Word-Of-the-Week #994: Legacy

August 24, 2023 by  

Legacy what you leave people with. 

How do you want to be remembered? Is it simply a memory or a profound impression? Are your achievements extraordinary and lasting?

This week features two excerpts from What Type of Legacy Do You Want to Leave?” by Bruna Martinuzzi, sharing ways you can have an impact after you’re gone.

“A legacy isn’t only about leaving what you earned but also what you learned.

“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I?” is the well-known aphorism from Hillel, a famous Jewish rabbi. Throughout history, we have been conditioned to look out for ourselves, or no one else will. But if we’re consumed with pursuing only our selfish interests, what are we? And more important, what legacy will we leave?

There’s a lot of criticism today about people’s lack of civic responsibility, but stories of altruism and generosity also abound. For example, there are countless people who abandon a comfortable lifestyle to help those during major disasters. And more and more, we see people who want to make a difference, who are looking to leave a positive imprint on the world and a legacy of goodness.

But a legacy isn’t only about leaving what you earned but also what you learned, and we all have an opportunity to make a difference. It doesn’t call for wealth, fame or even taking giant steps—you don’t have to be a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King to leave a positive mark right now, one that will linger long after you’re gone.

So where can you start?

  • Identify What Matters to You

What’s important to you? What are your values? How do you want your life to touch others? What would make you proud? If you had to do one thing to improve your world, what would your contribution be? How can you increase the well-being of those who depend on you? How can you leave your mark on whatever you do?

The answer to these introspective questions will help you develop a meaningful philosophy of life that goes beyond just creating financial wealth. Your words become the building blocks of your legacy. Knowing what’s important, what drives you and how you want to be remembered creates tremendous clarity in how you should live your life.

As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner remind us in “A Leader’s Legacy,” by asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we plant the seeds for living our lives as if we matter.” Considering your legacy gives you a compass to help you move with purpose and determination even in the most uncertain times. Creating a legacy statement will help you commit to what you wrote down and live your life in line with your higher values.”

  • Live Your Life as a Mensch

When Robin Williams died, Steve Martin called him “a mensch.” It’s safe to say that everyone considered Robin Williams not only to be a very funny man but also one of the kindest. Calling him a mensch is the greatest eulogy because a mensch is a person who is decent and honorable, a person of high integrity who has genuine caring for his fellow man. A mensch always looks for an opportunity to do good in life, to be of help to others and to give without regard for anything in return. A mensch doesn’t cut corners in their relationships with people. You always feel safe in the presence of a mensch because you instinctively know that they will not deceive you, undermine you or diminish you in any way. Being called a mensch is the ultimate compliment you can receive.

Strive to live your life as a mensch, and you’ll have left your greatest legacy for anyone who has come in contact with you. For pointers on being a mensch as an entrepreneur, watch entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki’s talk at Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner.

The third question from Rabbi Hillel’s famous quote is, “If not now, when?” It’s never too soon to start your legacy—to pursue both success and significance. What is one step you can take today?

This week’s focus is all about your legacy. Do you want to leave this world knowing that you made a difference? Are you looking to leave a positive imprint and a legacy of goodness? Would your peers call you “a mensch”?

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