January is National Mentoring Month. Last year, I asked Frank Blake, retired CEO of Home Depot, what legacy he wanted to leave to the next generation. His response left an indelible impression on me. He said, “I want the people who are the closest to me to respect me the most. I do because they will see me when no one else is watching in the bad times, both mine and theirs.” As a reminder, Frank became CEO of Home Depot during a rough period. I will always remember how he instilled a sense of hope throughout the company, especially with middle management and frontline employees. That attitude turned discouragement into encouragement and turned Home Depot around.
That sense of hope is the legacy I want to transfer to our grandson’s generation, Gen Z and millennials. I do because it was the legacy that was transferred to me. For example, my grandmother would tell us about how they made it through the Great Depression; my father-in-law would tell me about how he made it through the Korean War and dealt with the racism he faced getting a job and after while on the job; and my mother would tell us about how she made it after our father died.
That transfer of hope always occurred when I was having a tough time and was becoming discouraged. I’ve found those are the times in which people are most receptive to learning. It reminds me of the saying, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready”. Well, we are in those times now. Indeed, almost all of the news we hear everyday is depressing from the dysfunction in Washington DC, global warming, trade wars, stock market volatility, to increasing incidents of some type of racism or sexism. Moreover, there are so many people who are working very hard but just don’t seem to be getting ahead financially, professionally and personally. As a result, we are in a perfect time to transfer a sense of hope--through our stories--that will encourage and motivate others.
In closing, I am starting early transferring hope to our grandson; by making sure I am there when he has had a tough day at school. I let him and his parents know about the tough times I had in school. (I couldn’t stand school when I was that age and did everything I could to stay home or misbehaved so I could go home early.) Even though he is young, I know he is listening and comprehending what I’m saying.
Let your legacy be the stories and actions you leave with those closest to you – when you are at your best and when you are most challenged.