Husband-and-Wife Team Help Unemployed People Discover Their Life's Legacy

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The husband-and-wife team behind Whitline Ink, a creative studio based in North Carolina, specialize in helping the newly unemployed discover and live their life's legacy through simple questions and intuitive listening. During an unsettling time for people, Whitline guides them to remember that while a job and even material possessions can be taken away, their legacy cannot.

Who are you at the end of the day, apart from a job, bank account or any material possessions? That's the beauty of what's at your core, your legacy -- it can't be repossessed by anyone other than you."

"What's the core theme of your life?" That's one question Emily-Sarah Lineback of Whitline Ink asks to guide people to think about their legacy. Instead of a will that parcels out your tangible estate, she has you consider the spiritual, moral, and creative inheritance that you bequeath to others and leave behind in a myriad of ways.

Carol Jones, who recently lost the textile job she'd had for 30 years, felt lost when the last paycheck arrived. "It is so much more than the [loss of] money," she shares. "This is the only job I've ever had since I got out of school. What am I supposed to do?"

It's a question many people ask when they become unemployed or when careers and industries begin to move in new directions. "When the economy went crazy in the fall of 2008, over a span of a few months we lost 100% of our contract work," Scott Whitaker, principal of Whitline Ink, says. The creative studio, which now helps companies and individuals tell their stories through various forms of communication -- books, public relations, magazines, marketing -- was suddenly depending on one-off projects. "And those don't have much profit margin or lasting effects," Whitaker adds. The company redefined itself in early 2009, tightened its signature talents, redesigned its website and added "legacy statements" -- helping people find their legacy -- as an official item on its services list.

"We possess a blend of intuition and hard-core expertise," Lineback shares. "For 15 years through work projects we have also, unofficially, been helping individuals and companies define who and what they are, both in the short-term and also in the long-term. Now I actively guide individuals to discover, or rediscover in some cases, exactly what their legacy is, and then partner with them to shape and live that legacy -- but until this year it was always done with another service as the 'real' work." Lineback first had the idea of parsing legacies as a separate service in 2007, "but business was booming then, so I didn't make the time. It is only because the economy negatively impacted my own work that I ventured in this area. So I can relate to people I talk with who have lost their jobs. They're overwhelmed and scared, but when they get past the shock, they realize often that there are precious opportunities. And it's only because of the upheaval that they're able, finally, to pursue their real passions."

When more people in their Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, once king of textile and furniture work, continued to be downsized, Whitline's couple realized they must share what they had been doing corporately on a more personal basis, and free of charge. "We can empathize too," Whitaker says, "as a company and because both of us depend on our company for our livelihood, we felt the hurt, the panic, the uncertainty" of people who are struggling to redefine themselves and market themselves in sometimes drastically new ways. Lineback also started blogging about legacy, offering free advice online under Whitline's Life in First Person blog.

"Countless studies show the importance of writing down goals in order to reach them. Concretely claiming your legacy on paper can likewise be powerful," says Lineback. "Of course you've been forming your legacy your entire life. It's not something you design completely by choice." Instead, it's about examining what impressions and themes you're already imparting, what your interests and talents are, and then, if necessary, recalibrating actions to better match your aims. "A positive result of the still-struggling job market is that it forces us to ask tough questions and to determine what are our most basic and precious priorities," Lineback continues. "Who are you at the end of the day, apart from a job, bank account, or any material possessions? That's the beauty of what's at your core -- it can't be repossessed by anyone other than you."

An array of people have been helped by Whitline's take on legacy, from entrepreneurs and universities wanting to hone mission statements to laid off workers who are attempting to find their balance on a completely new life stage. Whitline continues to offer basic legacy work to the unemployed for no charge, and they are beginning to work with corporations that are in the process of laying off workers, scheduling workshops and consultations to employees as part of the corporation's re-education efforts. "Sometimes a simple conversation can help change the course of someone's life," Lineback says. "We want to turn a horrible situation into the catalyst and the permission slip to embrace your higher purpose."

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Emily-Sarah LINEBACK

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