Vannoy and Ross

A friend shared that he was at a dinner sitting next to an older fellow. The man was retired, and was reflecting on a career that had taken him high in the leadership ranks. “While we respected the man, there was an important disconnect between what he was saying – and what others knew to be true,” said my friend. “He told us numerous times that he would always be known as a ‘people person.’ That he had always put people first.”

My friend shook his head. “The entire time he was making these claims the rest of us were looking down at our plates. We knew it wasn’t true. This man had built a career on being strictly a numbers guy, and there was little evidence that people mattered.

“As I listened to him I thought about how sad it would be to get to that point in your career and realize that what you will be known for isn’t what you want to be known for. And in the end be left to rhetoric in an attempt to shape your reputation. The problem is that no amount of talking can reshape your actions.”

What will you be known for? My friend’s story has been important for me to consider as in the last two weeks I’ve attended the funerals of two people I respect and care for greatly. At each funeral it was remarkable listening to people speak about the deceased with tremendous admiration and affection. Consistent were the stories about the difference these men made in the lives of others.

I listened with awe, humbled by sum of their efforts and the extraordinary impact of their lives. And I wondered, “What will we be known for? And how will our answer shape our actions today?”

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