Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals for the New Year? How About Your Legacy?

I’ve spent some time with my grandmother this week as she lies dying in hospital.  It is a small, rural hospital that mostly caters to the dying – those who are not dying are usually sent to the larger center in the city.

My grandmother doesn’t react to many of the things that I say to her but she appears to enjoy hearing me read from Scripture.  Her favorite, as I have discovered, is Psalm 23.  For those who ask “which one is that”, as soon as you say “The Lord is my shepherd” they often say excitedly “Hey, I know that one”.

As she rests, I take out my journal and think about her life.  She brought 12 children into the world.  She lived in a small rural town that has seen it’s boom and bust cycle now settle into the steady decline so unfortunately common in remote, rural places.  She never had much but she made do with what she had.  Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren went on to become doctors, engineers, nurses, fathers, mothers, IT experts and just about everything else under the sun.

Now here she is – alone and in her final days.  She doesn’t have time to change anything even if she wanted to.  Everything she can create has been created. 

Her legacy lives on in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She has made mistakes.  She has won her victories.  She has made her share of friends and enemies.

Haven’t we all?

New Year’s Resolutions

As we move from 2009 to 2010, I am receiving the typical end-of-year plethora of emails about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions and such.

Many of the people who respond to these talk about what is important to them.  This year they are finally going to lose the weight they always wanted to get rid of.  Maybe they are hoping to shrug off smoking, not saving enough money or some other thing they feel is important.

However, as I think of these things, they always seem to be “small potatoes” in comparison to the important things in life.

I think of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4 L’s of Life, namely:

  • Live
  • Love
  • Learn
  • Legacy (as in, to leave one)

Many of the resolutions that people make don’t seem to fit into a larger picture.  For example, if you ask someone why they would quit smoking, they cite reasons such as “it is not socially acceptable”, “I will live longer” or “I will save money”.

These are all excellent reasons.  However, if one asks them the obvious next question, such as "what will you do with the longer life or additional money?”, you discover they haven’t figured out that far ahead yet.

Without that compelling “bigger picture” question in mind, many of their New Year’s resolutions will fall flat.

After all, their larger life goals remain undefined so there is no compelling reason to actually live up to the short-term resolutions and goals.

Life Legacy – What is That?

They have no idea what their Life Legacy is all about – why they are here on this planet, what can they do in the relatively brief time they are here and how will they be remembered when they are gone.  They believe it is too difficult to answer these questions and having come to that conclusion, move through their life with short-sightedness.

The interesting truth is that even if they don’t know what their legacy could or should be, the very act of living their life is producing a legacy anyway.

When they get to their end-of-days as my grandmother has, they may like the legacy they have created.

It is possible they may not.

However, if they build their life purpose and life actions around an intended legacy, they have a better chance of creating one closer to that which they desire.

Your Resolutions

So as you go through the typical year-end gyrations for what the New Year brings, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How can I live a life with purpose?  Better yet, do I know what my purpose is?
  2. Who can I love more and in an unconditional manner?  How can I welcome more love?
  3. What can I learn in 2010 that will make me a better person?  Once I have learned it, who can I share it with?
  4. What legacy am I leaving behind?  How will I be remembered?  Am I happy with this?

Our end-0f-days draws closer for each of us with each passing day. 

As you establish your resolutions, dreams and aspirations for 2010, keep the big picture of your life and your legacy in mind.

Your life, your gifts and your talents are too valuable to settle for anything less. 

I raise a toast to your legacy.  May it be everything you wish it to be and more.

I wish you all a blessed 2010 filled with abundance of life, love, learning and sharing.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Goals for the New Year?  How About Your Legacy?”, please click here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Tradition From My Family to Yours

Dear friends,

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, we had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy our son even more "stuff".  After all we mused, for our son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough.

Just before we stepped out of our vehicle, a story came on our National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, we sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started the truck and we drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it. 

The teacher always appears when the student is ready and our Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions we have in our family at Christmas, there are two that we find important.

1. We always listen to this story at least once.

2. We always share it at least once.

The story we listened to can be found here -  Click on the "LISTEN" link right under the title "John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story".

Besides my family and life itself, I consider myself blessed to have so many incredible friends.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.  However you celebrate these days, cherish them.  In an uncertain world, these days are still an incredible gift for all of us.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Value of Results - Do We Care Anymore?

I was recently speaking to someone who has a position of influence within the Canadian Government and he was going on and on about how great Canada's influence is in the world.

“After all”, he said, “Canada was a driving force behind the land mine treaty of the 90s and the Kyoto Accord and we both know how fantastic both of those initiatives were”.

I reminded him that the players who own 97%+ of the landmines in the world never ratified the landmine deal and even Canada has never lived up to the measures outlined in the Kyoto Accord.

