beyond that we want some time to share ourselves with others and pursue happiness through enjoyable activities and learning (which least often results from conspicuous consumption - just one of many forms of ineffective attempts to address whatever dis-ease might be troubling us).  There are plenty of those basics to go around, if only we care for one another and share ourselves.

Maybe disasters are a way of showing us that there are things to be afraid of, but that doesn’t include other human beings.  I don’t wish for more such challenges to pull us together.  I just wish that the lesson of ‘caring for others as we care for ourselves’ will take firm hold in the minds and hearts of everyone, and become a basic value and tenet of daily living.  I pray that with each such natural disaster (as there seem to be more and more of them) we really “get” this important lesson that results from our living planet’s communications.

Blessings to you all.
Dolly

Where Will You Make Your Impact?

There is much to do and many ways to set a course for good in this world! And Make A Difference Day on the fourth Saturday in October, is a great way to begin exploring your passion and potential legacy project. Here are a few extraordinary legacy project stories to give you ideas from the example of some remarkable people who have visions, hearts and hands, found the personal fortitude and external resources they needed, and set out to generate more good in the world.

Maybe some of these will trigger a quiet longing or have you look around your community in a different way. Follow your heart, your values, what calls you to action. Be inspired by an area of impact you’d like to enhance and extend.  And remember, your legacy project can be as large or as small as you wish! Look around your community and see what you choose to do!

Projects that Impact the Earth

Earth Day
This holiday is now celebrated in the U.S. and now around the world. It was first conceived in 1962 by Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin’s 35th Governor and that state’s U.S. Senator from 1963-1981, and it evolved over a period of years. Nelson was concerned that the state of the environment was a non-issue in U.S. politics and needed more visibility. He worked with then  Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President John Kennedy to schedule a five-day, eleven-state ‘national conservation tour’ in September 1963. Earth Day really took hold after Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, all but dead from industrial sludge discharge, caught fire in 1969.  This Earth Day environmental legacy spawned a chain of events, and people who individually, in different ways, took on the underlying concerns as their own individual projects … which became their personal legacies. The resulting momentum and synergy literally created the environmental movement as we know it today.

A Legacy Explodes Internationally
Last year, journalists called it “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”! Citizens in over 180 nations staged actions on International Day of Climate Action to demand a quicker response to climate change. The New York Times covered it on the front page. In Times Square people watched images of this movement flood in from every corner of the world on jumbo-tron screens. More than 5200 separate events were held around the globe. “These are the kinds of crowds that turn out for rock stars or charismatic politicians, but instead they are rallying around a scientific data point, they’re asking our leaders to lead — to pay attention to scientific reality, not political convenience” said founder, Bill McKibben. He has grown his legacy through a book, and website devoted to teaching people the relevance of the number 350 (parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere). This year, the second Climate Action Day was celebrated on 10-10-10 (October 10th, 2010) with work parties in 7000-plus separate events in about 188 countries. One man, concerned about one issue, now with a small and very committed team, has built a global effort involving millions of people on all continents. In 2010 even U.S. President Obama committed to returning solar panels to the White House (first installed by President Carter, and taken down by President Reagan).

Projects that Impact Education

A Living Legacy Carries Forward
Candace “Dacie” Moses demonstrated that everyone can contribute something — and with the right planning, what lives on beyond our lifetimes can simply be an extension of what was joyfully given during them. She was a librarian at the Carleton College in Northfield, MN, in the U.S. and the legacy she defined and lived, then left for future generations is the Dacie Moses House, where students gathered for freshly baked cookies, Sunday brunches (for up to 50 people), to hold conversations, watch TV or play the piano, snack from her refrigerator or call home from her phone. Dacie wanted that to endure, so before she died in 1983 at the age of 97, she donated her house to the Carleton Alumni Association. Her will instructed that it be used as it was during her lifetime — a hostel for students and alumni, an upstairs rented apartment that generated funds to maintain and improve the property. In a separate trust, she provided funds to pay for cookie making supplies and the cost of the Sunday brunches.  From the conviction of her values, her joy in life and a little bit of property, Dacie Moses both lived and consciously created an enduring legacy.

