Leaving your mark

Some would have you believe that the thought about leaving a legacy is something which happens at a certain “time of life”.  I don’t buy that.

I was prompted to think about this by a couple of things which happened in recent weeks.  Both certainly had an impact, as you’ll see.

The first was seeing a tribute written in honour of my dear Uncle Trevor (Kletz) who passed away just over 5 years ago. Trevor was a brilliant man, with deep and world-renowned expertise in health and safety, in particular process safety. Well into his 80s he was still touring the world lecturing on his subject; he was not only supremely knowledgeable, but this was clearly his passion and he had a gift in being able to communicate in the simplest ways to make his knowledge so much more accessible.  I met someone on a train a few years ago and they mentioned they worked in this same field.  “Do you know my late uncle Trevor?”, I asked, thinking this would be a one-in-a-million chance.  “Trevor Kletz: the guy is a rock star!” he replied.

Whilst alive, if ever there was a major industrial disaster, Trevor would be called upon to troubleshoot.  But that was looking back, to see what went wrong.  His mission was to prevent accidents happening in the first place; countless lives have been saved through the wisdom he shared with others.  Trevor is credited with driving through a change in legislation which required transporters of hazardous materials to display contents clearly for all to see, especially the emergency services.  We might now take such practice as routine, but it wasn’t, and what a difference it must have made to rescuers at countless accidents.  He truly left his mark and an extraordinary legacy.

But something else happened which reminded me of how others can leave a different legacy.  This was less impactful for the world, but every bit as impactful for me.

I was at the theatre recently and at the interval thought I recognised the voice behind me.  I swung around and there was a former mentor of mine, Keith.  Many years previously he had recruited me into PW (as it was then, now PwC) where I began my career in Accountancy.  As some do, 2-3 years post-qualification, I started to question whether this was indeed the right career choice and whether, even at that stage, it wasn’t too late to change direction.  Keith counselled me and with his help I made a dramatic (as it seemed then) switch into the world of Human Resources.  He supported me think through my choices and he opened up new options for me, whilst always allowing me to come to my own conclusions.  On seeing him again at the theatre, some 30 years or so later, I remembered Keith being there for me at a time I needed his help most.

Did Keith save lives that day?  No, but he had a life and career changing impact –  on me.  We can’t all be Trevors, but we can all leave a legacy in other, positive ways.  Maybe it’s spotting when someone needs help and finding the time to offer it; maybe it’s a kind word; maybe it’s a gesture, some encouragement, a challenge.  We can all do that, surely?  And this isn’t something for later in life, this is for now.

Jeremy Franks, Partner Aretai LLP

September 2019

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