What is a legacy?
Merriam-Webster defines legacy as: “something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past.”
Someday you and I will be a “someone in the past.” And what we do with our “present,” our today, will answer the much more important question: what will our legacy be?
Three things I know about legacy-
1. We all leave a legacy, for good or not so good.
2. The actions we take over the course of our lives heavily influence our legacy BUT we cannot really know or fully determine how the “someones” in the future will ultimately measure us.
3. It is NEVER too late to make our potential legacies more than they are today.
1. You will leave a legacy
Contrary to what you may think or may have been taught, a legacy is not reserved for the wealthy who name buildings and monuments after themselves. While the size or workmanship of these edifices may impress some now or in the future, I argue that the legacy that matters most is best measured by the depth to which you impact people in this life.
You see, your reputation is your legacy. And while you may never have a tall, shiny building or a huge rocking portfolio that confirms just how great you are (who knows, maybe you will, doesn’t matter) crafting a life worth remembering and instructing future generations starts and ends with building others and a portfolio of selfless acts.
The number of people you impact does not matter. (So, stop worrying about and counting the number of followers or likes your posts garner.) Rather, it is the quality with which you impact those people that matters most. This is because just like financial wealth, human impact compounds. There is an immeasurable but real multiplier effect when we touch the life of another human. A kind word, a selfless act, a willing sacrifice, spreads love, growth, and progress more meaningfully from person to person than any campus building, park bench, or impressive pile of cash.
So, my fellow “someone in the present,” you and I, alongside the captains of industry, the highly-acclaimed and glorified, and the vaunted influencer superstars of the past and today, will leave a legacy. If that’s news to you, then read on. (You should keep reading even if you already knew that.)
2. You can influence but not fully determine your legacy
The funny thing about legacy is that the ultimate measure of whether it’s a good one or a not-so-good one seems to take history a really long time to turn in its final vote. How many humans that have come before us were not understood at best or vilified at worst by their contemporaries only to be lauded as geniuses or saints by future generations? To me, this means that until we take our last breath we still have time. Even the poorest and least sparkly among the fabulous have a shot at making legacy matter. We have time to work harder, smarter. Time to recover and make right the things we inevitably screw up. What a gift!
3. It’s never too late
So, what then? What do we do with this gift of time?
Take risks. Do the thing that your soul whispers you to do. (This thing will also be the thing that scares you to death. That’s how you know it’s the thing.)
Be in the now. Honestly, who cares if or how future civilizations will judge you? It’s the people around you right now in this journey who matter most. Love them, inspire them, thrill them, and go deep with them. That is what will influence your legacy more than anything else. The rest is up to the legacy gods, the universe, or whomever. Let them do their thing because apparently, they’re gonna anyway.
Take your shot. Follow your heart. Focus on what’s right before you and how you can be most additive to the people and situations that only you are uniquely positioned to impact.
Make your mark. The world is watching and waiting. Today, this very damn day, is your only guaranteed chance to keep building your legacy. Maybe tomorrow comes for you. Maybe it doesn’t. Today is here and your legacy, and the people around you, need some love.