Four Ways to Grow Big Ideas and Leave Your Legacy
December 23, 2020 | Beth Singer, Principal
Everyone is capable of leaving a legacy. The key is to identify opportunities for greatness and for magic to occur.
For me, it started with my attraction to big ideas. They seem to find me. And I’ve had the chance to implement some of them while collaborating with wonderful colleagues and friends throughout my professional journey. These have been some of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
In October, I was thrilled to speak at Taking the Lead, a Women’s Career Workshop, on how to use your skills and talent to leave your legacy — and harnessing your passion to make those big, audacious ideas come to life.
I’d like to challenge you to think about this: Imagine you are 90 years old; you are happy and satisfied.
…how will the world have changed because of you?
There are pivotal moments in your life and your career that are jumping-off points — and if nurtured, can create a paradigm shift initiated by your momentum. And these shifts often lead to a personal or professional legacy. I call it “creating magic.” And I’d like to share with you 4 ways in your career to create this kind of magic:
1. Be brave. Step out of your comfort zone.
When you have a new job, or you are on a new team or board, or have a new client, these situations are especially conducive to acting boldly. Nobody has a pre-determined opinion about your capabilities, and your newness allows you to work outside the system. As impressions become set, it is more difficult to be awesome and convince others to take a chance on your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
This kind of thinking led me to the work I love doing today. I had the courage to stand my ground, contrary to the wishes of a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company. As a result, that company became my long-term client. My belief in myself and the courage to remain true to my values were critical factors in the change that resulted from my encounter.
What attitudes and beliefs do you have that could hold you back from acting boldly?
2. Think bigger.
Start by sharing with others — because you never know who’s garden you are sprinkling your seeds into. Speaking about your idea can build a cadre of fellow collaborators that will push forward your momentum in a way not yet imagined.
My work, along with other past presidents of the DC chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), to establish the Design Continuum Fund, is a case in point. What started as a one-time fundraising dinner has become a permanently funded endowment for college scholarships in the design field, with a sharp focus on inclusion and diversity. In the last 11 years, the fund has helped more than 30 students get a college education.
This is a dream come true for me — to create a world in which the design profession is known for its aggressive efforts in ensuring ALL people who want a college education in our field can get one.
My experience with the Design Continuum Fund also lead to an important realization: If you want to leave a legacy, make sure the model is sustainable and can be replicated — so that others can carry the torch.
3. Start with what you know.
My mother was a first grade teacher for more than 30 years, and her passion for teaching was mainstreamed into my brain throughout my childhood. After I had my own child, I realized that I wanted to be able to pass on that excitement about creativity and experiential learning to other kids.
Today, my husband and I develop curriculum for public and private schools by offering creative experiences that dovetail with what is happening in the classroom. In 13 years, we have delivered more than 25 different lessons for grades 1-6. We teach students to use Design Thinking as a way of solving problems, to help tackle complex issues throughout their lifetimes.
Teachers tell us that even kids with persistent behavioral problems transform their attitudes when they come to our creative spaces. We’ve never had one kid opt out or refuse to participate. So we know we’re reaching our students in a pretty profound way.
Everyone has skills, talents, and passions that are part of their DNA — maybe a love of music or involvement in local politics. Now it’s time to use those deep-seated experiences as a springboard to do something really big.
Take a look inside your memories and think about how you can connect them to your hopes and dreams.
4. Find collaborators that excite you.
It’s important to have a different kind of partnership if you want to change the status quo. If you have someone in your professional life that you have great synergy with — don’t let them go! Look for opportunities to feed each other’s energy and collaborate in new and exciting ways.
Who do you know like that? Who has the potential to form a different kind of partnership with you?
For details and more inspiration, you can watch my entire presentation here.
Many thanks to Amy DeLouise, #GALSNGEAR and FMC Conferences for hosting the event, and for a fabulous conference featuring powerhouse women leaders like Dr. Sheila Brooks, Ellyn McKay, and Susan Borke.
Everyone is capable of leaving a legacy. Start by looking for a jumping-off point, and see how you can parlay that into something bigger than yourself — and leave the world changed for the better.
Behind the Scenes
A large E on a paper plate taped to my computer reminded me to keep my energy up, which is so important for these online presentations. With thanks to my partner Howard Smith — my enthusiasm coach!