Diane Howell Topkis is the author of the Career Clarity ebook series. Diane works with midlife women to gain the clarity and confidence to reinvent or re-energize their career into meaningful work for their next chapter. Please visit http://www.YourNextChapterNOW.com to receive your free workbook, Find Your Career Passion.
When was the last time you thought about the influence you have on others? Are you leaving a positive impact? How will you be remembered – whether it’s when you leave a job or this life? Unfortunately, I had the opportunity to think about all this when my dad passed away. Of course I had a lot of memories, especially what a wonderful relationship he and my son Zach had, but I hadn’t sat down to think about his legacy until it was time to write his eulogy.
I decided to find a single word that defined his essence and what he passed on to me. “Strong” was what I settled on. He was one who pushed past obstacles and taught me to do the same. His favorite expression at one point was “Shake it off” – no matter if it was personal or physical. There was no thought of “poor me” whining. He didn’t stand it for himself or for those around him. Watching him I learned about resilience and taking personal responsibility.
Speaking at his service was his longtime friend, a man who years ago was his Administrative Assistant. In his company that was a person with potential who could benefit from a mentor. Little did he know what he was getting into. He talked of my father putting him – a full grown man in his 30’s – on a reading program – not business books, but novels just to expand his mind. Apparently it worked. Years later he became the CIO for several technology companies and wrote a business book where he acknowledged my father, saying “he believed in me and gave me opportunity to attain a higher level of professional success. He presented me with challenges and offered me priceless wisdom which helped me grow and move forward in my career.”
The most poignant talk was from my 12-year-old niece. This “sophisticated tween” as I’ve dubbed her, is a very smart, compassionate and caring young lady. Teachers love her but it’s not always easy with classmates. One day last year my father told her that she was “not like those other teenagers”. Now that runs through her head and she feels better whenever she gets into an uncomfortable situation.
Before the service, we had music playing behind the digital photo album. My son and one of my sisters spent hours putting together a playlist of songs to represent my dad. It was either his favorites or reminded us of him. During the hours it took to put it together, they and my mother spent a lot of time talking about his life and how the music fit. They found it to be extremely calming during this stressful time.
I can’t tell you how many business leadership classes I’ve taken where I was asked to write my own epitaph. It’s meant to help you see there’s more to life than your job – but then that’s forgotten as you work the long hours. But this was for real. My mom wanted something beyond the usual “loving husband”. It needed to represent where he had made it in his life. He had a strong will and strong career. He had pushed through many illnesses. He was a Navy man and he had sailboats most of his life. She came up with “Finally, a safe harbor.” It summed it all up – his strength got him through life and now he could finally rest.
I’ve taken this time to think of my own legacy. I have updated my mission statement to focus on living a more thoughtful and purposeful life. Stay tuned for my next blog entry on that.
Think about your life.
What is your essence?
Who have you enabled to live a better life? Personally and career-wise.
What will you to be remembered for?
What are the songs of your life?
What would be your epitaph?
Diane, The Midlife Woman’s Career Coach