Legacy is a topic that almost all TFM clients want to explore with their coach in some way, shape, or form. Future success might mean annual, extended family vacations, improved communication, better relationships with adult children, intergenerational philanthropy, or another career opportunity after retirement. Vision and legacy go hand in hand. We might not be able to determine exactly how people talk about us when we’re gone, but pondering the question “How do I want to be remembered?” is a good place to start. Before we jump into that, do these names below ring a bell? Don’t Google them, just make a note of how many you recognize.
Nicholas Murray Butler
Charles W. Fairbanks
More on these folks later. There’s an intrinsic problem with the question of how we want to be remembered. It’s mostly out of our control. We are not the ones doing the remembering. I think I’m memorable, but do you think I am? Some might say they want to be remembered as an avid storyteller who could hold a room captive with their breathtaking anecdotes, but others might just remember someone who talked too much. What’s the solution?
If we’re being honest, what are our real chances of being remembered in 50 or 250 years? It’s a low probability. More importantly, it’s out of our control. So it falls in the ‘don’t worry about it' camp along with gas prices and if my new neighbor's dog will ever stop barking.
This ‘not being remembered’ thing appears depressing at first glance but might be a bit liberating. Maybe the stakes aren’t as high as we think. Maybe it’s okay to relax every once in a while. Certainly, it’s a green light to pursue the things that are important to you. Or to live the life you want because it’s the only one you get. We know Jeff Bezos, Lionel Messi, and Kim Kardashian right now. But will our great-grandchildren?
Instead of ‘how,’ what if we shifted to ‘who?’ Who will remember us? ‘Who’ is tied to the roles we play and allows us to focus a bit more. My top roles are spouse, parent, and CEO. Therefore my ‘who’ is my wife, our boys, and everyone affiliated with TFM; clients, employees, and partners. If I succeed at every other role in my life except spouse, parent, and CEO, I fail. If I only succeed at those 3 roles, it doesn't make me perfect, but I’ll take it. In Dead Poets Society, one of my favorite movies, Professor Keating, played by the late Robin Williams, takes his class to a glass case filled with Welton Academy alumni from generations prior. He points out something so obvious that once you think about it, you can't un-think about it: all of these people in these photographs are dead.
"You see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe… Hear it? Carpe… carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
It is your life and “extraordinary” is defined only by you and the people who mean the most to you. Carpe diem is the summation of a lot of little steps. So, what are the roles that top your list? Who is most important to you? How do you make the time you have matter? What do you hope they remember about you?
If you don’t stop to think about the roles you play and the people who matter, the question gets answered for you, not by you. It’s worth taking the time to ask yourself the big questions to figure out what that means. Accept no one else's answers but your own. If the process scares you, you’re on the right track, and if you don’t want to do it alone, a TFM coach will help. After all, if you don’t know the individuals below, what chance do the rest of us have?
Nicholas Murray Butler (American winner of Nobel Peace Prize, 1931)
Charles W. Fairbanks (Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice President, 1904)
Judy Collins (Grammy for best song, 1976, Send in the Clowns, top picture)
Arthur Fry (Inventor of the Post-it note, pictured below)
Daniel Alton (My friend for over 30 years. You won’t remember him but I will)
Louis Braille (Inventor of Braille, a written language system for the blind)
Jimmy Donaldson (YouTube Star known as Mr. Beast, 130 million followers)
Eugene Cernan (1 of 12 humans and the last person to walk on the moon)
Elizabeth Blackwell (First female medical doctor)