Do you remember that challenge – the one you signed up for or had thrust upon you, that now you remember with pride and even gratitude? Maybe it was that long hike along the Appalachian Trail, or the marathon you trained so hard for. Or maybe it was the illness, or the accident that laid you out flat, but rather than staying down you rose up to its challenge and by pushing though you made yourself a new and better you? When the stakes are high, and we survive, we usually come out the other side stronger and wiser for the pain.
For me giving birth to my first (and only) child just a month after my 40th birthday was such an experience. Up until that moment my focus had been on growing the IT consulting firm I started in my 20s. I’d learned in business school that the measure of success was constant growth. And while I could fantasize straight line upward projections into the unforeseeable future for my company, at 40, as a mere mortal it dawned on me that my personal trajectory must eventually bend, and statistically speaking the apex was likely close at hand. It was riveting revelation that most of us of a certain age are forced to acknowledge but to be pregnant with new life at the very same time added a poignant twist. The result was a lot of reflection on how I wanted to leave the world, what I could do to make a difference, and how I wanted to spend my time on going forward.
It changed my ideas of success. I didn’t want my soon to be son to think that all I cared about was money and this led to a lot of reflection on what was really important and ultimately led to transforming my company, The Walker Group, into a social enterprise. Among other things I stipulated that 1/3 of any of our distributed profits would be for employees, and 1/3 would go to community organizations working to make the world a better place. I decided to measure our success as a business by our ability to be a good steward in the community and a good place to work as an employee. And I thought that one way to be a good steward would be to help make it easier for others who wanted to take a similar path.
The result was the birth of reSET and the hundreds of entrepreneurs that it has served who are starting and growing companies not simply with an idea of making money but of solving problems that haunt us all – issues like global warming, racial injustice, access to healthcare …
I certainly didn’t think that having a child at 40 would change the way I saw the world, and make me re-prioritize and reallocate what I spent my time on but now it seems obvious. I don’t think any of us have fully grasped the impact that the Covid Time we’re living in will have on us as individuals and as a society. But thinking we’ll go back to “normal” is no less plausible or desirable than a new parent thinking they will resume their old life. Right now we’re stressed – disoriented, anxious, and exhausted (sounds like a lot of new parents I’ve met). But here’s the upside: We’re waking up, we re-prioritizing and we’re rethinking everything.
We are waking up to the recognition that things can change on a dime, and in very big ways. We realizing that our fast-paced consumer-driven life was unsustainable and often unrewarding. We now know there are far more important things than money and that greed is not good (sorry Milton). We can more clearly see how connected and important we all are to one another and that we risk losing everything if we don’t respect nature. We are, like it or not, birthing a new world and we are realizing that it’s up to each of us to figure out how to parent this new reality.
Happily I believe reSET is the perfect coach/midwife/doula for our time – we are a supportive community surrounding businesses of all shapes and stages that want to be part of something better, to become engines for positive change. We are being called create a new world. And while there is much over which we have no control, there are things we can do, ways we can help, roles we can take to support the change. And if you’re willing, if you’re able, reSET is ready to put your talent to use in birthing a better tomorrow.