Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but how you’ll be remembered, and who you’ll be remembered by will be determined by the legacy you’ll leave. If you want your life to count then why leave it to chance when your legacy can be planned and purposeful, and in doing so, establish a firm foundation which generations can build upon?
The mistakes of generations-past will be repeated by generations-future up until someone has the vision and determination to derive a different outcome. If not you, then who?
A legacy framework
Let’s play a game: what’s a word – just one word – you’d like others to use that encapsulates how you’d like to be remembered after you’re gone? For instance, assuming your name was Bobby, imagine a friend at your funeral saying “You know, I always found Bobby to be so…”
It might be loving, or honest, or faithful, or sincere or any number of things. Now ask yourself this: “Is how I’m living congruent with how I want to be remembered?” If it is, great. If it isn’t, will you change while you still have time?
If you’re interested in being organised and purposeful in leaving a legacy, consider this: your legacy is the summary of your deeds, which is the summary of your actions, which is the summary of your intentions. If you want to leave a bigger legacy then start by being purposeful with your intentions, impactful with your actions, and altruistic with your deeds.
Your largesse is the way and extent to which you distribute money or gifts upon others. Largesse may be, but doesn’t necessarily have to be, financial. To be significant, largesse must be predominantly selfless. Any contribution to humanity that results in a gift qualifies, which is why the largesse of the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa remain significant.
Perhaps the ripples of the contribution you leave won’t be as large or as wide as those of Mother Teresa, but that doesn’t make your effort any less important or less worthy. Many small things done well are usually far better than a few great things done poorly. But remember, a selfless act can’t be called so if there are selfish ambitions behind it. Selfish largesse is rarely remembered beyond one generation or is remembered for the wrong reasons like the legacy of any historical tyrant you care to mention whose selfishness caused the death of countless innocent lives.
Alfred Nobel was a controversial figure for much of this life, and while his inventions improved the industrialised world, he was not universally loved. His work improving military explosives resulted in him being accused of high treason. Upon his death, Nobel bequeathed 94 per cent of his estate be converted into a fund and invested in safe securities, with the income earned from those investments to be ‘distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind’.
Why did Nobel perform such a generous act? No-one knows for sure but one possibility is that a French journalist, upon mistakenly reporting his death, eulogised Nobel as a ‘merchant of death’. Reportedly appalled, Nobel shifted his focus to philanthropy and used his fortune to create a legacy to further, not frustrate, humanity. Today, Nobel is revered for his substantial and ongoing contribution to the promotion of peace—a legacy of significance funded by his significant wealth.
How do you leave a legacy? First you’ll need to cast a vision for how you want to be remembered. Thereafter every thought and every action in every hour of every day is an opportunity to make a legacy deposit by acting congruently, or legacy withdrawal by acting incongruently, with your vision.
The bigger your legacy balance, the more impactful your legacy will be.
The trick is to remain persistently consistent with cycling through your intentions (what you want to do), your actions (what you’re doing), and your accomplishments (what you’ve done). Doing so will build momentum and scale.
My old high school motto was Spectumer Agendo. It is Latin and means ‘By their deeds they shall be known.’ What are your deeds, and how will you be known? If you want your life to count, do more things that count! Don’t be consumed with petty people or petty matters. Remained focussed on the things you can control.
Here’s a Greek proverb that caught my attention recently: wise men plant trees under whose shade others will sit. This is a beautiful phrase that captures the notion of sowing a blessing today for others tomorrow; a lovely way to capture the concept of legacy. I might have taken the proverb a little too literally because etched on my heart is a vision to return the 600 hectares of land I purchased back in 2018 into a permanent multi-species native forest. If you don’t have your own legacy project on the go and rehabilitating environments, restoring damaged ecosystems or renewing habitat for wildlife is something you care about, you’re welcome to join with me, my family and others as we change the world one tree at a time. Find out more at www.TreeChange.com
Will your legacy be a burden or a blessing? It’s not too late to decide, or change if you aren’t happy with the current situation.
Edited extract from Steve McKnight’s Money Magnet: How to Attract and Keep a Fortune that Counts (Wiley $32.95), now available at all leading retailers or online at www.moneymagnet.au
Image: Getty Images