Being a market researcher for over 15 years helped me develop my curiosity. When you are looking at reams and reams of data, trying to tell a story and arrive at strategic conclusions you can share with your corporate client, you can bet that curiosity becomes a very familiar friend. You learn to slice and dice data in myriad ways to discover trends, to sniff out clues, to develop hypotheses that make sense given the research objectives at hand. Not everyone has this gift. But I did. I loved the storytelling that market research allowed me to indulge in. I got to tap into my creative side when I had to craft compelling and PR worthy headlines to bring the stories from the data to life.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” Seth Godin
It is this same curiosity, creativity and craft I bring to bear when I refine and re-write my own evolving life story. I can see the highs and lows of my life as data points based on all the primary and secondary research that is my life. With my analytical mind, I connect the patterns in the data and see how the different stories weave in and out of each other, sometimes shaping an even more powerful narrative, from which I derive a new meaning.
These tendencies have made me a truth seeker. I am constantly re-framing and re-purposing information to figure out who, what, why and how, behind all the data I process in any given time period. Which brings me to the purpose of this particular post: lately I have been very preoccupied with legacy. It’s the proverbial, “why am I here?” in all its clichéd, redundant and profound expression. While I am proud of my professional achievements and accomplishments, I’m at a life-stage where I question exactly what it was all about. There was a time, not that long ago, when these successes defined me. Not anymore. Now I am much more concerned with the quality of my life, my personal impact, my legacy. But those things are not exactly quantifiable are they? They don’t lend themselves to data manipulation much at all because often we have no idea who we impact and to what extent. The data is simply not available.
Since my market research acumen is not particularly useful in this line of questioning, I’ve had to rely more on my inner promptings, my insight, my intuition. Increasingly, I see that when I follow a “nudge” (or what I like to call a Holy Spirit whisper), something beautiful always results. I know these experiences are on the path of my purpose because of how they make me feel and what I see open up as a result, which is usually greater and more magnificent than what I could ever have expected.
To give a tiny example of this at work, I have had lunch or met with a few people recently that I just felt really called to get to know better. Every single one of these interactions has literally blown my mind in terms of shared experiences, kindred-spiritedness, and true heart-centered connections. I have no idea the extent of the impact of those meetings on either party, but this is what I do know for sure: there is an impact. I may not ever be able to connect the data and say that X meeting led to Y result. But it matters not. All I know is that something amazing is opening up as result, even if I don’t know exactly what that is right now.
Just this past Friday, as I was having dinner with a friend at Le Madeleine, I found myself in the midst of a quiet, understated legacy building moment. I had left our table for 5 minutes and when I came back I found her deep in conversation with a man at the table in front of us. Even though I was facing them the entire time, I was so engrossed in my conversation with my friend that I hadn’t noticed them. Turns out the man’s son, a 9th grader named Daniel, was a budding artist and had been busy painting at the table the whole time. He had acrylics, small canvasses, brushes, the whole nines. He had only started painting for a month but you could tell he was passionate about it. My friend, being the warm, personable, supportive person she is, spent the next 30 minutes uplifting, encouraging and building him up. She dished out advice, praised his work, asked questions, gave him inspiration and offered to host him at the next youth event at the church we both attend, so he could get exposure for his artwork.
At first Daniel was shy but by the end of the conversation, he was animated and really excited about getting his art seen and sold by more people. His Dad was visibly moved and kept thanking us both for our kindness. Yes, I had been chiming in with praise and support, but truly I was the observer in this exchange, as I witnessed the power of just loving on people right where we are– in this case in the middle of dinner—and letting God just work his miracles. Who knows, what if Daniel is the next Kieron Williamson and our praise and encouragement was just what he needed to be motivated to keep going with his newfound talent? My friend will likely never see the fruit of her goodwill, but without a doubt she impacted that young man’s life by using her gift of generous praise to encourage someone she just met. To quote author Judy Blume, “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” This is what legacy building is truly about!
We so often get narrow-minded about what it means to leave a legacy. For many people continuing a family name and heritage is the first thought. Then we think of tangible things like wealth, property, status, or accomplishment that we can bequeath to our family. These things ultimately center on achievement and they’re fine, really, but are they all? I believe, life coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru’s definition of legacy is spot on, “Legacy is not what is left tomorrow when you are gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you are here, that then happens to live on.”
It is my belief that creating a legacy is about using our gifts and talents to bless others. This broadens the definition of legacy making, to include truly anything we create or give to others. This is what has eternal significance after all for it is written that, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10 NLT In this service to others we need to engage with them, just as my friend engaged Daniel. To be engaged requires sincere curiosity. In my evolution as a successful market researcher, I had to learn the art of crafting questions in such a way that the answers elicited from the survey respondents gave me meaningful data I could use to shape a narrative that addressed my client’s goals. Asking the right questions in the right way, made all the difference in informing what recommendations I presented to my clients. From experience, I know the same principles apply in relationship with others. My curiosity, compassion and level of engagement shape my dialog with others in ways that engender legacy building or not. It’s the difference between asking, “How are you?” versus “What did you get accomplished today?” or “What are you looking forward to today?” Our questions can open us up to learning, connection and discovery of others or they can shut them down.
We leave a legacy right where we are, with the people we interact with in the course of our daily professional and personal lives. We may never know the impact our lives truly have on others. This is why it is important for us to treat everyone– regardless of rank, position, or wealth– with respect, integrity, and value. Commending, elevating, empowering, or endorsing others is how we pay it forward, how we sow seeds of significance into others’ lives. And by so doing, we receive blessings tenfold, even though they cannot be quantified. For the Apostle Paul promised that: “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to others] will also reap generously [and be blessed].” 2 Corinthians 9:6 AMP
My achievements have served me well and opened many doors for me. I am grateful for all my successes thus far. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll soon come to find that your greatest joys come from using your strengths in service of those in your sphere and knowing that you are leaving a legacy far greater than anything you could have imagined.
Natalie Jobity is an inspirational author, branding coach, marketing consultant and freelance writer. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide :Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style. Read more of her inspirational posts on her website. Email her at Elanimage07@gmail.com.