Building a Legacy

There are some words that are thrown around a bit to easily in the business world, words that are easy to say, and hard to live up to.

One of those words is “community,” and a few months back, I talked about how you don’t sell to a community, you support a community. Today, I want to talk about another word: family.

Dan Blank Yesterday was the funeral for my wife’s grandmother, who was 88 years old. More than 100 people attended. While it was an emotion filled day, I had an unusual lens on it. This gathering was the first time that most of my wife’s extensive family met our 4 month old son – so my experience of the day was of endless smiles as people said hello to little Owen.

These smiles made me realize the day is really a celebration of grandma Card’s life – and a reflection on the profound effect she has had on the lives of every one in the room – most of whom wouldn’t exist without her.

She and her husband lived on a farm in New Jersey, and had 11 kids. And from them, came more kids, and then another generation after that. It’s incredible to realize that her legacy grows over time, exponentially as each generation of kids, grandkids, and great grandkids continues to live, prosper and build their own families. Look what came from two people deciding to come together and build something:

A group shot of the 2009 family reunion. 11 children from grandma and grandpa Card, their kids, and their kids’ kids.

At luncheon that followed the funeral services, a long table was setup with items that grandma Card had made and shared over the years:

There were also displays of old photos of grandma Card growing up in the 1920s and 1930s:

It’s incredible to see the faces in these photos and realize that they were taken 80 years ago. Which brings us full circle…

This is my 4 month old son Owen meeting his great grandmother for the first and last time a week ago:

When he looks in her eyes, he is looking back on years he can’t yet fathom. And each day of his future is an homage to her past.

Now, when I look at Owen, I can see the legacy of her life in his eyes: living, breathing, smiling, and beginning.

In my day-to-day life, I spend much of my time thinking about publishing world, and all of this has me considering so many things. It has me realizing what long-term commitment really means – that it is measured in decades, in generations, not in fiscal quarters, or even years. That the goal is not merely to ‘create value,’ but to create a universe that continues to extend itself beyond what the original author could have imagined.

That, the word ‘family,’ used in any context, has a high bar to live up to. And when used in the business world, it is a commitment that extends beyond traditional business boundaries of employees, budgets, organizational structure, product lineups, market segments and target audiences.

That the value of what we are creating in our careers should be measured in more than our titles on a business card, salaries on a paycheck, and a resume on LinkedIn. That what we give, what we create, must be exponential in it’s effect on the world. Something that grows.

Thank you to grandma Card, whose influence continues to grow and shape our world.

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