In our previous Wisdom Note, we explored 8 life lessons from hiking hard trails. This week we will focus on your legacy by creating, living, and leaving your legacy. If you miss any of our Wisdom Notes, please go to the blog to read past newsletters.
The Big House is part of our family legacy. It is the family homestead and very meaningful to all family members. We are blessed to be caretakers of the place. Legacy should be important in each of our lives. That is why this week we will focus on creating, living, and leaving your legacy.
One indisputable fact of life is that, at some point, we are all going to die. None of us is guaranteed another breath, let alone tomorrow or many years. Many people don’t like to think about it, let alone plan for it. Think for a moment if you would, what would you like your obituary to say? How you lived your legacy each day and the impact that you made on others through your time, talent, and treasures is what truly remains when you die and will impact all of eternity.
Creating and living your legacy during your life should be solely to benefit future generations. The full impact is something you will never see come to fruition. Just like a farmer who plants an apple tree, knowing he may never live to taste its fruits, living our legacy is a gift whose impact you will leave behind without expecting anything in return.
Just like that farmer’s sprouting tree, living legacies don’t happen overnight—and they don’t happen by accident. They’re deliberately crafted over years of wise choices, hard work, and dedication. This certainly does not require that all your resources be forfeited while you are still alive, but it does require a mind-shift. You have to understand that you are not really the owner of your God-given time, talents, and treasures but caretakers or stewards of them for as long as you are alive. There are some basic principles that are important in fulfilling your role as a steward.
1. Understand Your Legacy
First, you need to really grasp why it’s important to live and leave a legacy in the first place. To paraphrase one of my virtual mentors Jim Rohn, “The legacy we first live and then leave is part of the ongoing foundation of life. Those who came before impacted our lives and leave us the world we live in. Those who will come after will have only our impact on them and what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to positively impact the lives of others and leave the world better than how we found it, even if it seems like our impact is small.”
2. Choose Your Legacy
Living a legacy comes in different shapes and forms, requiring varying levels of effort and commitment. You may have the resources to leave substantial financial legacies to companies or organizations that will impact the world. As you create and live your legacy, hone in on where you can have the greatest impact and choose to focus in those areas.
Legacy is much more than leaving resources to an organization. Leadership expert John Maxwell summed it up this way, “Too often, leaders put their energy into organizations, buildings, systems, or other lifeless objects, but only people live on after we are gone. Everything else is temporary.”
Dr. Ken Dychtwald determined that, “There is an enormous desire for people, especially when they are older, to share what they’ve learned, to pass on lessons of a lifetime, to teach, and to feel that their life experience is being invested, even planted, into the field of tomorrow.” Interesting is that there is also a natural, innate appetite on the part of younger generations to receive this legacy.
3. Focus Your Legacy
Granted, conveying the accumulated lessons of a lifetime is easier said than done. In deciding exactly what you want to put out into the world, look inward first.
Start by identifying your strengths. The most obvious place to look is your career or life experiences. You are trained to think of your skills and talents as what you do at work, but if you think of them as core strengths instead, you can begin to see how they are more widely applicable. You can live your legacy of impact through your strengths. Living your legacy should be a labor of love, not a chore. It should be that natural part of you that shines out because it is who you are.
This statement is important because it not only sets the direction for your life but it also determines the impact of your living legacy and the impact of you will leave throughout eternity. It is part of your daily trek.
Our living legacy should be an example to others to follow as we imitate God as is mentioned in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
4. Live Your Legacy
Now that you have a plan of action, it’s time to implement it. You will need to answer this question, “What must you change in the way you conduct yourself so that you live that legacy?” Your list may include behavioral changes, character development, education, working methods, relationship-building style, and other crucial elements. By changing the way you live, you will be able to create and live the legacy you want to leave for the world each day.
By changing the way you live, you will be able to create and live the legacy you want to leave for the world each day.
We all experience seasons of life and by living your legacy each day, your actions will be leaving a legacy. This action can be compared to passing the baton in a relay race. If you’ve ever watched a relay race, the most important moment of the race is the passing of the baton. The art of handing off that baton is quite spectacular when it’s done well. In western society, we don’t put that much credence on sitting at the feet of our elders and allowing them to transfer to us the legacy of their lives. I think that’s a great loss, and one of my passions is to change this through our daily Wisdom-Trek podcast.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an elder, if you have anyone who is being impacted by you, then you are the baton-passer. If you are a young father with children, prepare them for the race, and be ready to pass the baton when appropriate. Practicing passing the baton is something that occurs little by little each day. Some day we will all take on the role of the elder, or you could say the “baton-passer.” Who will be your recipient? Who will you invite to sit at your feet?
Picture your life and the people in it as a succession of increasingly larger rings reaching out from a center point, which is you! Now think about how you can impact your legacy upon the people of those rings, starting with your family. Both your actions and words are your living legacy.
You will leave a legacy behind for your children and younger family members, so make sure that you lead by example as well as by what you say. As they grow older, these younger generations will likely seek your wisdom and want to hear about your life experiences. Live in such a way that your experiences will be worth sharing and then share the lessons that have meant the most to you.
Back to the analogy of the rings. For many, the next ring outward is one’s primary occupation. Think about whom you could mentor in your work environment and how you might do that. Which of your core strengths could benefit others in their pursuit of a successful and meaningful life? As you get to know and work with others, where do you see the unrealized potential, and how can you help them unleash it?
Many might think that today’s cutthroat business environment isn’t the place for cultivating such relationships. I look at it differently. The very soul of a free society and economy, at its heart, has an enormously generous spirit. We are starting to see a resurgence of the idea that business shouldn’t solely be about profit-making but contributing to people’s lives in a meaningful way. I realize there is certainly room for improvement.
The culture of work has largely become fragmented by people trying to serve their own needs and short-term loyalties. There is a great need for you to live your legacy, which will bring a positive impact with your work team.
There is a great need for you to live your legacy, which will bring a positive impact with your work team.
The next circle out in our analogy of those persons that are impacted by our living legacy are those you may not know well personally. This may take you out of your comfort zone, but your life can still impact them either directly or through others that you are impacting. Your living legacy will ripple through eternity.
You have experience and knowledge that others do not. Through living your legacy, as you share, you will help others in areas of their lives that you cannot even imagine. It is rewarding to see that “lightbulb” moment, illuminating the lives of generations to come, helping them navigate the road ahead. What’s the purpose of having 60, 80, 100 years of life unless we are willing to positively impact the lives of others?
It brings no value to others to have an enormous wealth of experiences if you do not share it. You must invest your time, talent, and treasures to teach and to give it back. Who you really are in life is what survives you in death. That’s really a very different sort of concept. You need to step out of this moment in time and think about yourself in the chain of life from generation to generation. Then you need to take the steps necessary to make something of yourself and to share it so that your life will have an eternal impact.
Regardless of whether your wealth is money or experience 1 Timothy 6:17-19 gives us a great pattern to follow, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”
Today we learned much about creating, living, and leaving your legacy. Next, we will begin the study of life-planning. Encourage your friends and family to join us on our 5-days a week podcast: Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.