"It doesn't matter", he said proudly, "It's the principle behind it that counts.".

Is that true?  Do we really believe that results don't matter and that life has become filled with the mantra of "good intentions are good enough"?

As I look back over my professional career, I see some glaring examples that support this theory and so I am reaching out to the readers today to prove me wrong.

I want to be proven wrong for if this is an accurate assessment of where the world is going, then we have greater challenges before us that make our current challenges look pretty tame in comparison.

As I share a few stories, I invite the reader to think of their own stories.

Stories such as the following:

  • The business owner who claims that they will do anything to make their business grow only as long as it doesn't include investing in the company or spending any money.  At the end of the year, profits are way down but they have some REALLY cool pens that they highlight in a business presentation.  Next year's goal?  Profits would be good but if they don't manifest, there are some really cool pieces of corporate clothing that can be bought to keep morale alive. After all, I am told, the key is to minimize expenses.  When I remind them that the focus is on creating optimal results in the areas of: service to the customer, impact on the environment, growth for the employees, and enhanced revenue and profit (which should also lead to minimizing expenses), I am reminded that I have my focus backwards.  I wonder what the jacket will look like next year.
  • The business unit that passes on the $300 million opportunity in favor of the $1 million opportunity.  The year-end holiday party praises the person who brought in the deal.  They neglect to tell people that the same person was also the reason why the larger project didn't manifest.  He was afraid of something so large so instead of asking for help, he deliberately "opted out" of going after it.  His unit for the year never made it's sales quota but he was the hero for making his individual quota.  When one asks if the $300 million deal is still around to be harvested, the subject of the conversation rapidly changes to something equally important, like who is going to win the Super Bowl.
  • Some people on the green-legislation bandwagon that want to pass laws that are not measurable and have no teeth to enforce the immeasurable.  When election time comes around, they tout the incredible legislation that will now prevent people from "deploying unnecessary numbers of galactic framazams in a manner that is bad for the environment".  When one points out that no one uses galactic framazams anymore, the legislator waves off the point as insignificant and goes on to talk about the potential to take this initiative internationally.
  • Some of the folks who are drilling wells in Africa who come to you with their hand out for more money to continue this "great and worthwhile project" while talking incessantly about their great results to-date.  What they neglect to tell you is that they have left 50,000 dead wells in Africa also but can't be bothered to fix them or remove them.  Providing clean water to people who have never had it is a good thing - telling us of the people who had it but no longer have it because the wells die quickly seems to be unimportant although in my mind, the latter is more criminal.   And besides, drilling new wells seems so much sexier when it comes to raising money then fixing old wells, doesn’t it?
  • Watching the latest stats on people who are struggling financially while hearing the banks and governments announce that the recession is over and that all financial indicators tell us that it's all good from here.  Tell that to the people who haven't found work in a year or continue to lose their homes, their benefits, etc.
  • Watching one three-year project fail three times on Wall Street for the same reasons each time and after 10 years, the project scope is reduced by 75%, half of that is delivered before the drop-dead date and a corporate announcement goes out describing the project as delivered ahead of schedule and under budget.  Meanwhile, in the backrooms, people are trying to figure out how to deliver the remaining 7/8's of the work and bury it in a different general ledger bucket so no one notices.
  • The people who spend years meeting to discuss some initiative they want to launch.  After many years of meetings, their interest starts to wane as they burn out.  What do they do to compensate for this?  They schedule meetings, of course, to figure out what went wrong while publishing memes that describe the effectiveness of their process.

Do We Even Care About The Results?

I could go on but it seems to me that we have disconnected authentic, measurable information from actual results.

It seems in a world focused on hype and appearance, that it is possibly better to create images of unlimited potential, secure the funding to deliver it, not deliver it (or deliver a small subset of it), disguise the result and then celebrate it as exceeding our expectations.

Maybe that's ok when it comes to the small stuff in life - the important projects that don't really matter.

Of course for those projects, if they don't really matter, why are we wasting our time on them in the first place?

But if we do it on larger scale projects where health, safety, or fiscal, social or ecological responsibility are on the line, then we need to take a closer look at who is delivering one thing while describing the result as something else.  Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch comes to mind.  Click here if you want to see it (warning - there are some delicate words in it).

After all, If we accept a description of a result that is not accurate, it is not the fault of the person delivering the inaccurate message. 

It is ours.  They only gave us what we wanted to hear and not what we needed to hear.

Shame on us.

I understand all the reasons people give as to why this phenomena happens.

That’s all well and good.

However, let’s forget about the reasons and look at the results.

Results still matter …. I hope.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Value of Results – Do We Care Anymore”, please click here.