Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Leaving Your Mark On The Lives Of Others

Evidence left behind.

Tom Selbe graduated from Arkansas City, Kansas High School in 1964, leaving behind several desks with his distinctive block lettered last name.  I found this desk among several that had been discarded after the old high school was knocked down to make way for the Brown Center, a wonderful center for the arts and events in my hometown. 

Years later, when I was shown the room of discarded furniture from the old school, I recognized Tom’s name on a couple of desks.  I snapped a photo, hoping to send it to him sometime. Sadly, he passed away before I could locate him.  However, I was able to send the photo to his daughter, who enjoyed having the reminder of her dad as a fun-loving (though a bit destructive!) high school student. 

What mark are you leaving?

In a presentation I made recently I said the time to plan our retirement party is the day we are hired. It’s too late to build a good reputation and inspire good memories a few weeks before everyone gathers to say farewell. It takes a large part of a career to do that.

One of the participants in the class told me later that it was a particularly significant thought for her because she had planned many retirement functions as well as transfer parties or birthday events, and the differences in reactions about employees was very noticeable. She said almost all employees, at all levels, were given a polite round of applause and some handshakes, but some were clearly held in higher esteem and affection than others. She mentioned one person especially who was so problematic that the day after he left several people brought in another cake to celebrate!

Popularity isn’t everything

I don’t think being popular is all that we should aim for–although being unpopular doesn’t get you very far.  The reality of work and life is that requiring a lot of yourself and others,  holding the line about good behavior and performance and not supporting negative ideas and people no matter how popular they are, will not always be valued or even understood.  In fact, it may  be loathed, mocked or complained about.  (But, if we’re going to be disliked, it should be for something of that nature, not just for being obnoxious, arrogant or mean-spirited.)

Planning for Your Retirement Party

There are a variety of ways to ensure that the mark you leave is one you can be proud of and others can respect.

  • Be quietly caring and concerned. (See my last article on quiet growth.)
  • Help others to be more successful.
  • Do something worthwhile that lasts and helps others over time.
  • Be a leader in something for which people of high standards can see value.
  • Develop others.
  • Build a team in which high quality and quantity work is the standard.
  • Create a program or process that gets good results.
  • Be someone others want to be around.
  • Be the positive addition to most settings.
  • Minimize habits, traits and behaviors that lead to bad memories of you.
  • Say, write and do things that are memorable in the hearts and minds of others.

Whatever specific things you do, make sure you are continously growing and caring–whether quietly or actively in appropriate ways.  It’s the best way to carve your name on the desk of life!

Thanks, Tom, for the inspiration.  I don’t approve of carving on desks, but in this case I think I’m glad you did it.


Tom Selbe-1946-2009--ACHS 1964

November 18th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 6 comments


  1. Tina, this is so good and so thought provoking. Thank you for sharing about your high school friend. I was always too obedient to ever carve my name, but I once wrote it inside my locker and worried for the next ten years that I would be prosecuted!

    Thank you also for assisting the young lady in our church who wrote to you about her career plans. You gave her exactly the information and counseling she needed. You are a blessing to many! Don

    Comment by Don R. | November 20, 2010

  2. I plan a lot of retirement parties too, and know what the person you talked to was talking about. What I think is sad is that some of the people who haven’t really done anything for the group get the big slap on the back by their coworkers. But, the people who have done the most, especially some of our managers who really work hard and do their jobs right, just get fake smiles. It seems like popularity means never asking anyone to do good work!

    There are some of us who appreciated the good work so I think we are the group that counts! Hope so anyway! S.

    Comment by Sharon B. | November 20, 2010

  3. First, good article. It reminded me of Lester Greer who went to school with me and left his mark everywhere. He wrote LES G. in big letters all over the place. I’ll bet some of them are still around and maybe I can check on it.
    Second, I’ll write my name on my desk next time you teach in Wyoming and I’ll see how you like it. Third, that’s a good list of things to do to leave a mark.

    Comment by wiseacre | November 20, 2010

  4. T. Believe it or not . . . I remember sitting next to Tom as he left “his mark” (and, even reminding him that he could get in trouble by leaving his name) . . . and, that his comment from years ago still are distinct in my mind, “I want people to know I was here!” Time stands still with your article, remarks and human interests. R.I.P., Tom Selbe. Best.

    Comment by SBL | November 22, 2010

  5. Wow. I can see Tom sitting at a desk right now. A big loveable guy. This is so neat. Thanks, Tina!

    Comment by Bulldog | November 22, 2010

  6. I’m sorry your friend departed from this world too soon, but this was really a good way to remember him I think. My Dad would have done something like this. Nice article, Tina.

    Comment by N.R. | November 22, 2010

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