Building On A Great Idea

One of the ways to begin acting on a legacy idea is to examine what others are doing, and possibly fit the project you design in with an existing organization.  Legacy builders and veterinary students, Alison Barnstable and Laurel Redding, attached their project to both the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (where they were students) and later Heifer International by initially creating their legacy in the form of a research grant application called “Increasing Agriculture Productivity in Developing Countries.” They sought to have the Veterinary profession become more involved with addressing world hunger through a contribution to public health, knowing the importance of safeguarding animal health for human health. Including a plan to work with Heifer International — the organization started by farmer Dan West, devoted to distributing livestock and providing training for people around the world in environmentally sound agricultural practices integrating both farming and ranching — they received the grant. Their plan exposes other Vet students to public health and world hunger issues, gets them involved in helping to train community animal health workers and establishes information networks that allow Veterinarians to use their skills to have a greater impact in the lives of people worldwide.

Projects that Impact Girls and Women

Girl Power
There are 600 million adolescent girls living in poverty in the developing world. The Girl Effect is an incredible legacy project addressing this problem by focusing on solutions to major global issues like overpopulation, infant mortality, child health and community development, by focusing on these girls. A corporate responsibility project, it was begun in 2004 as the work of the Nike Foundation, the non-profit organization founded by NIKE, Inc. They’ve discovered that when girls have safe places to meet, education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills, they can thrive — and they influence others to thrive, too.

Hope for Women Worldwide
Husband and wife team, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn created a legacy in the form of a book called Half the Sky that has grown into a movement, because they felt strongly that women need protective laws, including the right to hold property and bank accounts … but as they write, “Westerners invest too much effort in changing unjust laws and not enough in changing culture, by building schools or assisting grassroots movements.” They know cultural changes are needed everywhere, maybe even in your local community.  Could you support a woman or girl to stay in school or further their education, or participate with a group that benefits women? It would be a great way to get started.

Giving Women a Home
For Constance Collins-Margulies, seeing a homeless person for the first time at age 13, left an indelible mark in her heart and soul. It imprinted a question: “How can any of us be happy as long as one of us lives like this?” 40 years later, she set up the Sundari Foundation to promote the education, advancement and social inclusion of poor, disadvantaged and homeless women and children. The nonprofit’s first project was the Lotus House Women’s Shelter in Miami, a shelter that takes a holistic approach to care for its residents on every level:  body (through medical, dental, eye care and even safety training), mind (through counseling, mental health treatments and support groups and running a Thrift Shop to learn skills and raise funds for the project) and spirit (through things like art, music, crafts, book clubs, gardening, and field trips).

Projects that Impact Health

Pivotal First Step Creates Free Clinic
Faith Coleman was a nurse practitioner without health insurance when learned she had a malignant tumor growing on her right kidney. Her treatment cost about $35,000 and she mortgaged her home to pay for it, gaining with that experience the insight and determination to make a difference for others who likewise needed access to appropriate medical treatment.  After her recovery, she mustered up her courage and took one pivotal step, approaching a local physician with 60 years experience treating the indigent population, Dr. John Canakaris, with her idea for a free clinic — and to her surprise he agreed. Their efforts created the Flagler County Free Clinic in Florida, which started with eight volunteers treating eight patients and where now about 120 volunteers see about 80 patients every other weekend.

Projects By and For Youth

From The Hands Of Babes
Austin Gutwein wouldn’t have called it a legacy when he started at age 10. He just knew he wanted to make a difference when he learned about children his age in Africa orphaned because their parents contracted a disease called HIV/AIDS. So he decided to use something he knew and loved, basketball, as a way to help. On World AIDS Day 2004, Austin pledged to shoot 2,057 free throws, representing the number of children orphaned in a single school day because of AIDS. He got sponsors for his effort, and raised almost $3,000 USD that day — and then duplicated the effort with other kids around the country to create Hoops of Hope. His project is now connected to a humanitarian organization called World Vision, and the project he started has now raised over $1,000,000 for building a school and two medical testing labs in Zambia, providing caregiver kits and furnishings, building a water system in Kenya, and providing bicycles for caregivers … and enduring help and hope for many to come.

