What’s YOUR Legacy?

November 21, 2013

By: Margot Murphy

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Chris Redlitz and Kenyatta Leal speak about a truly inspirational program. Chris is a venture capitalist who, along with his wife, founded the Last Mile, a program that creates technology accelerators in prisons to provide men entrepreneurial skills as well as jobs upon their release from prison.

I must admit, when I attend these types of talks I often leave feeling impressed but rarely inspired. There’s an important distinction. Impressive speakers are fun to hear – they seem exceptional in their persona or intellect but their accomplishments unattainable to little old me. Inspirational speakers go beyond an acknowledgment of their own success. They make me want to change the way I think or act. The story of Kenyatta – one of the first graduates of the program – inspired me.

The Last Mile website describes its participants as “men who have worked hard to improve themselves emotionally and intellectually.” Kenyatta is this description. Kenyatta was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, and he served around 20 years of his sentence before being released in July 2013. During his time in prison, instead of succumbing to the hopeless, directionless, loveless, seemingly merciless prison culture –Kenyatta stayed positive. Can you imagine being positive and hopeful in prison on a potential life sentence? It’s kind of mind-boggling. He took his sentence and made it a transformational experience.

Kenyatta said the thing that motivated him to make changes in his behavior and thoughts was one simple question: what’s my legacy? It’s a really powerful question when you think about it. Following Kenyatta’s lead, I thought about how I envision my own legacy – even just here at business school. How do I want to be remembered, and what portion of my time am I devoting to those things that I care most about?

Luckily, I got to dig a little deeper into this question during the Job Crafting Exercise that we did with Mary Ceccanese at the Center. Mary led us through the exercise where we looked at our motivators, goals and passions. We then connected our daily tasks and the amount of time we devote to them to these motivators, goals and passions. During the exercise I was reminded of Kenyatta’s words of wisdom on our personal legacies and the choices we make daily. The result of the exercise was a visual depiction of what I had feared: the goals and motivations I had for my two years in business school were greatly misaligned with my daily activities. The legacy I want to have is not aligned with my daily choices.

JobcraftingAligning our motivators, goals and passions during the Job Crafting Exercise at the Center

This has been an important awakening for me, and my homework for this quarter is to realign my tasks and activities with my motives, goals and passions. I’ve decided to start with my google calendar. I spent two hours today blocking off time in my calendar for the things I want to devote more time to. It’s a start, isn’t it?

The lifestyle of an MBA is (thankfully!) quite different from that of a prisoner. We don’t have seemingly endless time to devote to personal reflection and development. Instead, we jump from activity to activity without taking a moment to catch our breath, much less reflect. We work hard to improve ourselves intellectually, but what about emotionally? In this hectic life, we could all take a lesson from Kenyatta. And so I’ll ask you: what will be your legacy?