Legacy, according to the dictionary, is “something transmitted or handed down from one generation to the next; a heritage; a tradition.” A legacy is something you create during your life to benefit future generations. It is a gift you leave behind without expecting anything in return. Look at some well-known people and what they have left. Look at Steve Jobs. Whether you were a fan of his or not, because of the things he developed, his life truly impacted each of our lives. Think of John F. Kennedy and the space program or Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights. According to Chelsea Greenwood, in How to Build Your Legacy, “You don’t have to give up your worldly possessions and become a Mother Teresa to start building your legacy.” Think about all the millions of dollars spent on image. In the end, it is the small details that define us all.
As we live our daily lives, we get caught up in the grind and forget about the big picture. I am just not talking about work or your business. I am talking about your life! If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want people to remember about you? When I was younger, there was a lady in our neighborhood, Mrs. Ruby. She was older but she was patient and kind. You were always welcomed into her house. And she always baked the best cookies. That was her legacy – how she touched other people’s lives. On the other hand, I had a boss many years ago that always yelled and put you down if you made an error. He never treated his employees with respect. When he passed, this is how every one remembered him. That was his legacy.
Building a legacy is not easy and cannot be done in a short period of time. You can start building your legacy now. You need to decide what kind of legacy you’ll leave for posterity. Below are some guidelines to help you. Valerie Latona is one of the leading writers on the topic of living healthy with confidence. She has outlined some key points that will help you with defining your legacy.
Don’t make money the end goal. Your legacy does not have to be financial. Sure, we want our families to be secure and taken care of. But work and earning money is no real gift to leave behind. Take a look within yourself. What do you value, what do you care about? Decide where you want to make your impact. So often we put our energy into organization, buildings or other lifeless objects but only people live on after we are gone. Everything else is temporary.
Follow your passion. Your legacy should be a labor of love – not a chore. “If you don’t try to follow your passion today, one day you’ll realize you don’t have time to do it anymore and you will regret it.” Identify your strengths. Talk to your friends and family members for their insight. Keep a list of what they say. But follow your gut. Your intuition will tell you what is right for you.
Learn to appreciate silence. I know I do not do this enough. Listening to your gut requires meditation. Set aside some time in the morning to reflect or perhaps take a walk. When you discover what is important in your life, you can start to make a difference in others.
Be nice. It sounds so simple. And it is simple. Treat people with respect and they will respect you. I know at times we want to tear our hair out when our employees do something stupid. It is important to turn a bad situation into a learning experience. I had a high school girl working for me. She has since grown, married and she and her husband now own a small business. She mentioned recently that she uses the customer service fundamentals that I taught her in her business today. If all of my employees retained that information, that is part of my legacy.
Believe in something greater than yourself. You are a part of something greater. This greater purpose should be used to guide you to do what is best in your own life. And then you are on your way to building your legacy.
I challenge you to start building your legacy today. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and already have a legacy in place. You should be proud of yourself. It is never too late to start.