Living the Way We Want to be Remembered

Yesterday, I sang on stage. In a pink wig. In front of our entire school. Though I had purchased the wig last year for the same purpose, I never ended up using it because three of our teachers welcomed me into an experience of performance. When the end of this year rolled around, there were zero acts for the talent show. None. Which is why I can realize this morning that my last minute decision to reach back to last year's plan was what was meant to be. As a backstage pass to leadership, the sequence of events and my reflection are what make up this blog post as an illustration of how we can choose to lead comfortably or boldly. And which style allows us to live our mission? 

Not only was it the last day of school for students at Spooner High, it was my last day as their principal for good. We had a half day packed with an adjusted schedule. After a solid start to the morning, we were picking up speed with a shortened schedule and an assembly that had gone from talent/award show to award show. Though it pained me that we would not have a tradition of student performance to end the year carried out, I felt comfortable with the amount of awards our awesome staff were giving out to honor students. After re-organizing the agenda to account for no acts and assisting with the flow of the office, I began making my rounds to be with students and staff. I was in a classroom checking in on a teacher and the talent show was mentioned. A student asked if I was going to perform, and then a few others chimed in. I realized in that moment, they were expecting something from me after years of threatening to bust out in song on stage instead of just in the hallways and lunchroom. 

Given my #oneword2018 #RISE and it's implications, I could feel the familiar tug of the message unfolding in my heart. I was supposed to share my passions with the students. One more chance. 

However, the thought of getting up there without preparing was wretched. And it was getting close to go time. I gave it a few more chances to fail. If the wig couldn't be found at home and brought to me, it would not happen.  If I couldn't get the audio support from tech, easy decision. In fact, I have an iPhone 7 and I didn't know where the adapter for the audio jack was at the moment. Phew. Easy decision. Wait, it's in my purse. Ok. Quick sound check. Magically, it worked, and I selected a karaoke version of  "Who Knew" by Pink to have set. A quick run through but if the sound balance was too off, I'd forget it.  If there was not enough time in the program, I would cut it. Wait until the end. MAYBE, slip in a little performance if we had too much time. 

I got the wig and a hug from my daughters with thirty minutes to spare and no time to rehearse or arrange the bold, pink fake locks on my head because check out with students is a busy time. The office was abuzz with questions. The logical voice in my head stated that I needed to just focus on the management of the building and not do this. End comfortably. 

After an hour of mulling it through amidst the myriad tasks and interactions, my plan was to put the wig backstage but very likely not use it. 

What impacted my decision to ultimately perform was my administrative assistant. She saw the wig, probed about it, so I shared what I was thinking. She could have rolled her eyes. Gave me a look to stop me. Said something even remotely discouraging or shame inducing, and I would have bagged it. Instead, her eyes lit up, and she spoke words of honor. Do it. Because she is another one who wants a great environment for students. And it takes people to lead it to make that happen. So I did. 

I walked quickly to the auditorium since students were going to be dismissed in three minutes. Fumbled nervously with the wig and music backstage with no lights. Tried to use my phone to adjust the wig in the dark, got panicky when my long blond hair wouldn't fit right under it and started shaking. I briefly considered cutting it again. In a moment of clarity, I looked out to students filing in. Saw one that I knew needed to see me do this. Breathed. Centered the wig, and got out there, opening the event in vulnerable fashion.

My purpose shines brightest when I am me and bold leading is my style. In fact, a life mission comes from Maya Angelou who spoke into my heart with her words,  "My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with passion, compassion, humor and style." 

Living a legacy is truly about the daily moments that culminate into a larger than life vision of the ways in which people remember you.  

It's so vulnerable. Because in one day, a leader might close the door to an office and hear about a staff member's personal struggles, finalize evaluation paperwork, handle a discipline matter or two, say emotional goodbye to people she loves--only to walk out and lead an assembly, wearing a wig and belting out a tune--even if it is a little off key here and there. 

As I sit here in reflection, it strikes me that yesterday was a perfect example of the opportunity leaders are given to take hold of moments. We are in positions to allow others to shine and support them.We are also in positions to lead by example and model risk taking. After my performance, a student literally begged me to fit in a quick back flip on stage. Interestingly, it's a student who had broken my trust with a prank two years prior at our end of the year show. This gave me a beautiful opportunity to show trust. Both ways. His flip got raving response from the students, and it was one of my favorite moments. Redemption in the last hour. Literally. 

In leadership, every day does not hold highly public experiences, but every day does hold moments. May we all seize them and see their value. Take a risk to help others #RISE through our own model. 

My leadership ended at Spooner High sharing passion, leading without fear, and showing up to the very end. My legacy is yet to be known as it will be spoken from people, but I am thankful to have lived the way in which I want to be remembered right up to the end. 


  1. Thanks for the story, Sarah. The most impactful leaders are vulnerable and strong at the same time. Thanks for your witness to this credo -- and abundant blessings in your next chapter....


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