As I write this, I’m visiting the wild, west coast of Ireland, a green seaside village of Ballyvaughan. In the past week, I’ve been immersed in Irish culture—hilly walks through The Burren to ancient stone dwellings, rousing sessions of traditional music in intimate pubs, sacred song and ritual in a fourteenth century church. I’m not sure if I’m Irish, though many foreigners I meet claim to be and are searching for their long-lost relatives. It’s easy to get heritage envy, as the people are deeply connected to their place, their history, their customs and each other. As the daughter of a nomadic military family, I’m sure I can’t fully understand such a resonant sense of belonging. As a poet, I could be utterly wrecked by trying to live up to live up to the rich literary tradition here. How do the Irish do it?
Here’s the thing: the only real responsibility you have is to honor your inheritance, no matter your culture or country. Do something with what you’ve been given, whether it’s songs passed down through generations or the vivid memory of a landscape. Importantly, your heritage is not only embedded in your surname; your heritage is all that has come before you—your era, your personal history, social movements, experiences and relationships. Every step along the way, every conversation is part of what you inherit and what is yours to transform into your one, true life.
It’s the same for teams and groups, organizations and corporations. You inherit the vision of your founders or owners. You inherit the leadership lessons of your predecessors, good and bad. What will you make of this inheritance now? Where will we go from here? The most creative, indeed innovative, thing we can do is to honor our inheritance by listening deeply, beginning anew, and forging a way to our future selves. No need for heritage envy. All you need is precisely here.