If You Think You’re Too Small
They say good things come in small packages. Great legacies often start small … and young. Emily Goldstein was a senior at Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky, when she and her partner Brandie Farkas were chosen among 16 teens from around the world to study polar bears in the Arctic. She and her partner, Brandie Farkas, both volunteers at the Louisville Zoo, entered the “Project Polar Bear” contest. For their entry they created a website at the Louisville Zoo to educate about the effects of climate change, and encourage individuals to help address it. Feeling each person can make a significant difference, they wanted to encourage each individual to take steps to address global climate change — which they can do through pledges on the website. And so far, people have made pledges that add up to a reduction of over 15 million pounds of carbon emissions of energy use. Emily has gone on from there to other projects which will create even more great legacies for her to live, and leave for the benefit of others when she steps away.

Corporate Social Responsibility Starts Young
Emily Matson and Julianne Goldmark started their Emi-Jay business as teenagers looking for the best hair ties. At the same time, they made a commitment to donate a portion of all proceeds to Locks of Love, an organization that helps disadvantaged children suffering from medical hair loss. Their organization of choice to support is a perfect match for their own business mission. This approach, part of a concept known as corporate social responsibility, is not lost on young people and neither is entrepreneurism. It seems that loss of this youthful outlook often comes with fear and ideas of scarcity. How can you regain your own youthful enthusiasm to do something that makes a difference?

Where Do You Want To Go From Here?

No effort is too small, no one is too young or too old to start their Legacy Project! From a local community project to a global enterprise, the difference is only a matter of scale built on your unique desires and circumstances. It all starts small, an empassioned idea coupled with action— and even tiny first steps can grow to planetary dimensions.

Who would you like to impact, and how? Let us know how we can help you express your passion and joy to make that happen. (EBC)

Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Women’s Leadership Skills

Okay ladies, when you’re stressed, rather than fight or flee would you prefer to throw a potluck?  There’s good reason for that – and it’s a good thing!  It’s a hardwired feminine trait, genetically speaking. 

Melissa Kaplan’s lovely posting on Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases sheds some light on how we’re different (we knew that) and why it’s important that we band together:

“Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women.”

Those connections may just be how we can make a bigger impact in changing the world for the better.  So what to do?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Make time to spend with your women friends.  Yes, work, children and significant others, the garden, the dishes, the laundry … are important.  But they can usually wait.  Put your oxygen mask on first so you have the bandwidth to tend to them – or better yet, give them your best.  Your women friends are your oxygen mask.
  • Collaborate on projects with women colleagues.  It may still be a man’s world in many arenas, but it’s how we work best.  Working together is not cheating, like it was considered when taking tests in school.  This is the real world and cooperative skills are important.  Synergy cannot occur without combination.
  • Support and promote one another.  Help a woman colleague working toward a promotion, running for office, needing backup so she can get a project finished.  Ask that she help you with something – odds are at least 50-50 that she will, probably greater. (Chances she will if you don’t ask hover around zero – she’s busy, too, and how would she know?)  Then you’ll both feel better and be further along.

The Huffington Post indicates that some women are not only approaching, but surpassing men’s salaries in the big corporate world, according to research from Bloomberg News compiled from proxy reports.  That’s a great start, And I’m personally glad there are women willing to compete hard to win the seats historically held by men.  They certainly are capable … and braver and more persistent than I am.  But many, many more of us are out there in the trenches, or in our own businesses, and we’d all do better and feel better if we got more support … and had more potluck dinners. 

A rising tide raises all boats, as they say.  And as our boats collectively float upward on that tide, we can do more good in the world … leaving even more significant legacies.

