You know, I have had an amazing life. I have traveled the world. I have shared my heart with so many wonderful people. I have been fortunate enough to make a great living and enjoy the fruit of my work. I have met thousands of people who are dedicated to personal development and self-growth. I have made it my life’s pursuit to teach others the philosophies and actions that would help them achieve greatness and personal fulfillment in their own lives. Forty years ago, it felt like it would never end. Today, I still imagine I have many years left, but I am also more acutely aware than ever that there is much less time left than before.
Being aware of this has made me even more clear about my goal of living well and teaching others to do the same. I want to help others achieve all of their dreams and that’s one of the legacies I want to leave behind.
Leaving a legacy for others to follow is part of what drives me. I followed others who went before me; they left a legacy for me. Now, I am making sure that those who come after me will have a trail to follow as well. You see, leaving a legacy is important.
Think about those who left a legacy for us to follow and for you specifically:
- Your parents
- Your grandparents
- Your aunts and uncles
- Your schoolteachers
- Your coaches
- Your neighbors where you grew up
- The founding fathers with their dream of a place of self-determination
- Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saw us through the Great Depression
- The many men and women who defend our liberties so that we can live in freedom and safety
- John F. Kennedy, who called us to explore space and set us on course to have a man walk on the moon
- Martin Luther King Jr., who left us a legacy to pursue the dream of racial equality
There are literally thousands of men and women who lived in a way that affects our lives today. And, yes, the list goes on from there. These are the people we knew, the people we lived with and who shaped us deeply, for better and sometimes for worse.
You see, a legacy can be anywhere on the continuum, from very bad to very good—it all depends on how we live our lives. How we live our lives is critically important. I want to challenge you to take a look at how you live. I want to challenge you to think deeply about the major areas of your life where you can and should leave a lasting legacy.
Why is leaving a legacy important? Here are a few reasons:
1. It is part of the ongoing foundation of life.
Those who came before leave us the world we live in. Those who come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling on our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like only a small part.
2. It has the raw power for good and for bad.
There are people who have changed the world for good, people who have opened up new worlds for millions of others, people who have spurred others on to new heights. And, conversely, there are people who have caused massive destruction for countless millions, people who left a wake of pain behind them wherever they went. There are parents who have blessed their children with greatness and parents who have ruined their children’s fragile minds and hearts. What we do affects others. Our lives have the power to create good or purvey evil. It is important that we choose to do good.
3. It is an act of responsibility to leave a legacy.
Because of the power of our lives and the legacies we leave, it is a great responsibility to choose to leave a positive legacy. All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine. I truly believe that part of what makes us good and honorable people is having a foundational part of our lives based on the goal of leaving a legacy.
4. It breaks the downward pull of selfishness that can be inherent in us all.
When we strive to leave a legacy, we are acting with a selflessness that can only be beneficial for everyone. Yes, I suppose someone could work hard to earn money so that when he or she dies a building is named after them, but that is not the kind of legacy we are talking about. We are talking about legacies that make life better for those who come after us, not about our own fame or recognition, but about helping others. After all, we won’t be around to watch our legacy. To build that which will last beyond us is selfless, and living with that in mind breaks the power of selfishness that tries so desperately to engrain itself in our lives.
5. It keeps us focused on the big picture.
Legacy building is part of the “big picture.” It keeps us focused on the long term and gives us values that we can judge our actions by. When we are acting based on selfishness, personal expediency and the like, we are focusing on the “small picture”—whatever is pragmatic right now. When we are building a life that will give for many years, we are thinking “big picture.” Ask yourself: How does this action affect my overall goals? How will this affect people in the years to come?
Yes, your legacy is very important. Reflect on how you are going to use the lessons, information and skills from those before you to build a life that leaves a tremendous legacy!