Let’s overview the month as I focus on leaving a legacy.
1. A Life Well-Lived. This month’s first week I will cover the importance of leaving a legacy of a life well-lived. I will see how our lives impact all those who follow us. I will also introduce the topics we will review later in the month.
2. Principles to Live By. In Week Two, I will cover key principles to live by that will help you leave a legacy. These will be the foundations of a life that leaves an impact on others. The principles I live by are the basis for the kind of legacy I will leave behind. I will also begin our how-tos by looking at how to leave a relational legacy. All of life is based on relationships, and we choose what direction those relationships go. We can live our lives in such a way that when we are gone, people are impacted by the relational legacy we left behind.
3. The Importance of a Spiritual Legacy and an Impact Legacy. Week Three I will cover both how to leave a spiritual legacy as well as how to leave an “impact legacy.” The core of who we are as individuals is spiritual. We were created with the intention of relating to God through our spiritual life. One of the greatest gifts we can leave behind is a spiritual example and legacy. We will also talk about how to leave a life legacy that impacts people. There are those who live on this earth and then just disappear, leaving little more than a trace. And then there are others who, through their legacy, live on in others for years to come. We will talk about how to be the latter.
4. Financial Legacy. In Week Four, we will look at leaving a business legacy, a financial legacy and a family legacy. We will see how the businesses we operate have a deeper impact than we might have imagined. We will talk about establishing a strong financial base that will provide for others long term. We will also look at one of the most important aspects of legacy, those we touch most deeply: our family.
So, let’s talk about the topics for this week!
You know, I have had an amazing life. I have traveled the world. I have shared my heart with so many wonderful people. I have been fortunate enough to make a great living and enjoy the fruit of my work. I have met thousands of people who are dedicated to personal development and self-growth. I have made it my life’s pursuit to teach others the philosophies and actions that would help them achieve greatness and personal fulfillment in their own lives. Forty years ago, it felt like it would never end. Today, I still imagine I have many years left, but I am also more acutely aware than ever that there is much less time left than before.
Being aware of this has made me even more clear about my goal of living well and teaching others to do the same. Our one-year plan for success is designed to help others achieve all of their dreams and is part of one of the legacies I want to leave behind.
Leaving a legacy for others to follow is part of what drives me. I followed others who went before me; they left a legacy for me. Now, I am making sure that those who come after me will have a trail to follow as well. You see, leaving a legacy is important.
Think about those who left a legacy for us to follow and for you specifically:
—Your aunts and uncles
—Your neighbors where you grew up
For those of us in America.
The United States’ founding fathers, who had a dream of a place of self-determination.
Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saw us through the Great Depression.
The many men and women who defended our liberties through the wars of the 20th century so that we can live in freedom.
John F. Kennedy, who called us to explore space and set us on course to have a man walk on the moon.
Martin Luther King Jr., who left us a legacy to pursue the dream of racial equality.
There are literally thousands of men and women who lived in a way that affects our lives today.
And, yes, the list goes on from there as well. These are the people we knew, the people we lived with and who shaped us deeply, for better and for worse in some cases.
You see, a legacy can be anywhere on the continuum, from very bad to very good—it all depends on how we live our lives.
How we live our lives is critically important. This month, I want to challenge you to take a look at how you live. Challenge you to think deeply about the major areas of your life where you can and should leave a lasting legacy.
Why is leaving a legacy important? Here are a few reasons:
1. The legacy we leave is part of the ongoing foundation of life. Those who came before, leave us the world we live in. Those who come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling on our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like only a small part.
2. Legacies have raw power for good and for bad. There are people who have changed the world for good, people who have opened up new worlds for millions of others, people who have spurred others on to new heights. And, conversely, there are people who have caused massive destruction for countless millions, people who left a wake of pain behind them wherever they went. There are parents who have blessed their children with greatness and parents who have ruined their children’s fragile minds and hearts. What we do affects others. Our lives have the power to create good or purvey evil. It is important that we choose to do good.
3. It is an act of responsibility to leave a legacy. Because of the power of our lives and the legacies we leave, it is a great responsibility to choose to leave a positive legacy. All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine. I truly believe that part of what makes us good and honorable people is having a foundational part of our lives based on the goal of leaving a legacy.
