In driving around with Buyers and talking with Associates lately the topic of "legacy" came up. What will you leave behind after you are gone? Do you care? Do you ever think about it? Does your reputation, your contribution, your work, the "residue" of your life mean anything to you?
Will Your Legacy Have An Asterisk Beside It?
Three celebrity news stories made me think of possible asterisks.
- Conan O'Brien - will he be known as a young guy with a Tonight Show gig for awhile who moved on to greener pasture or a FAILURE in staying with the show such a short period of time?
- Tiger Woods - greatest golfer ever or philanderer with women outside marriage or maybe both?
- Mark McGwire - St. Louis Cardinals baseball homerun super slugger or it didn't count cause he used steroids?
We all are flawed human beings and a composite of our best and our worst. But thinking before we go down a path can help us with a legacy we choose rather than by drifting into one with an asterisk beside it. Most people are so focused on "success" under the age of 35 they don't think about "significance" till the second half of life, so asking them about legacy, you usually get a deer in the headlights look back.
But if it does mean anything to you whether you call it success OR significance know what that is in as carefully a constructed life mission statement that could be validated at your funeral when others are "celebrating" your life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson had a short and sweet view of success from way back when that could fit any of us if this is what you want people to think of your life after you are long gone and turned to dust. It said,
"To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded."