If you couldn’t tell by now, I like to tell stories from history, particularly European history. I enjoy sharing tales and drawing lessons from some of the great conflicts that have taken place over the hundreds of years of human development there. Like any storyteller, I draw on the stories I’m familiar with and since I majored in European History in college, I can talk about Richard III as easily as Kruschev at the drop of a hat.
But today isn’t going to be one of those stories.
Today I’m going to treat you to another one of my personal passions: space exploration. Not the fantastical Star Trek variety, but the even more fascinating NASA variety. It’s a story that’s going to help shape how you approach your work and envision your professional future. It’s also the perfect stage-setter for a new year which typically signifies new beginnings and new goals, if not a completely new outlook on life.
On the morning of August 20th, 1977, the Florida air exploded with the sound of over 40,000 pounds of liquid hydrogen igniting within a Titan-Centaur rocket to propel the first of two unmanned space probes beyond our atmosphere and, with any luck, beyond the edges of our solar system. First Voyager 2 and then, two weeks later, Voyager 1, encapsulating 1700 JPL-designed pounds each of delicate scientific machinery, hurtled into space on different trajectories that would take them sailing past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; 48 of their moons; and the unique system of rings and magnetic fields those planets possess.
Included within each of those capsules were, among all of the sensors, antennae, power supplies and equipment, two phonographic disks. These golden records, as they’ve come to be known, contained music, information about our planet and home, and messages of peace should any intelligent lifeform intercept one of these interstellar ambassadors.
Then president Jimmy Carter remarked, “This Voyager spacecraft was constructed by the United States of America. We are a community of 240 million human beings among the more than 4 billion who inhabit the planet Earth. We human beings are still divided into nation states, but these states are rapidly becoming a single global civilization.
We cast this message into the cosmos. It is likely to survive a billion years into our future, when our civilization is profoundly altered and the surface of the Earth may be vastly changed. Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some–perhaps many–may have inhabited planets and spacefaring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message:
This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination, and our good will in a vast and awesome universe”
It might be fitting for a moment to pause and reflect on President Carter’s vision in 1977 of a world comprised of a global civilization. A vision that likely feels farther away than ever.
Among the pieces of music which Carl Sagan and a committee of select experts chose, is a piece that hopefully you’ll recognize. The iconic Rock-n-Roll jam from Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode.
In August of 1989, as Voyager 2 sped past Neptune, various specials were televised including one hosted by the esteemed actor Sydney Poitier which included interviews with Carl Sagan and a live performance from Chuck Berry. A young 15 year old version of myself watched these specials in awe – partly at the scientific accomplishment which had only previously lived in the imaginations of Science Fiction authors – and partly at the idea that this probe and the information it contains could potentially travel beyond our solar system and live on for centuries.
Carl Sagan wrote, “Billions of years from now our sun, then a distended red giant star, will have reduced Earth to a charred cinder. But the Voyager record will still be largely intact, in some other remote region of the Milky Way galaxy, preserving a murmur of an ancient civilization that once flourished — perhaps before moving on to greater deeds and other worlds — on the distant planet Earth.”
Have you ever thought about the legacy that you’re leaving? The impact that you’re having from a professional perspective?
Note that I’m not talking about a personal legacy, like your children. This about your business.
How are you helping people? How are you supporting other initiatives? How will the impression of your life live on beyond your years?
To this day, whenever I think about Voyager or even hear Chuck Berry’s song, I think about the legacy those scientists and engineers left for themselves and our entire species. Just imagine, billions of years from now, on a distant planet, someone might once again listen to these lyrics:
His mother told him “someday you will be a man
And you will be the leader of a big old band
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying “Johnny B. Goode tonight”
Go Johnny go
While we can’t all send samples of our creations into deep space, that doesn’t bely the importance of thinking about legacy. In fact, you might pause for a moment and consider what the very idea of legacy in this context means to you? Perhaps it’s being able to share wealth or information or effect change. Or perhaps, like some others, it’s knowing that the work you’re doing is having a lasting impact not only on the people you help, but a rippling benefit to all those that are in turn helped.
A great example is the work of Flossie Hall and the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs
, or AMSE. Flossie’s organization works tirelessly to help military spouses build stable incomes and terrific businesses that they can operate from anywhere, no matter when they might be asked to move, empowering them to make a difference. Not only has Flossie built a successful system that can continue on indefinitely, she only has to look at the thousands of businesses her members have created to see the impact AMSE is having.
You don’t have be a non-profit to build legacy, you just need to consider how the work you’re doing is benefiting others and what lasting impact you might be having. This might be a solution that you’re selling, or perhaps an audience that you’re focused on. Or perhaps you might considering using a portion of the revenue you bring in to help others more directly, in a philanthropic way.
From a business perspective, I initially thought that my legacy might be in helping others to blog more and better utilize content marketing, but today that feels a little too self-serving, as well as unfocused. Plus, truth be told, too many of the entrepreneurs I talk to and work with hate to blog, and I’m just not that interested in trying to convince you to do something that you hate. My blogging bootcamp is really only designed to guide your efforts, not motivate you in contrary to your own misgivings.
No, what the past year has shown me as a possibility for my own legacy is in the power I have to amplify the voices of minorities. Through the virtual events that I host quarterly, which attract thousands and thousands of attendees, I’m able to ensure that women, people of color, and other speakers coming from minorities often ignored by events in the marketing space, get an opportunity to be seen and heard. And not only am I helping these well-deserving speakers to show off how brilliant they are, I’m also showing other event organizers that it’s not hard to include minorities. The past two events that I hosted, I’m proud to say, had a majority of speakers who were women or people of color.
Four decades later, Voyager is still going strong and the team at NASA recently shared a tweet which said as though from the probe, “My gift is tenacity. My twin and I are the most distant human-made objects from Earth and the first to communicate from interstellar space. We’re still going strong, more than 43 years in space!” Voyager then went on to ask, “What’s your unique talent?”
That’s a particularly telling question, I think, because I believe it’s through our unique talents that we’re best prepared to build real legacy. One of my talents is doubtless the ability to build relationships and connect people, so supporting and promoting minority speakers can come from that easily. I believe that I will be able to look back, years from now, and see powerful, impactful speakers who got their start presenting at Social Pulse Summit
The Voyager program’s discoveries during the primary phase of its mission, including new close-up color photos of the major planets, were regularly documented by print and electronic media outlets. Among the best-known of these is an image of the Earth as a Pale Blue Dot, taken in 1990 by Voyager 1, and popularized by Carl Sagan.
He said, “Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us….The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena…. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
The legacy that you leave is, at the core, the way in which people remember you and how you ultimately cared for the only home we’ve ever known. How will your name be remembered? As you’re planning ahead for the year, keep an eye toward the distant future and see how you might write your name in the stars.