Fourteen years ago, I was a successful creative director at Canada’s then-largest ad agency. I had the seemingly mighty triumvirate of accomplishment: great salary, security, and status.
And I was miserable.
Why? Because I was so busy delivering creative work, putting out client fires, and managing team dynamics that I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on what really mattered – the growth of my people. I couldn’t help them to evolve, develop the confidence they deserved, and feel good about the work they were doing. And it was killing me.
One day I confessed to my husband. “I feel like I’m using my superpowers for evil instead of for good. And I need to change that. I’m going to quit my job and start a training company.”
My usually even-keeled spouse looked at me with abject horror. “But Leslie,” he said, “you HATE training!”
What he was kind enough not to mention was that I was also someone who’d proved to be mostly untrainable throughout my life. I was larger-than-life, hyper-passionate, irreverent, and rebellious. None of which sounded like a good combo for this particular gig. But that’s not how I saw it. “I KNOW!” I replied, “Who better than someone who hates training to do exactly that! I mean, if I can create experiences for someone like me, I might be on to something.”
Taking the leap
I did just that. In 2008, I launched my first training company, tapping into my wealth of creative experience, my savvy as a former TV host, and years of experience as the child of summer camp owners. I harnessed that irreverence, used my passion as a fuel source, and likely broke every rule in the ‘training’ manual. I authentically used ALL of the stuff that comprises “me” to make it happen.
From the first moment I stood in front of a room filled with expectant faces and realized that I actually had the ability to help them, I was hooked.
Over the next decade, I travelled the world with my eventually award-winning company, learning, laughing and loving every single human I encountered. From Singapore to Scotland, Pittsburgh to Poland, I worked with CEOs, junior managers and everyone in between. Google, Disney, Pepsico – you name it, I trained it. And over time, I discovered a mind-blowing singular human truth.
The one human truth
No matter the title, experience, company or culture, most people did not believe that they could be their authentic selves and still achieve the success that they dreamed of. They believed the exact opposite of the very thing that had allowed me to discover my potential and my success.
When I realized this, it broke my heart, and I became a woman on a new mission. I knew that now my purpose wasn’t just in upskilling people, it was in using all of my power to unleash their true human potential – or their “swagger” as I described it. Not the old kind of show-off in-your-face swagger – I defined this new swagger as “the ability to manifest who you really are and hold onto it in the face of all of the psychological crap that’s going to come for it, regardless of situation or environment.”
Swagger is about being unafraid to show and share the fully realized version of yourself with the world. Swagger isn’t about a job or a title, it’s about the human behind it. All of my own swagger, in its wild and wacky glory, could be in service to unleashing theirs. Holy wow. Talk about a life-changing moment.
The time for legacy work is now
As we age, we start to understand the weird, wonderful, and quirky differentiators that make us special. Our ‘swagger’, as it were.
We also develop the wisdom to not have a hate-on for these very things. Instead, we embrace and use them as the core of our personal power. We care less about status and more about purpose. We define our worth by the contributions we make, not the title we hold. We are concerned less about holding power over others, and more about using our own superpowers to help others find their own. This is where true joy lies. To know that we have the ability to do this is a gift of epic proportions.
If we’re still in the work force, out on our own, building a new business, or following our passions into the next chapter of our lives, we’re all now in our place of legacy work – whether we accept it or not. This may well be our last chance to leave our mark on the people and the world around us. One way to guarantee that we leave that mark is to offer ourselves up to others - the ones who desperately need the benefit of our experience, and who can be changed by our words, our attention, our validation, and our wisdom.
This is not a Rehearsal
Each of us has the power to help unleash the potential in every human we meet. And while you may not choose to make it your life’s work like I have, you can still decide to make it happen whenever the opportunity presents itself. This life is not a rehearsal. We get one shot to make every moment count. And let me tell you, using even one minute of our time, or one drop of our superpowers to help someone else feel and know that they are good enough, feels really damn good. Talk about a joyful win-win.