4. Purposefully leaving a legacy for others breaks the downward pull of selfishness that can be inherent in us all. When we strive to leave a legacy, we are acting with a selflessness that can only be good for us. Yes, I suppose someone could work hard to earn money so that when he or she dies a building is named after them, but that is not the kind of legacy we are talking about. We are talking about legacies that make life better for those who come after us, not about our own fame or recognition, but about helping others. After all, we won’t be around to watch our legacy. To build that which will last beyond us is selfless, and living with that in mind breaks the power of selfishness that tries so desperately to en-grain itself in our lives.
5. It also keeps us focused on the big picture. Legacy building is part of the “big picture.” It keeps us focused on the long term and gives us values that we can judge our actions by. When we are acting based on selfishness, personal expediency and the like, we are focusing on the “small picture”—whatever is pragmatic right now. When we are building a life that will give for many years, we are thinking “big picture.” Ask yourself: How does this action affect my overall goals? How will this affect people in the years to come?
Yes, your legacy is very important. Take this final month to reflect on how you are going to use the lessons, information and skills from the first 11 months to build a life that leaves a tremendous legacy!
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
If you are going to leave a legacy that impacts people, there is something that you need to come to grips with: You are going to die.
What? What kind of motivational tool is that? Real inspiring!
Actually, it is. Our mortality may perhaps be the ultimate inspiration and motivation! If we lived on this earth eternally, we could be procrastinators extraordinaire! We would never have to get anything done because tomorrow would always be an option. But, alas, we pass on, and all we leave are the memories and the lives of others we affected while we were here. Sound gloomy? In actuality, it is exciting! You see, this gives us purpose—and a deadline (pun intended).
We can choose how we will live on in the hearts and memories of others. We do this by purposing to live now in a way that makes change happen not only within us, but also in those around us.
What kind of legacy will you leave? How will your family and friends remember you? How will you leave your descendants in the following areas? Give some thought to them and make some changes. In doing so, you will begin to lock in your legacy.
Following are some areas that will be covered in detail in the final three weeks. These topics are extremely important—maybe all-important. Our intention in the following is to spur you to think—really think—about how you can leave a legacy, and to whet your appetite for the how-tos coming in the next few weeks.
Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself how you treat other people and how that affects them emotionally? If you have children, are you raising emotionally healthy kids who are both independent as well as interdependent? If married, are you helping your spouse grow emotionally? Give this some serious thought.
The “God question” can be most important. People sometimes say that they are just going to let their kids “figure it out on their own.” These same people will show them how to shoot a basketball, trade stocks and build a tree house, all simply temporal issues, but then leave the answers to the most important question up in the air! Now, we are not advocating cramming anything down their throats, but what we are advising is to just take the time to help them find their way. Are you helping and encouraging those around you find their spiritual life? Are you living an authentic spiritual life that will be your legacy? Give some serious thought to this.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “I can’t change my genes. We got what we got, and we have to live with it.” To a certain extent, this is true. What I am talking about, though, is being examples of taking our physical health seriously. The statistics prove that your kids are likely to do whatever bad habits you have as well. Why? Because you are their example. Give this some serious thought.
There are two primary ways you can leave a financial legacy. First, teach your loved ones about how to handle money (some of you may need to learn yourself first). There are just so many good books on the subject that there is no reason for not knowing how to handle money. Rich Dad Poor Dad is a good book to start with, or perhaps The Millionaire Next Door. These will teach you the basics. Second, you can leave an inheritance. Now, let us be clear on this. This does not have to be after you die. In fact, the more you have, the more you ought to give away while you are alive. Let’s face it: The older you get, the less need you have for money once the basics are taken care of. Give your financial inheritance some serious thought.
What kind of legacy will you leave in regard to how you interact relationally with people you know? When people look at how you interact with others, will they be better off if they develop the same relational habits? Will your legacy be one of love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and forgiveness? Give the idea of influencing others relationally some serious thought.
In this day of the People magazine and TMZ mentality, we need people who will challenge us to think deeper. Are you doing anything that will challenge your sphere of influence to intellectual gains? Will those left after you are gone say that you made them think in ways they hadn’t before, that you challenged them to be smarter? Give this issue some serious thought.
Functionally? Yep. It’s a catchall word. It is how you function. How will those you influence actually function? To a great degree, this is how you function. Are you well-rounded? Are you balanced? Do you keep the main things the main things? Is your life functioning well? Make it your goal to live a balanced, functional life so that you can leave a legacy of such. Give your life function some serious thought.
We ended each paragraph with a challenge to think seriously about each. These aren’t issues we will solve immediately. They take a lifetime to build, and they will ebb and flow. But as you diligently pursue staying on top of them, you will be locking in that legacy you desire to leave behind!