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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • August 15, 2020
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A Small Step to a Great Legacy 

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A version of this article first appeared in Inc.com

Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:

Most Visionary founders I know want to leave a legacy.

It’s a fairly universal goal – in Walter Isaacson’s hugely popular biography of Steve Jobs, practically the first words Jobs says to his biographer are to the effect that he wants to build a company that will outlive him.

It’s a laudable goal, and even from a purely mercenary perspective, a good one – founders who build organizations bigger than themselves typically have a much greater positive impact on the world around them than those who harbor no such ambition.

The trick, of course, is in getting there. I have no idea as to whether or not you will succeed in building a legacy. There are too many variables – the quality and endurance of your chosen product or service or not-for-profit offering; your own skills; the support group you have around you – but I can tell within a few minutes whether or not a founder has at least started down the road to building a legacy, or if, instead, they’re a bottleneck, preventing the very thing they profess to want.

How can I tell? It lies in the answer to this question:

Do you still put your bear smear on everything?

Here’s what I mean: Folklore has it that if a baby bear is touched by humans, the mother bear will reject the cub because it smells of the enemy. As a result, the cub will be left to fend for itself, and will almost certainly die of neglect.

Now, whether or not this is a myth, it's verifiably true that Visionary founders act in the opposite manner – they have a near-psychotic need to put their ‘bear smear’ on just about everything they see, in order to ‘make it their own’.

Bring a Visionary founder the greatest solution to their biggest problem, and they’ll tell you it’s great – and then add a twist or a change that’s entirely theirs - Bear smear

Come up with a fantastic idea for a new product or service, and they’ll enthusiastically adopt it – with a vital difference that they came up with themselves - Bear smear

Emerge from the warehouse with a brilliant new inventory management plan that will save thousands and they’ll eagerly implement it – after moving just a few things around to make it their own - Bear smear

Spend months developing a cost-effective way to dramatically extend the reach of your not-for-profit work, they'll praise you to the skies - then suggest 'just one tweak' - Bear smear

If you’re bear smearing from time to time, but relatively rarely, fine – that’s what your entrepreneurial experience is there for. But if you’re bear smearing all the time, on everything (hint: ask your colleagues to read this then give you their opinion), then you’re a barrier to your own organization's growth.

Here’s my simple tip: Allow yourself one bear smear a week. And use it wisely.

What do you think - do you bear smear? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. A helpful provocation to trust and embrace other ideas and team members approaches that by necessity needs to avoid micro management ,this empowering,valuing and growing others.

  2. Wow, Les. As a consultant to small mostly family owned businesses I SEE THIS ALL THE TIME! Thanks for putting a name to it! I'm currently in Discovery for a company. The number one complaint is this. You nailed it. Thanks. Genius!

  3. I appreciate your reading your post. First, I find you pleasant to listen to! But also, I can listen to your post and do some mindless tasks at the same time. Thanks.

  4. I did appreciate the audio option. Thank you, Les, for reading the post for us. As always, I appreciate the content!

  5. Great to see you here! Let me know your thoughts on 'bear smearing'.

    Do you do it? Do colleagues you work with do it? Have you found coping mechanisms to deal with it? Share with the community…

    1. I don’t think I “Bear Smear” and yet maybe I do and don’t realize I do it . . . I am going to pay attention to the ideas presented and see if I am guilty of this. Thanks for your thought provoking content Les!

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