Global Conference 2007
Shaping Your Own Future: Life After Business Success
Monday, April 23, 2007 / 4:50 pm - 6:00 pm
Panelist Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation identified three principles that had allowed him to transition from owner of two companies to "Mr. Big," as Estrich affectionately called him. Broad noted that he would "go out looking for opportunities, improve things that already existed and start things that didn't exist." These led to the development of numerous opportunities, such as the Broad Foundation, the Broad Prize, the Broad Institute and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.
"I had a genetic need to give back, and I wasn't defined by my work," said Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures. "At age 12, I began watching people I admired because of what they gave back to the world. They used their wealth to try to make the world a better place. I always had a plan. I said that if I was lucky enough to have my dreams come true, I wanted to start a foundation at 60." As the first woman to head a major studio, Lansing fits any measure of success. After more than 10 years at Paramount, she retired and created the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for cancer research. Although some were skeptical about her leaving, she noted that she was "rewired not retired." Fueled by her passion for education as a former math teacher, and her interest in cancer as a result of her mother's cancer-related death, Lansing said she is as happy today as ever. "I'm growing every day and feel younger every day. I have new friends and I'm learning new things."
"If you have a sneaky suspicion that you're wasting your life, you probably are," said Jane Kaczmarek, who added that she felt this way until she began working with children's charities. As a popular television and big-screen actress and the wife of a famous actor, her life would be envied by many. It wasn't until she founded Clothes Off Our Back, which auctions celebrity clothing for children's charities, that she truly began to understand the meaning of service. She stated that celebrity life didn't compare "to the feeling you get when you've immunized kids in Africa or repaired a cleft palate in India."
Panelist Elizabeth Kanna, a business transformation consultant and co-founder of Dream In You, noted the common theme in the panelists' stories: passion. All spoke of being passionate about the work that they do. This passion calmed their fears, wouldn't allow them to give up, wouldn't allow them to stay in their prior jobs and led them to question the status quo. Kanna suggested that one look for clues to ascertain what he/she is passionate about. More specifically, she said, ask yourself: if money were not an issue, what would you do? Next, she suggested, develop a personal brand/story. Also, identify and develop your skills set. Although more is needed, these are the first steps towards having life after business success.
Although the panelists may seem to work in areas completely different from their prior careers, Lansing identified principles that were important in her career at Paramount and now working in her foundation: if something doesn′t, work fix it. If everybody hates your idea, it's probably a good one. Build consensus.
Even though it may have been comfortable for the panelists to remain in their careers, it was scarier for them to stay, they agreed. Many expressed joy in the growth and learning opportunities afforded by their new jobs. Working on issues, such as education and medicine, has necessitated a new sense of patience not experienced before in the business arena. But Broad warned against accepting the pace at which the status quo is changed. "Don't be too patient," he said. "Patience may not be a virtue."
Many people think you need to be rich in order to do philanthropy, but according to these panelists, that's not true. Perhaps Lansing summarized it best, saying, "it's not about money, it's about ideas, passion, commitment and time. If you′re willing to give that, you can make the world a better place."
Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Southern California Law School