What Is Your Legacy?

Do you ever think about what you want your legacy to be? What are the things for which you want to be remembered? What are the things you want to pass along to your children and grandchildren or to the world when you are gone?

I find that holidays are a good time to ponder some of the more esoteric things in life, like leaving a legacy. As you celebrate Thanksgiving today, enjoying visits from friends and family or watching the parade and games why not think about, and maybe talk about your personal legacy, your work legacy and your family’s legacy?

Life is fleeting, death is certain. What do you want your role in the fabric of time and humanity to be? If you think about what you want to leave behind, you may discover that you want to do things differently, or do different things!

What is legacy?

To some, it means their family genealogy and history. To others, it is a list of things that have been accomplished, or values and lessons of life that were handed down to them. Yet others may indicate that it is a set of character traits or skills; or a set of instructions or wishes for things to happen a certain way in the next generation(s). Then some will say it is Great Aunt Minnie’s diamond tiara or Grandpa Joe’s war diary.

What kinds of legacy are there?

  • Personal – what do you want people to say about the way you lived your life.
  • Work – what are you known for, what have you started, how have you influenced the company.
  • Family – Mark Haynes Daniell puts it best “Family legacy encompasses all that a family holds dear and wants to preserve for the future – the histories, values, knowledge and experience that are just as essential as a family’s financial assets.”
  • Societal – what lasting contributions are you making to society as a whole (have you developed a new vaccine, started a missionary, implemented a law, taught kids things, donated time or money and etc).

Legacy is not set in stone.
When you first start thinking about what you want your legacy to be, you might come up with one thing and then in a few years, you might decide to follow a new path to achieve a different legacy.

Families who determine what legacy previous generations have passed along to them can collectively decide what parts of the legacy to carry forward, what parts to leave behind and what new legacy items to add.

As you move from being a dependent in your parent’s home, to a young independent, to a parent and grandparent your focus will change. You may start developing a broader perspective which causes you to desire a more impactful legacy.

Consider Bill and Melinda Gates, for example. Today they are building a societal legacy through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – using their own fortune but they are also exerting influence on their billionaire peers to donate the majority of their vast wealth. But I suspect that during the early days of the development of Microsoft, Bill had entirely different legacies in mind – if he even had time to think about legacy.

Today, Thanksgiving Day 2011, I want my legacy to be (my children take heed!):
Personal: remember me for working hard; being persistent; loving the outdoors; staying active; being part of the generation that founded the family wealth; being responsible for starting a family legacy of multiple generations working together; encouraging entrepreneurship; writing; and establishing multi-generational finance training.

Work: remember me for encouraging formalized project management techniques; developing new leaders and implementing successful projects. Remember me for creating and writing for websites (and read that content!).

Family: Pass along the values of hard work, honesty, humor, persistence and generosity. Hand down the family stories and facts. Continue working together with all living generations of family towards an evolving long term family plan. Encourage future family members to be entrepreneurs and scholars.

Societal: I’m still working on these!!

Read more about defining your legacy.

What do you want as a legacy?  Happy Thanksgiving!

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