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Saying goodbye to a Texas Legend and an American Original

In my life I have had the great fortune to know Liz Carpenter. I met Liz through my friend Jennifer Hill. My favorite memories are many: Liz's fabulous dinner parties, where you might be sitting between a political heavyweight and a radio personality hearing them talk about the craziest thing they ever did for love, watching the Gore/Bush debates with her, and soaking in her hot tub.

What I loved more than anything about Liz Carpenter was her optimism and sense of fun. Liz inspired you to think big and work hard. Liz was passionate about life. As Sarah Weddington, another Texas legend I am proud to call a friend, said at her service, "Liz, life won't be the same without you, but thanks to you its better." Like Sarah, who opened doors for women to control their reproductive lives, Liz opened doors for women in press, politics and penned the words that comforted a nation in its darkest hour. Liz was irrepressible and lovable. She rehearsed her funeral twice, once while standing onstage and having a choir sing How Great Thou Art. Liz stood for women, Texas and democracy. I'll never forget what her granddaughter Bonnie said about her, because Liz made me feel the same way, "I can't tell you how it feels for a woman like that, with a life like that, to be proud of you."

After Liz wrote Getting Better all the Time , about getting older she joked about coming out with a sequel titled, "I lied". But it is her thoughts on the afterlife that stay with me: "I have some to think of the hereafter as the last and ultimate home, where we became part of the universal soul and understand all we have striven to know before. I hope for a place of signing and laughter in a circle of all those I've loved who have gone before me. I hope there will be plenty of things left to do. It will be hard for someone like me to just lie around on billowing clouds, shining up my halo and preening my wings. I want to keep on learning and being part of things, entering the mind of those I've left behind with an answer, some guidance, or a kiss when they need it most."

How do you know when it's time to say goodbye?

This week the Founder of Sweet Leaf Tea, Clayton Christopher, officially steps down as CEO.   Clayton bootstrapped his company in 1998 starting it with $10,000 initial investment, his grandmother's iced tea recipe, pillowcases for brewing and crawfish pots for steeping.   He turned his dream into a national brand.  Last year Nestle invested over 15 million in the company.  Clayton recently won both Austinite of the Year and Austin under 40 and has graced the cover of Inc magazine. I admire Clayton's honesty, acknowledging that the company had grown past him and it was time for him to move on.  That decision takes a lot of bravery.

Founders a forces of nature. Their guts, vision, determination, drive and charisma are critical to getting a start up off the ground.   It can be hard to say goodbye to founders, especially when their personality is infused with the brand.  Leaving the organization you started takes copious amounts of courage and humility.  Leadership transitions can be hard not just for founders, but for the staff and supporters they leave behind.   Handling them with grace requires openness, honesty and sometimes forgiveness.

How do you know when it's time to let go?  You may feel burned out.  Your company may be poised for a growth step (national or international expansion, franchising, etc) that extends past your passion or your skill set.   Or, you may just be ready to pursue another opportunity.  Whatever the reason, proceed with a healthy dose of gratitude, patience and optimism.  Saying goodbye can be hard but when one door closes, another opens.

Stay classy,