Sum It Up

Résumé comes from the French, résumer, meaning “to sum up.” Curriculum Vitae, more commonly referred to by its shorthand abbreviation CV, is a Latin term meaning “course of life.” A résumé lists work history and experiences along with a brief summary of skills and education; the CV is a far more comprehensive document listing—in thoughtful detail—achievements, awards, honors, and publications. Résumés and CVs are our attempts to summarize ourselves so someone else will be interested in us. Obviously, we are going to paint ourselves in the best light possible in either of these documents.

How we see ourselves is important, but how others see us may be more important. Not in the way we often reflect on what others think, where we are mostly concerned with surface things like our appearance or our possessions or how witty we are at parties. Rather in the way people perceive our motivations and character. Who they believe us to truly be.

What if instead of writing your own résumé or CV, you ask the people around you to write it? What would they say about you? About your beliefs. About your character. About the way you treat others. Would the people who work for or with you give you a letter of recommendation?

As leaders, we sometimes must make difficult decisions that impact people. These decisions are rarely popular and, at least in the moment, make us unpopular too. Good leadership is not always warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it feels harsh.

I had a teacher in high school who seemed very harsh while I was in her class. Mrs. Tuck taught English, and her class consisted of reading literature and then writing about it. At least once a week, she would pass out blue books (small test books with a few pages of empty lined paper) and have us write about a topic, a quote, or a sentence she wrote on the board. We wrote in pen, and if we made a mistake, we were to draw a single line through it and keep going. It was impromptu, timed, and terrifying.

As I look back on that class and Mrs. Tuck, I would write a very glowing letter of recommendation for her. She was, in fact, the best teacher I had in high school. She was hard on us, but what she asked us to do was reasonable, given where we were going (college.) Everything she did was to prepare us because she cared about us. She wanted us to be able to communicate well through our writing and, by extension, our speaking. She loved us.

A healthy community is led by people who care. People who truly care make tough decisions and challenge the people they care about. People who care also sacrifice for the people they care about. I don’t remember what kind of car Mrs. Tuck had. I don’t remember how nice her house was. I don’t think I ever knew where she went to school or how many awards she received. What I do remember is that she taught me to gather my thoughts quickly and cohesively and then write them down. By extension, I know she cared enough about me to ask me to work hard because she knew how valuable that would be to me later in life, and she was right.

One day, each of us will have our lives summed up for the last time. What will the people who know you have to say? What will the people you work with and lead have to say? I want to live in such a way that the thing everyone says about me is, “He cared about me, and it showed.” I want to be part of creating a community where the best thing that can be said about someone is that they made a difference in someone else’s life. For me, that would sum it up, and it is The Kimray Way.