Who will remember you?

Victorian Printing

I’ve met thousands of people over my long career — colleagues, clients, direct reports, bosses, executives, and “influencers” of every stripe.

I also have a really poor memory for people. So I’m a decent test case for the question, “Who will remember you?”

If I remember somebody after decades of work, they were truly memorable.

So who do I remember?

  1. People who I helped. Clients. I vividly remember every client from my nine years as an editor and author coach. I also remember nearly all the clients from my 20 years as an analyst, plus the many colleagues who came to me for coaching and mentoring in every job I ever had. If I helped you, I needed to understand your problem. That meant I put intellectual effort into analyzing that problem, and emotional effort into empathizing with your challenges. If you come back to me 15 or 30 years later, I will remember that, and I will remember you.
  2. People who helped me. I never forget a favor. I never forget a mentor. I didn’t get here without a lot of help, and I know who provided that.
  3. People who I collaborated with. If we build something together, we needed to have each other’s backs, learn about each other’s skills and foibles, and recognize each other’s commitment to quality. You can’t go through that with somebody and forget them.
  4. People who were awful to me. If you screwed me, I may forgive, but I’m sure not going to forget. I remember the colleague who told other colleagues I was dishonest, the guy who wrote a blog about how I was full of crap, the executive who went out of his way to tell people not to trust anything I said, and the boss who attempted to take credit for my work. It’s not that long a list, but if you’re on it, I haven’t forgotten how you showed who you really were.

Does this mean anything?

I don’t know. I don’t think my poor memory for people should be anybody’s benchmark for how the world works.

But it does mean this.

If you work on something important together, you have a friend for life. If you connect with someone around their own most important challenges — or yours — they won’t forget.

And if you feel a strong need to make enemies, you’ll always be remembered as a loser.

Don’t be forgotten. Be remembered for what matters.

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One Comment

  1. “If you screwed me, I may forgive, but I’m sure not going to forget.”

    It’s a good rule to follow: “Forgive and remember.”