“Control your own destiny — or someone else will.” It was one of Jack Welch’s favourite expressions, and the title of a 1993 bestselling book celebrating the management style of the famed General Electric CEO. Welch ruled the multinational conglomerate — and, truth be told, corporate America — with an iron fist for most of the 1980s and ‘90s.
Welch died on March 1, 2020, at the age of 84, but his many maxims — “Change before you have to”; “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete” — live on. For the media-savvy Welch, constantly being in the public eye helped to build the GE brand and attract top talent to his company. He cultivated relationships with business journalists and management consultants alike — and they, in turn, captured his life, and his work, in dozens of books and case studies for future generations.
Not everybody is “Neutron Jack,” but every leader has a story to tell: going through difficult times, making challenging decisions, and somehow coming out the other side. Right now, leaders in government, business, and the not-for-profit sector are staring out their self-isolated windows and wondering: What will that post-pandemic other side look like?
The best among them are not just wondering, though; they’re planning for the future. In some cases, they’re reconsidering the technology they use, or the need for bricks-and-mortar office space. In others, they’re rethinking how they go to market or pondering a pivot into a whole new business segment.
These important decisions — and the thinking that goes into them — needs to be recorded for posterity. Not just to detail the tough times or tragedies that were ultimately overcome. We also need to memorialize these moments of inspiration for future generations who will be as hungry for answers as we are today. Like: How did Starbucks’s Howard Schultz popularize the notion of coffee culture at a time when everybody was drinking diner brew? What made Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft, the unlikely leader of the 1970s microcomputing revolution? Or Kylie Jenner (no really!): How did she build her hugely successful Kylie Cosmetics to become the youngest billionaire in the world?
Why get your story down now, you ask, and not sometime down the road? Ask anybody who has tried to recall high school math: the longer you wait, the fuzzier the details become. Many of the world’s top leaders keep a journal, which helps to recreate those pivotal moments later, but memorializing a life’s challenges and successes is not something to be done to the beat of a ticking clock. It needs planning, research, and contemplation. It needs the luxury of time.
By taking that time to invest in your story now, you are giving future generations and future business leaders a proven, repeatable roadmap to look back on when they falter in a crisis of their own: How did you build your empire? How did you navigate setbacks and what did you learn from your failures? What are your values and how did they see you through? This is work that benefits you and benefits future readers. And the time to start is today. Because if you don’t take control and write your history now, perhaps nobody else will.
We’re always interested in hearing from people who have stories to share. During this time of physical distancing, the team at ECHO is set up for remote work and ready to tackle new projects. If you want to turn your life story or company history into a beautiful and compelling book, please get in touch today. Call us at 604.261.1858 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.