Your Legacy

Hand Building a Stone Wall

While touring Birmingham, Alabama with Merrill Stewart, we went by Jones Valley Urban Farm, and while there, we saw this man making a wall out of stone and brick remnants. I told Merrill that one of my proudest moments was building a stone wall at my first ever house, because as a tech nerd, it was a sense that I’d created something with a bit more permanence than my day job normally allowed for. There are many ways to think about your legacy, and now is the time to start thinking.

No matter your age, thinking about what you’re leaving behind is an important lesson. If you’re a parent, what are you equipping your kids to do? If you’re a business owner, what is your business giving back to the community? If you’re a college student, it’s still not too early to wonder how you’ll do your career as well as give back along the way. What will be your legacy?

Right now, my legacy is pretty ephemeral. I’m a kind of digital Johnny Appleseed, spreading ideas that others will grow into orchards of new ideas. But while talking with Merrill, I also said that I liked the Bill Gates/ Warren Buffett method: do all your earning and then build up enough that giving back makes a much bigger impact (Gates convinced Buffett and others to donate 50% of their wealth to philanthropy). Maybe I’ll go that route.

Or maybe it’s a combination of things. Maybe it’s a mix of physical, real world legacy points that we’ll give back, but also all the care and giving and sharing that we give along the way.

It’s never too late to start thinking about your legacy, about what your contributions mean to the larger picture. It’s never too late to start planting acorns. And it’s never too early, either.

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  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    I wonder if legacy is something that preoccupies men a little more than women. For different reasons, men seem to have an eye on how history will view them, whereas women are more concerned with the present and what can be done here and now.

  • http://twitter.com/mayaREguru Maya P.

    A legacy is always something that is greater than a person can conceive or imagine in life as it usually happens after someone has died. It is not something you can see, touch or realize. You can not really even control it. I believe that legacy is a combination of all the things we do in life, how they are remembered, whether celebrated or not – and how they impact others.
    The ripple effect is key in legacy, a persons legacy touches far more people than most people realize. Whatever a person chooses to try to establish a legacy is merely one tiny part of the resulting legacy as part of a legacy is the interpretation of those left behind and how they choose to remember/honor a legacy.
    Philanthropy is wonderful, a fabulous way to help add to a legacy but in the end – the daily acts, the little touches, the thoughtful acts of people – as well as those they leave behind (especially children) really determine the legacy.
    I like the stone wall example – I think that is great, we need more stone walls – people forget, storytelling is also a part of legacy so we all need to tell more stories. The most important part of any legacy is remembering the history. I have interviewed my relatives to fill in the blanks on stories before they were gone and the blanks were forever, that is part of their legacy and my legacy.
    People just need to realize in every act of every day they are building their own legacy. I suspect Chris that your legacy will probably be quite marvelous no matter what you do. I hope everyone can say the same thing, then it will be a much better world.
    Thanks for making me think, as usual, Chris!

  • http://www.retirepreneur.com Donna Kastner/Retirepreneur

    Another inspiring post – thanks Chris! Along the same vibe, I offer this excerpt from a speech by Mother Teresa:

    At the end of our lives we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done.

    We will be judged by: I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.

    Hungry not only for bread—but hungry for love.
    Naked not only for clothing—but naked of human dignity and respect.
    Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks—but homeless because of rejection.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    For me, my legacy is about the mark I make and the wake it creates. Not just what I do but WHO I am while doing it. It’s investing in the now and in the future but not being out of balance for either one. It’s spending time investing in my kids right now while they are young and growing… it’s making choices every day to choose what is right versus what is easy… it’s walking my talk and leading by example. Sure, I have big goals but and “things” I want to accomplish but the man (or woman) behind the plan is what what really inspires people to live better.

  • http://www.throwingabrick.com Roy Scribner

    That is a cool post, Chris. I just started reading your blog, so this post took me a bit by surprise.

    At this state in my life, “legacy” is my children. I think that as they grow and become independent young adults, however, the term will mean something else to me. Something with a wider reach and more permanence, perhaps.

  • MargeKatherine

    I believe that we create a legacy every time we give something away. When we purchase a cow for someone who needs it, when we are active in an organization, when we write an insightful article, when we help create an event … when we are the cog that unites others. There’s no ARROW that points to us, no inscription on our cremation urn… just the satisfaction that MY life made someone’s life easier.

