Camping with the Vanderbilts

by Shaun R Smith on September 21, 2010

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I spent the weekend at the Great Camp Sagamore, at a friend’s party.  This camp was originally built by William West Durant in the late 1890’s.  When he went bankrupt in 1901, he sold it to Alfred Vanderbilt – one of the wealthiest Americans at the time.  When he died heroically on the Lusitania in 1915, his widow Margaret ran it for the next 40 years.  It’s a beautiful site and the architecture is amazing.  Some people credit Sagamore and a couple of the other great camps (where other major industrialists would summer and escape the city – including J. P. Morgan) with birthing American rustic architecture.  The buildings appear to literally grow out of the ground.

In this beautiful environment, I started thinking about legacies.  While some of us, me included, might sometimes have a challenging time thinking beyond the next few years, your legacy is what extends beyond your lifetime.  What difference will your life have made 100 years from now?

These great industrial icons (or robber barons, depending on your view) were thinking about that.  Even today, the business greats amongst us are turning to philanthropy as they get older and thinking about what difference they want to have on the world.  They are thinking beyond themselves and beyond the present time – looking far into the future to vision out how they might leave the world a better place than they found it.

My challenge for me and for you – how are you leaving the world a better place than you found it?

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