When you think of Alfred Nobel, what comes to mind? You might be like me and not have known his first name, but that last name conjures up the faces of the best of the best of humanity--Mother Teresa, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama to name a few Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Alfred Nobel is the man responsible for the Nobel Peace Prize, but did you know that he was also a chemist, engineer, and innovator who manufactured weapons? He had dedicated his life to developing nitroglycerine as an explosive; one of his brothers, Emil, was even killed during one experiment. Ultimately, he invented patented and sold a new product called dynamite, drastically reducing the cost of blasting rock, drilling tunnels, and forming canals, not to mention the endless tension between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the Bugs Bunny Show.
Where the focus goes, the energy flows.
For most of his life, Alfred had focused on explosives, but in 1888, that all changed. His brother, Ludvig, died that year, but instead of publishing his brother’s obituary, a French newspaper published Alfred’s obituary. In it, the paper condemned Alfred for inventing dynamite, stating:
‘The merchant of death is dead… Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich
by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’
Alfred Nobel was crushed by this perspective on his life and how the world would remember him. To make things right, he set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel prizes, giving the equivalent of over $250 million to fund the Nobel prizes. Given this rare chance to evaluate his life and to live long enough to change it, Alfred created an honor so significant that few remember his first accomplishments. He saw the big picture and worked to change it.
Writing Your Own Ending.
What about you? How would your obituary read? When you read it, will you be happy with the world’s assessment of your life?
If you’re like me (and most people I would guess), there are some changes that you’d like to make even if you are not the creator of something as destructive as dynamite. Perhaps you haven’t achieved that vision of your life that you’ve had in head, and you want another chance to bring it to life.
Legs to YOUR Legacy
John Maxwell talks about the Law of the Big Picture in his book, 21 Laws of Leadership.
Give your legacy legs by doing the following:
1. Give yourself a character audit. If you were an employee in your organization, would you follow you? In a blog by John Maxwell, he shares 5 ways to evaluate our character. Grade yourself from 1-5 in the following areas:
2. Ask a trusted colleague or friend to watch you for a week or two, watching your character in action. Meet up with this person, listen to the feedback, and commit to one change.
3. List 3-5 things you wish you people did better than they currently do now; then grade your own performance for each one. In the areas where you give yourself a low score, work on yourself. In the areas where you give yourself a high score, make your example more visible to your team. They can’t know what’s important to their leader until they see it in action.
Let’s look at Self-Actualization.
In America, we always talk about how anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become whatever they dream of becoming. That requires them to be self-actualized. Isn’t that what Alfred Noble did? The shocking revelation of how the world would remember him through the premature obituary gave him a chance to assess himself. What would it take for you to evaluate your life and the legacy you are leaving behind?
Let’s define “self-actualized”. A person's “self” is the essential being that distinguishes him or her from others. This takes awareness. One exercise to build this awareness is to take ten minutes and recall who you were as a child. What did you like to do? What questions did you ask? What did you dream about?
If you had a childhood where you were cared for by people who nurtured you to explore interests and develop strengths, this is an easy exercise. If you were a child who lived in a world of trauma, you might not have had the good fortune to choose your own activities, ask questions, or dream. That’s where your work begins. Ask yourself: What do I like to do? What questions do you have? What are your dreams?
Once those are established, then you can move on to the next word--”actualized”. Let’s start with the root--”actual”. Synonyms of “actual” are real, true, genuine, and authentic. What is real, true, and genuine about you?
Let me use myself as an example. As a kid, I loved reading and writing. I had a favorite place in a tree where I’d read far away from my four brothers and sisters, the din of our busy house, and the possibility of being called to sweep the floor or clean a bathroom. Escaping into a book, another reality, was pure bliss. When I took up a pen, I felt a kinship with the other writers whose books I read. I always thought that I was one of them. I would ask my mom to go to the library, to enter a writing contest, and to buy more pens and paper. I began noticing that there were kids in my class who couldn’t read and struggled with writing. My heart sank for them because I knew they were missing out on big adventures.
That’s the basis of my becoming an English teacher, an author, a school founder and leader, an Education Consultant, and a grant writer. I wonder every day, “Where am I heading?” “What’s next?” “How can I change the trajectory of kids’ lives?” Now I’m focused on developing a grant writing class so that schools can equip their people to obtain money for the resources they need.
By no means am I saying that my version of working on self-actualization is a perfect one. It’s an example.
When I pass an older man holding a stop sign at a construction site, I wonder, “What else is inside him?” “What else is he capable of?” What about you? What else is inside you? What else are you capable of?
Start Today to Change the Ending
CS Lewis offers this compelling advice, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Alfred Noble changed his ending and in so doing made the world a better place. Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, on the other hand, are perpetually falling into the same traps, and that’s their legacy. You don’t have to do the same thing. You can choose to start seeing the traps and creating your own legacy for your life. Let’s start today.
This blog was written by Katy Ridnouer, Coach, Speaker, Trainer, and Grant Writer with Leaders Building Leaders, and she is the author of two education books, Managing Your Classroom with Heart and Everyday Engagement. If you found this content valuable, please share it.
If you want to learn how you can more effectively bring your dreams to fruition at work or at home, then schedule a complimentary discovery session with Katy using this link: https://go.oncehub.com/LeadersBuildingLeaders or email her at [email protected]