What ideas do you have about how you can help a sister, and maybe even the planet and in turn the progeny we’ll never meet?  Would love your comments here!

Legacy In Story

Remember last year’s Clint Eastwood movie, Gran Torino?  It is a story about the clash of deeply held cultures and beliefs, and about the common values of life that unite us all.  The story itself is one of legacy, as is Mr. Eastwood’s lifetime of work.

For whatever else it depicts, Gran Torino focuses in on how we impact others, how we are called upon to create that impact, whether or not we respond to the call, and what we leave behind to benefit them (that is uniquely ours to give) when we discover and feel called to give it.  The story is as powerful an example of legacy in development as any I can think of.  I wasn’t so crazy about the ending, but for purposes of the movie, it fit.

I was especially moved by an excerpt from the lyrics of the title song:

Your world
Is nothing more
Than all
The tiny things
You’ve left
Behind

So tenderly
Your story is
Nothing more
Than what you see
Or
What you’ve done
Or will become
Standing strong
Do you belong
In your skin
Just wondering

And I am wondering the same.  Do you belong in your skin?  Are you comfortable there?  Are you truly exercising your unique gifts and giving back from there to make the world, your little corner of it, a better place?

We have each been endowed with gifts and talents that we are especially good at, that may well be easy for us, and even enjoyable – that can also benefit others. Will you tap into the pure joy and personal meaning that comes with doing what’s easy and enjoyable for you … for others? It doesn’t take hard work to help others, just good work – the kind you’re ready and willing to do.  Will you grow into and become those attributes and consciously leave behind those tiny things that you can, or maybe even something more? Are you contributing to life in the ways only you are able?

Start by recognizing today all you are good at and all you are grateful for … then build from there.

What Legacy Is Your Life?

We’re often asked when the notion of legacy first came to us.  Dolly certainly learned the term while studying the law of estates and trusts, an offshoot of the law of property.  Working in medicine for so many years, I thought much of legacy was about healthy living during a lifetime and being in service. Both of us thought legacy always seemed like so much more than a person’s real and personal property, land, buildings, money, watches, jewelry, art collections, farm equipment, etc., etc. …

When Dolly was practicing law in Austin, Texas, she was often appointed as attorney ad litem in probate cases to represent and protect the rights of the unknown heirs of a person who died “intestate” – without a will.  Such people either didn’t know about writing a will or must have felt that they didn’t own enough property it.

Note to self:  if you are reading this now, you probably own enough property to warrant writing a will.  If you have a computer, you quite likely have a checking account, maybe even a savings and some investment accounts and credit cards.  You may also have other things that are legally titled in your name like vehicles and a house or some land.  Your heirs, the people entitled to that property by law at your death, will have to go through a whole lotta rigamarole in court, known as a probate proceeding, to be able to do anything with the stuff that is in your name if you don’t leave written instructions in a will.  Once the will gets proven up as legal in court (probated), it can be “administered” and things can be handled and distributed according to your wishes under court supervision. (Preferably leave instructions in a trust document that allows you to avoid the court proceedings for the most part, so things can be handled privately — and hire a good lawyer to help with all this because this blog post is probably as far from legal advice as you can get).

But I digress from Dolly’s original thoughts and message …

Back to the unknown heirs.  Dolly never intended to practice probate or estate law.  On top of that, she was now in the position of practicing law where her clients were people no one was sure existed or could find.  So her first task was to find her clients. Then the property to be distributed under the law of intestate succession (who gets what when there is no will) – often a home and/or a vehicle or two – could be given to the people who were expecting to get it.

Occasionally she would actually find some long lost relative. Often is was a child born from a relationship the deceased had that no one (often including the child) knew about – a half-sibling to the heirs who got to meet through this strange courtroom process – so the property could be divided up and distributed properly.

