“…it’s what remains when you’re gone.”
I recently began watching Game of Thrones and this definition was provided by one of the many Lords to my girl, Arya (LOVE HER).
I began thinking about legacy after having the privilege of attending a retirement party for my boss’ boss. He’s worked on the same campus for 40 years. 40 years! That’s not really a thing anymore.
At the party, as pictures of his time on campus flashed across the screen, people from across those 40 years showed up to shake his hand, give him a hug, deliver deeply thoughtful gifts, share with him a fun memory and a sincere thanks for the impact he had on their life. It was beautiful, emotional, and really, just perfect. Hell, even the deviled eggs had names!
His legacy was on full display in that room. He’s no longer coming to work on a daily basis but he doesn’t have to, because he has left an indelible imprint on the campus and those who have ever been in his presence.
I became a bit overwhelmed and pensive as I stewed over what people might have to say about me at the end of my career. At my retirement party, what, if anything, will be said about me and my work? Will I have made an impact? Been a gamechanger? Left people with words that their head and heart will not allow them to forget? Inspire people enough that they would cross state lines to give me a hug?
A day later I attended the Creative Souls Launch Party and in the front of the room stood a desk covered with paper that had the question, “What do you want your legacy to be?” scrawled in the center. I took up residency at that desk because, well, my feet hurt and I was hot. I soon found that not only was the chair comfortable BUT it was a great way to meet people and I was able to ponder this question throughout the evening. Here’s what I wrote:
Not sure if this is complete but I certainly would not be alarmed if this is what was said about me at a retirement party. As I sat at the desk the creative lot of women that approached the question all responded with a similar response, “Wow, that’s a hard question.” “I don’t know.” I’m going to have to think about this one.” “Hmph, that’s a heavy question.”
Yes, it is a hard question—as it should be.
Your legacy is an outcome. In education, we have learning outcomes and legacy could be called your “living outcome” or “working outcome”. When I’m planning a program, I start from developing a clear picture of what I want students to learn from this experience. I then build the program around those outcomes. This will guide the activities I choose, the speakers I invite to share, and the resources I provide during the program. The key takeaways have been planted into the curriculum. Legacy is something that you have to live into—once you’ve decided what you want your legacy to be (and it shall certainly change as you do) then you must act accordingly. Your actions and your words must be in alignment with the legacy you desire to leave behind for others.
Reflecting about your legacy adds a strong level of intentionality to your life. Live and work as you want to be remembered.
At the same event located at Storyville USA, I ran into this wall. “The key to immortality is to first live a life worth remembering.” –adding this to the to-do list.
Regardless of whether we intend to or not, we all leave a legacy behind. The opportunity and the responsibility we have in the present moment is to design the legacy we want instead of acquiring the default setting.
What do you want your legacy to be? What do you hope people say about you upon retirement or your departure from this life? Are you living into your legacy? If not, what actions do you need to take in order to do so?