We tend to lead busy lives, often so self-absorbed in surviving the day that we have no sense that we are part of a vast continuum that is only recognizable when we look back.
By Ron Schultz
Part of the Creating Good Work series
How we lead this life matters… at least how I lead my life matters, and not just to me.
Every action I take and every decision I make has a consequence and impact on someone or something close at hand. Now, I should probably mention that this isn’t the beginning of a Frank Capra movie, but rather recognition of origins.
When I conceived the idea for Creating Good Work – The World's Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy, I counted on the fact that it would be read by someone, and then hopefully, positively shape and inform the thinking of that person, who would then go out and create social benefit. It also meant that I needed to remain a role model of the kind of behavior I wanted others to emulate.
So six months ago, I began promoting the book and the 24 rather remarkable contributors who wrote the 20 different chapters. It was at one of these events that a fellow walked up to my table, picked up a copy of the book and started nonchalantly asking me about social entrepreneurship and what it was he now held in his hand. A conversation ensued that four months later has not stopped.
A New Partnership
I didn’t know it at the time, but the fellow who had walked up to my table and idly thumbed my book would very soon become my business partner. Now there is nothing inherently strange about that. I would imagine it happens all the time. But then a couple of months later, when we began looking into a name for what had become our enterprise, something totally unexpected emerged.
The work we had undertaken together was to create a series of university-based centers that would combine mindfulness, social innovation and entrepreneurship. It was and is a wonderful design that fully met my need to be a model for others. It also met with almost immediate success.
But back to the naming.
When Labels Lead Impact
Labeling something has a powerful impact on its formulation. It launches the narrative around which we build organization. So my colleague Mark and I, trying to be true to the significance of this task, kept putting it off. We had jokingly referred to our “it” as simply, Allen and Schultz, our last names, and laughed at its law-firm-like formality. We would occasionally try other ideas; exploring names of things, animals, ideas, initials and even a few manufactured acronyms. Nothing we came up with really said who or what we were, or defined us in a way that had any real meaning to either of us.
Until, in our frustration after agreeing that there were going to be environments in which Allen and Schultz simply would not fly, we realized we needed to use our mother’s maiden names – Waterman and Alysworth. The significance of this was not just passing fancy.
Mark’s mother’s family, the Waterman’s, came to the new world on what has been referred to as “the second Mayflower,” more correctly, the Lyon, in the early 1600s. Thirty years later, my relative, Arthur Aylsworth, arrived. Mark’s generational grandfather joined his friend, Roger Williams, in the founding of Providence, Rhode Island. And as is well documented, Providence and Rhode Island became the first bastion of religious freedom for the Europeans who had arrived on these shores.
All religions were welcome and free to practice as they saw fit. Not too surprisingly, my hereditary grandfather also settled in Providence for similar religious reasons. There was little question in the historical documents that our families were invariably connected in this new land and were working for the social benefit of those who had come along with them.
Waterman Aylsworth made perfect sense to us both.
Continuing the Work of Generations
As amazing as the synchronicity of our meeting was, even more remarkable was what our relatives established in the 1600s – a place for religious freedom and the social benefit for those who came to live there – being played out again 350 years later.
The work of today’s Waterman Alysworth is to catalyze social benefit.
Mark and I are not doing anything new. Our families began this process almost four centuries ago. But the point should be clear: How we live our lives matters.
The model we provide is not just for our children to emulate, but also for our grandchildren and theirs and theirs. In our case, the work of our forbearers is now being borne by us. The example of what informed their lives is informing ours.
We tend to lead busy lives, often so self-absorbed in surviving the day that we have no sense that we are part of a vast continuum that is only recognizable when we look back. The variety of interactions and emergent events that brought us to this moment demands a level of attention few of us have ever considered. But what you and I do in this world is not insignificant.
How we are with each other and what we promote has long lasting consequences. I feel it is my responsibility to uphold the lineage that brought me here, and model it is for those that will follow. The Native American population that helped feed our ancestors many centuries ago, and who we then turned around and treated so horrifically, have an expression, still spoken, that acknowledges this linkage – Ho Mitakuye Oyasin or "for all my relations. "
The work we are doing now is not just for us.
And yes, it does matter.