Working For Your Resume Or Your Eulogy

Sometimes, if you listen intently enough, some of the most powerful lessons of your executive leadership career can come from some of the most unexpected places.

Too often, it seems, global executives tend to look up the chain of command for insight on a host of important management challenges. It's natural, after all, to seek to learn from the experience of more experienced and highly successful leaders for tips on balancing priorities, making sound decisions and taking calculated risks.

Yet some of the most telling and revealing lessons are often revealed where we might least expect it - on the front lines, in the trenches, so to say, and often, in the words of people who've walked distinctly different paths than our own up the corporate ladder.

Take, for example, the words of a schoolteacher who recently challenged some friends to look at little differently at their work, their aspirations and their lives, too.

As the teacher found himself defending his choice of a service-oriented career separate and apart from the upwardly mobile kind of business careers his friends had embarked on, he paused and ask them to think of something he long ago learned.

At some part, no matter how ambitious one may be or how determined to build a high-powered business career or reach the CEO's corner office, he told them, "At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to either live for your resume or for your eulogy."

Those words hit home, and spurred his friends to reflect on the paths they were then invested on in terms of job titles, salaries, and vacation accruals.

You see, while each of us is committed to our organisations, our employees and of course to our own career ambitions, we must take stock of what this commitment may be costing us.

Yes, it appears there is a cost, but it's simply not evident as we pursue the business priorities that tend to consume every working day, and then, each working week, and over time, another year.

The teacher's words struck a chord because many of us, perhaps having achieved some level of the kind of success we only dreamed of earlier in our careers, have already realised that a life lived mostly in business terms may yield terrific financial dividends but seldom delivers the kind of satisfaction we seek for fulfillment in our lives away from work.

For those of us who have already learned that what others most remember about us is how we made them feel, it's time to refresh our resolve to help others along the way toward achieving whatever corporate goals may lie in front of us.

And for those still dripping with ambition or simply too young to have achieved the kind of success than can empower a healthy and financially secure future, we can only wish you the schoolteacher's wisdom, because a life well lived will most certainly be retold in our respective eulogies and the titles we held and salaries we earned will only have mattered to ourselves.

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