When it comes to your career, what do you believe?
By Esther Denn, CCAM® ARM®
What is a person’s career legacy? I started thinking about what do I believe when I watched the Oprah series on “Belief.” I remembered that a friend who had lost her job told me that she was giving serious thought to her legacy and wanted more out of her career life. Yet, she wrestled with the challenge of trying something new. She was given an offer to become a business partner, the captain of her own ship. But it involved risk to her financial status quo. And so in the end, she settled for a job doing the same things because it was familiar and safe.
What do I believe about legacy? I believe that seven principles have influenced my career and life legacy. After all, it is one and the same. The first principle, I was taught as a child living in a blue collar family that there is value in hard work and that no matter what you labor at whether a parent raising children at home, working in the fields, cutting grass, cleaning the pool, a CEO, a celebrity, writing a column, tending to the sick, helping the poor, representing our beloved Nation, managing people, places, and things, you put your whole heart and soul into the job and you take pride in your work no matter how humble or great your role.
The second principle, I believe in sharing with others what we have – our time, our knowledge and expertise, our hospitality, our food, our clothes and our home. A humble person is teachable. What is the point of having everything in the world which equals success – money, property and prestige if you have no one to share it with? If you don’t use it, give it to someone who needs it. I had a wealthy, kind and generous friend of over twenty years who died last year. She would lament the lack of hospitality from certain friends, complaining that she was not offered as much as a glass of water to drink when visiting their homes. She grew up during the depression and could not understand why people were not taught how to be hospitable. My family was poor and yet they showed me through their actions how to share and give of what they had. Food was always packed up for visitors. It was a valuable lesson that giving costs us yet the rewards are priceless. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz once said “I will always be that blue collar kid from the projects.” He is an example that a humble beginning is a springboard to success in life and career.
The third principle, I believe that we move towards the things we think about whether we mean to or not. So if your mind is on negativity and bad results. Those things will manifest in your life. I learned this at a Career Trak work seminar taught by Bobbe Sommer who resides in San Clemente, California from her tape series on “How to set and achieve goals.” In order to achieve our dreams and goals, we have to open the door in our minds and hearts to make them our reality. We have to send our ship out rather than wait at the dock for our ship to come in.
The fourth principle, I believe that we have to know ourselves. “To thine own self be true” as Shakespeare said. If we are living a robotic life going through the motions with no self-awareness, we are buffeted by every ill wind that blows, hurt and confused by other people’s behavior and feeling victimized by life rather than participants. I credit the book by Robin Norwood, “Women who love too much, when you keep hoping and wishing they will change” as instrumental in opening my eyes to positive change in my own life. I also credit the Al-Anon Family Groups for 360 degree personal growth that has helped me to focus on my own side of the street and change the things I can for a fulfilling life.
The fifth principle, I believe that it is never too late to change or accomplish your dreams. I dreamt in my 20s that I would go to dinner in a Castle in Europe and be served by attendants in medieval dress. I received a marriage proposal from my then fiancé and got married, moved to Ireland for a year with my husband. I asked my neighbors in Cork, where is a castle that serves dinner with attendants in medieval dress. We went dining at Bunratty Castle, where you are served by attendants in medieval dress. I knew deep down in my heart in my 30s that if I left Houston, Texas and went to beyond the mountains of California, my life would change for the better. I found my life here in California and I have flourished. I used to sit on the sand at the beach in Oxnard Shores and watch the sailboats on the horizon and wish I was on one of them. I joined a sailing club and got to go out several times and live my wish. I went back to College at night while working full time when I was forty-five. My life experience enabled me to achieve good grades and be on the Dean’s Honor List at Oxnard Community College. I was able to take advantage of educational reimbursements as well as grants. I had some of the best Professors from the top Universities – Berkeley, UCLA that taught my evening classes and provided one- on- one counseling. I made College friends that I have today. I started my own property management business at age sixty, right during the worst financial crisis of 2009 since the “Great Depression of the 1920’s.” My next big dream is to travel to Spain and walk a little on the Way, meet the pilgrims and drink a glass of Spanish wine and eat tapas along the pilgrimage. It is a big dream financially but I know it will come.
The sixth principle, I believe that we can look at our work as our opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. I was influenced by a group from Washington, D.C. called “Faith at Work” or “Luminos” as they are called today. They believe in practicing what you believe in the workplace and in your own corner of the world. I met this group when I attended a retreat at La Casa de Maria in Montecito, California. I had read a biography of Rose Kennedy where she mentioned that she was able to bear her life challenges by going on retreats. It worked for me. Through attending many weekend retreats at La Caza in Montecito and Serra Retreat in Malibu over the years, I have opened my mind, healed old wounds and replaced my former belief practice of fear, negativity, anger and disillusionment with the new one I have today. I have come to know a new freedom and happiness.
The seventh principle, I believe in risk. “If we risk not, we have not.” I heard those words years ago from an old man, Abe E., who is now deceased. My whole life has been built on risks. My family legacy was built on immigrants who came to the United States for a better life. America was borne from immigrant people risking their lives for freedom. Fear holds us back from taking a risk. Fear is often false evidence appearing real in my head. I have to walk through the fear and do it anyway.
In the end, my legacy will be that I spoke up for what I believed in, that I treated others with courtesy and kindness to the best of my ability, that when I was wrong, I admitted it and asked for forgiveness, that I changed my behavior rather than made empty promises, that I put my whole heart and soul into my work and it showed, that I lived my dreams and last but not least that I made a difference in other people’s lives.