Even in cases where there was not much property, Dolly tells me she remembers being  so surprised during the investigation by how the deceased person was remembered.  Often, it was quite fondly for some small act of kindness they had done, a contribution they had made in the way they participated in their community, something they had built, or even some small but pertinent piece of advice and support they’d given along the way.  It wasn’t about their stuff.  That was the least of it – and yet, what this whole probate process was making the biggest deal about.

In every case, someone was remembered for something beyond their worldly goods.  They were remembered for who they were — what their life was really about.

All this started Dolly wondering how amazing the world might be if people consciously thought about who they are and what contribution they have to make to others.  What if they sized up their own strengths, talents and gifts, and consciously decided to make a positive difference, to seek to be remembered for good rather than for purposes of fame or power? 

The unique assets of each person, which might well include their property, could be used to benefit others, and they would get to hear about how they’d made a difference and be appreciated for it during their lifetime.  In turn, that gift of thanks would create a real sense of joy and fulfillment that would produce a self-perpetuating desire to do more, because it feels good not because there is some remuneration or vast dollar amount in it.  Hmmm, can you just hear John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ playing in the background …

Thinking about legacy as your life, rather than your stuff, seems to us to be the larger notion of what a legacy truly is.

*How would you be engaged in life differently from that perspective?
*What would you start doing or stop doing or become involved in right now?
*Who would you reach out to? What are you waiting for?

Interesting food for thought.  What say you about your life and your legacy?

Cheers!  Dolly and Eliza

And The Winner Is …

As we venture into the new year 2010, various media provide us with run-downs, top 10′s, count-downs, etc. of the most notable events of the past year.  My favorite was contained in an electronic greeting card I received from Kate Klaus Kelly, a delightful virtual assistant I’ve had the pleasure to work with this past year.  Here’s the link:  http://www.americangreetings.com/ecards/view.pd?i=505648072&m=9050&rr=y&source=ag999 

In fact, Kate is the overall winner this past year in the greeting card category, getting all three major year end events spot on in my book (Christmas, my birthday and the New Year greeting) – timely, and in absolutely hilarious form, each one.  They were so fun, I just had to share them all.  (Didn’t know American Greetings had it in ‘em …!!)  Here are the other two  for you to enjoy as well:

My birthday greeting : http://www.americangreetings.com/ecards/view.pd?i=504979802&m=9050&rr=y&source=ag999

Christmas (the best by far):  http://www.americangreetings.com/ecards/view.pd?i=504563311&m=9050&rr=y&source=ag999 

Wish you had been so cleverly funny, too, don’t you?  (THANKS KATE!)

May you all have a meaningfully fulfilled and – especially – an incredibly enjoyable new year!

More Alternative Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas

I recently wrote about Legacy-Level Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas.  (If you missed it, you can read it here.)  What makes something legacy-level gift giving?  Much like  legacies themselves, this level of gift-giving makes a positive difference – particularly, hopefully, a sustainable or long-term one and/or one that keeps on giving.  

A number of the gift ideas in that article may not have seemed to make a tangible, sustainable difference directly.  The point was to give with a small environmental footprint. So the legacy aspect of it was in what the gift ideas don’t do – they don’t add to waste and overconsumption, so they help promote long term environmental sustainability. 

While ultimately practical and maybe not what folks would think of as really “sexy” or “magical” gifts, I just found a similar article that provides some additional alternative holiday gift ideas – as in alternative energy approaches.  See Great Green Gift Ideas That Will Save You Money and Help the Environment to check out these practical, alternative gems.

So maybe you don’t want to use one of these gift ideas to that fabulous new person you’re dating and whose heart you’re trying to win.  They may still be great for family members, those people on your list who “have everything” — or even as gifts for yourself (and that fabulous new date may well be practical and environmentally minded …).  Since these gifts are good for environmental protection and ultimately help create a more sustainable planet, you may well be regarded as a real visionary and trend-setter - indeed, an impressive enlighted leader in your own right - through a very practical approach to legacy-level gift giving.  That demonstration of leadership might just create a following, with people replicating your example, making your gift idea one that keeps on giving as well.