The weight of the word ‘legacy’ makes us shudder, if it resonates at all.
In the gleaming pantheon of Those Who Have Legacies, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi frolic amid cumulus clouds, righting injustice and alleviating pain. Martin Luther King, Jr. raises his voice and bends the arc of history into shape. Nobody farts.
Meanwhile, down here on earth, we fret that gas costs more than $4 a gallon and find solace that Netflix has released Breaking Bad Season 5 in time for Labor Day. A menacing proposal deadline justifies email after furtive email on a family weekend. Double-death-by-chocolate ice-cream waits in the freezer and there are still two more days to wear white.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the stultifying details of a life that, every time you step back and take a look, keeps making less and less sense. But our consuming preoccupation with deadening futility obscures an urgent truth: the layer of light-years we place between ourselves and Those Who Have Legacies is make-believe.
Simply put, you have a legacy. Whether you want it or not.
Your legacy is your unique gift to the world. You’ve been building it since the day you were born, out of everything you say and everything you do. You’ve been building it since you woke up this morning and you’ll build it each and every day until your last. Your legacy doesn’t wait and it won’t stop.
Everybody has a legacy. Your neighbors. Your enemies. Your cousins. Your classmates. Your exes. Your mother. Your boss. Your spouse. Everybody. Ever.
That said, a glance around the neighborhood exposes most legacies as lackluster. An encyclopedic knowledge of the Simpsons oeuvre and a sly wit that eviscerates any challenge to your brilliance is a legitimate legacy to cultivate. If you want to. When it comes time to tell your grandchildren about your proudest moments in life, this legacy will come up short.
Yours doesn’t need to.
Take a moment today to consider your own legacy. Notice what satisfies you about the one you’ve been creating and notice also what you’d change. If you could create any legacy for yourself, and time and money weren’t an issue, what would you create?
Please leave a comment, and tell me what it feels like to consider your legacy in this way. Tell me what legacy you would choose if you knew you couldn’t fail.