  • http://www.deadbytuesday.com/ MargeKatherine

    Ivan, I agree with this notion that women are more focused on the here and now. Perhaps, it’s because when we have children we’ve created a human canvas that will be loved no matter what. They become my legacy and there is no greater emphasis on a boy over a girl. They are presented with love, values, guidance and sent off to create something wonderful. What better legacy is there?

  • Khayward

    Do you know the short film, The Man Who Planted Trees? If not, it’s a wonderful expression of this sentiment in story form. Once you see it, you pass it along as well.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Marge, that echos my feeling also. A lot of empire building and other such activities are poor substitutes for the human canvas you mentioned. Ultimately I feel that one’s life is one’s legacy and all that it encompasses.

    While creating a ‘legacy’ for others to admire (eg some philanthropic projects) strikes me as more an expression of vanity.

    Ivan

  • Tonyfarley

    Let’s not forget that Men also have a part in creating that canvas. That said, I agree that men spend way too much time worrying about their legacy, success, and how they will be remembered by total strangers. I’ve done my share, that’s for sure. But I think it is all ego, to plan for how you will be remembered, to worry or stress, while living, about after your death. You will be dead and food for worms, get over it.

    Live a good life, that leaves a wake of thoughtfulness, caring, and happiness. Be an artist, or be whatever lights your fire in the morning, but do it because it fulfills your life, not your death. Help others to live their best life (and Chris, you do this every day, so don’t minimize your Johnny Appleseed approach, we are all eating apples because of you) but not to make your death easier to handle. Do it because it makes everyone’s life better, including yours!

    Haha! That’s my sermon for the day. I hope I can actually do half of what I wrote above. So easy to say and so hard to do.

    Tony Farley
    Beautiful Places in HD

  • commoncents

    The definition of legacy isn’t what I expected. It isn’t abstract, it’s Physical leaving something of value as in a will or bequeath, or foundation. I didn’t know that, so thanks Chris for bringing that up today.

    Raising children to be bright, self-sufficient, productive, sharing adults is the best legacy anyone can leave.

    What did the Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew W. Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Flagler, J.P. Morgan and the Astor family leave? Was their legacy well done, and what can we learn from these giants in wealth? How did their children fare? What was the outcome of their legacy? Are we all better off because of them?

    Gates and Buffett will leave that disbursement of their unbelievable wealth to someone else. I think I heard Buffett say his kids won’t be in control of that fortune. Now Gates and Buffett are beginning “The Giving Pledge”. This might give us some ideas how to best leave our legacy.

    They talk about this on the Charlie Rose Show. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11063

  • http://www.kathyhogeveen.com/ Kathy Hogeveen

    If we think about the great people of this world and the stories we’ve shared to keep their legacy alive; it usually involves sacrifice of some kind to make a difference. I believe the true servant’s actions speak so loudly, they have to be shared.

    My mother-in-law was a very kind woman that never drove, dedicated her life to her family and babysitting other people’s children. She cared for over 28 children I believe. While she was dealing with her cancer battle, some of those now adults came to visit her. It was amazing to listen to their stories. Her funeral was a testimony to a live of serving others; people that happened to cottage at the same resort came from as far away as Kentucky (we are from Ontario, Canada).

    There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t think about her influence – what a legacy. How many lives we impact positively or negatively is our legacy; we choose which one it will be. Chris I appreciate your insights very much.

  • Derek Stearns

    Seeing that photo is being thrown back in time. Looks just like many a wall we worked on with Dad. Butch, Dean and I took over his business for the second generation. Hard work, family and creating something you can take pride it. That recipe sticks with us today. Between stones Dad always said “Do what you love.” So we did. That is the legacy he left behind – The work of a great stone mason, satisfied customers and incredible support to get out there, find what you love to do and DO IT! Butch loved sports has had a great career in Boston Sports media and is now running the Sports Channel at The Pulse Network. Dean and I loved communications and we now have 2 national tv shows (Rock Solid and Indoors Out) on the DIY Network. Just finished our 156th episode. If Dad were here today he would smile and say “Good for you. Now go mix a batch!”

