Wisdom consists not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate, as knowing what to do next.”
— Herbert Hoover
It’s an early spring evening in Manhattan. My husband and I are driving uptown on Columbus Avenue. All of a sudden a Chrysler silver PT sedan bolts out from a parked space into our lane. We beep just in time. Both of us say out loud, “That was close!” The other driver’s face has that look of “Oh my God! What almost happened?!”
I look back as we move forward with the traffic, instead of shock, the driver’s face has changed–a new raised eyebrow appears suggesting that some internal gear shifting has taken place. I also notice that she has no turn signal blinking nor headlights shining in my eyes.
Next thing we know this same 50+ woman driver, with Ipod earphones protruding from her head, passes us on the right. As she hits the accelerator, she rolls down her window just long enough to yell out the driver’s window: “Are you blind or just stupid?” Then up goes the window as she speeds off smug with righteousness, still with no lights on and unable to hear any street noise. My husband turns to me and says: Now that’s not taking responsibility!
The first step to greatness is the willingness to be responsible.
Taking Responsibility has many applications and implications for each of us and all of us collectively. It’s not just global issues like global warming or worldwide hunger that call us to task, but our everyday responsibility for those we serve, for our own daily actions and planning for our future.
It’s easy to drift into unconsciousness about what’s going on around us. Especially true if we are living the good life and our business is thriving. Early on some of us achieved to the max, more interested in the dollars we could make than in staying true to our values. Now money alone just doesn’t juice us anymore. Instead we want to marry our ’60′s sensibilities with our entrepreneurial spirit by going beyond selling to serving.
Many of us worked really hard and have built businesses that have supported a really nice lifestyle. But if we lost just one or two of our biggest clients, we’d be in Crunchville. It’s not good enough to want to change careers or own a country inn when you retire. It’s more important to be able to do so whenever we want.
Bob is one of those hard working service professionals who never quits. At 48 he still loves what he does, but he wants to sell his business and try something new by the time he turns 55. But when we least expect it, life teaches us that plans are made to be foiled. Although a superstar player, always on top of his client’s affairs, he made a classic mistake. Like so many of us, Bob wasn’t prepared for erratic changes in market dynamics.
In non-linear systems, chaos theory tells you that the slightest uncertainty in your knowledge of the initial conditions will often grow inexorably After a while, your predictions are nonsense.
— M. Mitchell Waldrop
Quite comfy with his success Bob lost sight of prevailing trends and left his business unprepared for unexpected shifts and loss. Bob didn’t think he was vulnerable. Sound familiar? When he suddenly lost two of his biggest clients– one to Cancer and the other to outsourcing, he was totally un-prepared to fill the void. He wasn’t sure what to do. That’s a hard way to learn to take responsibility for our own future.
No matter what service you provide, when it comes to stability and longevity, your ability to serve the changing needs of your clients is where the buck stops. Incorporating possible outside influences and paying attention to trend forecasts is paramount. Doing so can make the difference in securing a rock solid future versus going headlong into a tailspin.
The 3 keys are to staying ahead of the curve of change…
Remain flexible and resilient.
Plan for contingencies with multiple paths.
Crisis or Opportunity
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64!
Most of us are beginning to realize as we move out of our 40′s or 50′s and some of us into our 60′s, that we just might not have that much time left on the planet. The good news is that this realization is forcing so many of us to ask ourselves What’s Next? in a new way that takes responsibility for our future and generations to come. As successful and powerful experienced professionals – High Fliers in the fast lane-we wonder if we still have what it takes… or if we even want to. What used to rev us up just doesn’t anymore. We know how to reach our stretch goals, but just making more money or winning awards for achievement isn’t what we seek. We’ve done that, been there. Many of us wonder secretly, How do I stay visible, impactful, and serve in ways I never imagined before? Not wanting to be forgotten or passed over, so many super star leaders in their field and at the helm of companies are beginning to ask the really important questions: What can I do to leave a lasting legacy, to make sure my life’s work matters?
I was lost because I didn’t have a sense of place to put my fight and my passion.” Now, she says, “I’m committed to the future. I’m committed to life.
— Angelina Jolie
Underneath all the seeking, is the real question at hand: How are we going to move into our last 20% of our working life? Bottom line responsibility: In what condition will you leave your company, your clients and your family when you step down from the helm? What will your life have said to others, to those that matter most?
This New Sixties’ urgency and the courage it demands to live a life well-lived into our later years came home to roost as I listened to Reverend Al Sharpton tell a story during a televised conference at Hampton University.
The hardest thing for us reverends to do is to give a service for someone whose life didn’t mean anything!
— Reverend Al Sharpton
State of the Black Union Symposium
One of my favorite stories is about one of my treasured mentors and icons of business of the last several decades. Now in his mid 80′s. His name is Nelson Broms. Nelson started his career as a Trusted Financial Advisor and grew a successful practice into a family owned firm.
The call of bigger and better enticed him to join a powerhouse Financial Services company. Among his many successes, he master-minded the first ever conversion of a major mutual insurer into a stock company. He sat at the helm of a well-respected Financial Services Holding company, influencing many across multiple industries. A consummate futurist, he stirred up controversy as he broke paradigm barriers… truly a ChangemeisterSM!
He didn’t go invisibly into his later years. Instead as he privately told me, he’s planning on doing “80% of his life’s greatest work in his last 20%!” Today you can still find him hopping red-eye flights across the US. Still dapper in his ascots and confident swagger, he dashes between meetings and leaves his mark on the future.
Entering his later years, he is the consummate Social Entrepreneur Extraordinare. To this day he sits on boards of upstart ventures with grand missions and advises behind the scenes leaving his indelible mark on today’s great new leaders and thinkers… our new futurists! There’s no doubt in my mind that he will repurpose the Pareto Principle: The Rule of 80/20!:)
Helping Others Gives Success True Meaning.
— Nicolas Cage for Mont Blanc
Al Gore’s life is another story of greatness where his desire to do good for the world arose out of his own personal upheavals and his early visions of a greater future. In his last 20%, he too is doing 80% of his life’s greatest work. Even more important than his quest for the US presidency, his championing of the greening of our planet will have long-reaching impact on the welfare of generations to come. His legacy will yield life’s richest rewards.
So I am reminded that is what my work is all about: to help you express your visions for a greater future while you implement your wishes about what matters most in your last 20%! Even if that’s a long way off, please remember “The greatest luxury in life is time. Savor every second.” Now that’s taking responsibility!
© 1997-2009 Karen Sands/Future Works Institute, Ltd. All rights reserved. May not be duplicated, retransmitted or reproduced without permission. Future Works® is the registered trademark of Future Works Institute, Ltd.
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