Constellations, Not Fireworks: A Framework For Building Your Legacy

Every mentor I’ve ever had, had a mentor of their own.

In my early 20s, I got to spend some time around my mentor’s mentor. He was one of the other Managing Partners at the agency I worked at, but didn’t live in Chicago. Every few months, sometimes only twice a year, he would come to town.

He’d swing by the office, run through a series of meetings, and then anyone who wanted to stay late was invited to join him and the other Managing Partners for dinner somewhere down the street.

I always went.

If I had learned as much as I had from my own mentor, “Imagine what I could learn from the guy who teaches him,” I thought to myself.

One evening, we were sitting waiting for our Indian food at a restaurant a few blocks away called Jaipur.

The partners were talking about a client who had spent a ton of money on their launch event, but hadn’t invested very much into their actual product.

But, listening from across the table, I was confused. I thought fireworks were a good thing. I thought, working in advertising, fireworks and attention was what you wanted.

As if sensing my question, he looked at me and said, “It’s going to be a disaster. Constellations, not fireworks. That’s what you want. Fireworks last for a moment. Constellations last for lifetimes.”

Both make people pay attention, he explained.

But one exponentially outlives the other.

Since then, in everything I do, I started asking myself, “Am I building a constellation? Or just setting off fireworks?”

Said differently: am I burning up resources for instant gratification?

Or am I building my legacy, one star at a time.

This is an Atomic Essay from the Ship 30 for 30 daily writing challenge.

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