What your business might look like… as a legacy.
Some of us don’t start businesses for money. We start them to leave a legacy. To make a dent in our universe, and someone else’s life.
We call our businesses babies, and rightly so. We birth them. We raise them. We feed them. We grow, nurture, and feed something that we love so much we would give anything for — and probably have. There’s a lot of sacrifice that happens when you’re creating something you love.
Now, imagine the 20th Anniversary Party.
I got invited to a party to celebrate the growth and recognition of an organization I helped start. Except… nobody there knew I started it. They were after my time.
I had a mixture of feelings, being there amongst mostly strangers. The “newbies” (those who had been there under ten years) looked at me quizzically: Who’s that? The oldies embraced me, as only those who know each other from old times can. We spoke to each other in an ancient language, deeply familiar, in phrases no one else remembered. And then again, others didn’t. A rather outgoing veteran recognized me, bounded up to me, checked my left hand, and said, “Oh, you’re still single. Had to check! Haha!” A <wink> and pat on the shoulder and he was gone.
I was before his time, too.
He didn’t know: The hundreds of hours. The uncountable money spent. All the things I said no to, to say yes to this.
I was the stranger in the midst of people who stood upon an organization I had built, years ago.
People who didn’t know I was a founding mother of their occupation there.
It was weird.
They gave awards for people who had been there five, ten years. They asked people to stand who had just been hired. They asked people to stand who were spouses and supporters. But there was no standing for people who had been there 18 years ago. (18 years ago, we didn’t have people stand — “Great idea,” I thought.)
And here’s the thing:
We all want to be called up to stand and be recognized for our sacrifice.
For even one person to see and to know: that we gave, and to what extent.
At the party there was one man who approached me like a human being. He had known. He had seen. We had both been there at the beginning. “Where does life have you now?” we asked each other with keen appreciation for the happenings since. We could speak the same language. A now kind of language. We both got it: What I do now, what he does, and where we’ve both been to get where we are.
Everything had changed — and yet, the essence and impact remained.
I was nobody special that night, but in reality… it was brilliant.
There was I, in a room full of staff, leaders, and employees ten times the size we had had when we started in an old run-down rented office space… and they were making it happen in new and unimaginable ways.
Ways I honestly wouldn’t have wanted to see through to the end. To have my hands free of that venture — to see it surpass me — was spectacularly invigorating. And freeing.
Just imagine a business that thrives… without you.
That even thrives after you.
There may be some bittersweet sadness there, to see our baby all grown and tall and working without us. (Or gut-wrenchingly ironic: like a songwriter sending a masterpiece out into the world, and hearing a teenager decades later ask, “Who’s Miles Davis?”)
But there will also be deep, abiding satisfaction.
I would not choose to be there now, if I had it to do over. To not have moved on would have meant to not create from what I’m building now (which I looove).
We will be on a new adventure, one that will also grow with time. And it too, may surpass us.
We can hope it does. Because then we’ll know:
We didn’t get in the way of ourselves, and of what we set out to build.
That’s the tree we’re planting.
Photo of my favorite tree by my house.