Every morning, at 6am, a waterski boat comes into view. I’ve got coffee, the afghan over me, and I’m watching the morning unfold from my front window on Williams Lake. Moments later, a skier emerges from beneath the water, gliding and dancing across the wake. One single ski enables all that grace. It seems effortless.
I recently commenced writing a second book. I had thought one single book would be it. The first book certainly wasn’t effortless. Why go through it all again? But then I think, it’s because others before me made my life easier, and maybe this new effort is a thank you to them. There’s the one, single congressman I read about last week, who was around in the 1920’s. He became the swing vote for ushering in the 19th Amendment, that key law which gave women our constitutional rights. The story goes that when his mother found out about the hung vote, she told him to vote yes. “Do it for the ladies,” she told him. And being a good son, he cast the deciding vote.
Then there’s a man I’m coming to know, Paul Polman, who is CEO of Unilever. Unilever is the mega-company which makes products like Dove Soap, Hellman’s, Lipton Tea, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Paul has graciously accepted my invitation to appear in this second book. What a remarkable man, I’m learning! He’s one of the few CEO’s who’ve figured out how to balance social action with business results. Paul’s work is devoted to reducing the carbon footprint Unilever products are leaving. He also gets the power of women in business. He recognizes our assets as a real competitive advantage; our empathy, our sense of purpose, our gift of partnership. He goes so far as to predict that future leadership will require women and the gifts we bring.
One of my favorite lines of his is: “You can’t be a bystander in a system that gives you life in the first place.” Bingo. I know some C-suite people who live to collect a fat paycheck, and that’s it. Paul looks at his work as a mission, with purpose–to serve the business good, and the common good too. I’m glad my book can shine a light on his work.
I’m watching now…and I see the boat slow. Our skier is finished for the morning. She drops, and then extends her hand so the driver can pull her up, into the boat. Maybe that’s my mission, to lend a hand. Maybe that’s everyone’s mission. We can be single people who try to make a difference for a few, or for many.