Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Legacy of Love

I was lucky enough to be able to attend Jacqueline Novogratz’s second women’s salon last night, featuring Sarah Murray of the Financial Times, and the recent author of Making an Exit: From the Magnificant to Macabre – How we Dignify the Dead. After a fabulous talk by Sarah on her experience and insights writing the book, all those present had a chance to share their thoughts for one minute on the following topic: In light of our mortality, what do you want your legacy to be? This was my response:

I had a dream last night with my big brother Ivan in it. He looked great, smiling, dressed sharply, and I was so happy to see him. Especially because when I have a dream with my brother in it, I am always slightly aware that it’s the only way I can see Ivan these days, and that it will be fleeting, as dreams are. He died just over six years ago, and losing him helped me understand what legacy really means.

When someone goes away, it can be such a shock to those left behind because of all that a person means to the people they know and love. I found myself unable to accept that my brother was no longer here and a part of my life, asking over and over again – where are you?  I decided I would not let go or say goodbye, but would hold on to him in whatever way that I could. I realized that the thing I could hold on to and that I still continue to hold on to is his love.

So for my own legacy, I hope that what I leave behind is a powerfully felt love. I hope that through my life I can fulfill my potential, improve this world and the lives of people in it, and raise children that are healthy and fulfilled. But those are things that I think will be meaningful for meduring my life. When I am gone, I hope that what people are left with is a palpable love. I know am not as generous with love as my brother was, and that I continue to have so much to learn from him. But I hope that I have time enough on this earth

Me, my little brother, and my big brother, Ivan

to learn how to love more freely, and to enjoy this beautiful life that I’ve been given.

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A 30 Second MBA on Social Innovation

I was at a fascinating lunch discussion on social innovation hosted by Abbott Labs when FastCompany ‘s “30 Second MBA” team approached me and asked the question, “What is social innovation?” At Acumen Fund, we stress the fact that though we’ve learned valuable lessons from our successes in impact investing and leadership development, we’ve learned just as much – and sometimes even more – from our failures in these areas. That day I heard from several major corporations who were clear that the only way to evolve in an increasingly complex world was through innovation, but one of our biggest questions as a group was, where does innovation come from? My short (and I mean super-short) answer drew from our recent lesson on failure:

IF FAILING IS NOT AN OPTION, YOU’VE RULED OUT SUCCESS AS WELL

The response to this video has been great, and it’s made me think about my own relationship to risk and failure. And as I think about it, one thing is clear: talking about innovation, taking risks, and being willing to fail is a lot easier than actually doing it. When was the last time you took a big risk?

Originally posted on Acumen Fund’s blog

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Celebrating a Whole Life

This year I’m going to throw a party. A year long celebration of something I haven’t quite defined yet. This is my, dare I say it, New Year’s resolution.

I saw a dear friend recently. We were meeting up with our two kids of roughly the same age in tow, and we had a great conversation, in the moments that we weren’t chasing after our kids. And the conversation worked its way around to careers – she just got a very impressive PhD and is thinking through next steps.

And in this conversation, we talked about the way that being a mother and a professional can have a slight dampening effect on one’s career. She mentioned how rare it was to meet a tenured female professor with kids. The reasons for this phenomenon boils down to something we called, for the purpose of simplicity, “choices.”

No blame, no victims, just choices.

The choices I make are not just about being with my children, but about trying to create some sort of whole life. But it feels like unchartered territory and every move is shadowed by a totally useless sense that I’m not making the right choices. What has been most useful to me in this process is conversations with women who are a few years ahead of me working on this same project of making a life. Women with kids or serious commitments to family, with careers, with a powerful sense of their unique contribution to the world. I have met a few of these women over the course of my life, and they amaze and inspire me.

They impact people’s lives, care for their families, and walk in the world as pioneers of a new kind of achievement. One that, as far as I know, remains largely uncelebrated. And it absolutely should be celebrated. Hence the New Year’s resolution. To more fully understand and celebrate this thing that some women do so beautifully and that I would like to do well. Rather than aim to “master” this ability to create a multi-faceted life, I’d like to commit to celebrating the women who inspire me, and to imagine a world where people (not just women) are honored for the wholeness of their life, not just the spikes in their ability to lead others, make money, make a name for themselves.

So, rather than wish for a different world, I’ll see if I can help build it, one celebration at a time. Stay tuned…and share your thoughts here on what a “whole life” looks like and who inspires you.

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Filed under Careers, Celebrating a Whole Life, Work and Life