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  • http://twitter.com/KarlSakas Karl Sakas

    I’ve thought that unless you’re a great composer, artist, author, or architect, the biggest legacy most people leave will be their [well-adjusted] children. At 28, I’m not quite there yet.

    When I was 12, I organized a team of 40 people to build a trail bridge at a local park for my Eagle Scout project. I recently visited the park in northern Virginia and I saw the bridge is still there, 15 years later. So much has changed in my life in the past 15 years, but the bridge is still there.

  • http://ItStartsWith.Us Nate St. Pierre

    I have kinda the same thing . . . I build a lot of stuff digitally, but the thing I’m most proud of? A 16-foot-tall fort/sandbox/swingset that I designed and built in the backyard for the kids. I had a lot of help from people much better than me at that kind of stuff, but still, I’m really proud of it.

  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    I have been thinking about my legacy lately. One thing that I find interesting is that it’s easier to have something to show if you actually have something to show, that’s a physical product (like a stone wall). When we’re all over the place on the web spreading ideas, it’s probably harder to have something to show.

    On the other hand, when you’re spreading ideas, a lot more people will understand what you’re all about and appreciate you. And in the end, the legacy is about people isn’t it?

  • Anne

    I actually think your legacy is most powerful and long lasting when it’s anonymous and comes from simply showing up and doing our best every day. It’s often a chance forgotten act or word of kindness that can transform someone else’s life or day and when we are on track, we do a lot of those..I mean if you look at your own extended older family…what legacy are they leaving that you admire?

  • Deb

    It’s never too late to be conscious in your own life!

  • Nia Nielsen

    Chris great post! Thank you for the link to the Planting Acorns blog. I love how VISION is in every word typed.

  • Nia Nielsen

    Chris great post! Thank you for the link to the Planting Acorns blog. I love how VISION is in every word typed.

  • http://twitter.com/company2keepinc company2keep

    Thanks Chris – you spoke to my passion. I’m feeling particularly buoyed by the alignment of those who took the time to comment. Looks like we’re ready to go build a few legacies and inspire others to do some of the same.

  • http://twitter.com/company2keepinc company2keep

    Thanks Chris – you spoke to my passion. I’m feeling particularly buoyed by the alignment of those who took the time to comment. Looks like we’re ready to go build a few legacies and inspire others to do some of the same.

  • http://www.webhostinglogic.com/web-marketing/web-marketing-home.html Seo Guru

    Helping people is one of your legacies Chris. I mean, just by reading your posts and giving out ideas to other people is a legacy in itself. You may never know it but some people had changed their lives just by reading your articles. That in itself is a legacy you left to your readers.

  • http://www.hware.com Brenda Horton

    The life you live is the legacy you leave behind. Regarding Buffet and Gates, they spent their lives accumulating great wealth at the expense of people and the planet. That is not a sustainable model to follow. It is time to retire the Dale Carnegie Wealth Model – accumulate wealth and then give some away once you are rich. It is time to shift the paradigm. How about create your wealth and give as you grow? However, giving from profits is an easy number to skew. How about give from your sales and revenue and look at it as a cost of doing business? When we understand our business model and profit margins, we can then look at giving our wealth away from a different perspective. The world needs our money, time and resources today to do good, not many years from now, after we have accumulated our wealth.

  • http://www.hware.com Brenda Horton

    The life you live is the legacy you leave behind. Regarding Buffet and Gates, they spent their lives accumulating great wealth at the expense of people and the planet. That is not a sustainable model to follow. It is time to retire the Dale Carnegie Wealth Model – accumulate wealth and then give some away once you are rich. It is time to shift the paradigm. How about create your wealth and give as you grow? However, giving from profits is an easy number to skew. How about give from your sales and revenue and look at it as a cost of doing business? When we understand our business model and profit margins, we can then look at giving our wealth away from a different perspective. The world needs our money, time and resources today to do good, not many years from now, after we have accumulated our wealth.

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  • Thewileyboy

    It’s never too late to start thinking about any legacy that you want to leave on this Earth, just make sure that it’s positive

  • http://www.DesertMountainHomesOnline.com CarmenBrodeur

    I’m glad you mentioned that our kids are our legacy in this world. Every parent wants their kids to lead better, fuller, more successful lives than themselves.

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  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    It’s about time to think about your legacy if you think that you need to be someone in the future.

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