We’ve been on a roll recently. Perhaps it’s because my youngest child is about to graduate high school and go to college. Or perhaps I just need to stretch my legs a bit after the cold and dark months of winter. Regardless, we’ve been visiting sights and sounds from the mid-Atlantic to New England during the last couple months.
This last weekend we visited Newport, Rhode Island. We ate at a nice café, visited a coffee shop for a cup of joe and browsed around in the shops. But the primary activity of the day was strolling along the Cliff Walk and touring a couple of the mansions, The Breakers, and Marble House specifically.
We were given headsets for the audio tour and took a glimpse into history. We dialed the clock back 120 years and learned how wealthy, industrial families like the Vanderbilts traveled between their many homes and were constantly on the go. These families traveled the world, entertained, and were entertained by heads-of-state, wealthy industrialists, politicians, generals, admirals, businessmen, authors, composers, and every imaginable type of famous person.
These ultra rich families rarely stayed one place for long. They would come into town, throw a large, formal ball, catch their breath, and head to another one of their mansions, exotic foreign city, or natural wonder. They had wealth beyond wealth. Gold-covered sinks. Private tutors. Ships. Mansions (eg the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina). Servants. Railroads. And on and on. They had so much wealth that their mansions in Newport were called summer “cottages.” It boggles the mind, even today.
The view from the Cliff Walk was breathtaking. The day was spectacular, sunny with clear, deep-blue skies. The daffodils were in their full splendor by the thousand and the ocean was a beautiful blue-green. It was easy to see why Newport was a favored summer destination of the rich.
We enjoyed our day in Newport. We learned about everything from the birth of the US corporation to women’s suffrage. We saw mansions (er, I mean cottages) that were among the first in the US with indoor plumbing, electricity, heating, and air-conditioning. It was a fascinating up-close and personal look into America’s Gilded Age.
Yet as I walked the streets of Newport, along the Cliff Walk and up & down the massive staircases in the “cottages,” I kept thinking about legacy, ROI, values, and permanency. As cutting-edge as the mansions were when they were built, they show their age. Though the most expensive, exotic, and solid materials in the world were used in construction, there are signs of significant wear. Although the world’s best architects and craftsmen were employed for the design and building of these mansions, they show signs of deterioration.
You may not have the wealth of the Vanderbilts or Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg, but you still have time, money, and resources to invest. In what will you chose to invest? In whom? World-class leaders invest in relationships as well as things. They invest in people as well as businesses. They recognize that marble, gold, granite, iron, and leather will decay, rot, crumble, or break. They think about their legacy and the people in whom they will invest.
Enjoy your money? Sure. Take a vacation. Throw a big party or neighborhood BBQ. Buy a nice watch or car. But also help others less fortunate. Whether money, time, creativity, or some other “resource” at your disposal, think of others. Think of your legacy. Think of relationships. Make a long-term investment that will stand the test of time, an investment that will be paying dividends long after you’re gone.
Are you making wise investments? Are you building a legacy? Will you be remembered after you’re gone? In whom are you pouring your life? How are you using your time and money?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
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