Your legacy is defined by how you live your life.Early on when we think we’re immortal and invincible, we don’t think about the end.

We take more uncalculated risks and live freely as teenagers – more in the moment. It’s natural. Only when we get deep into our careers, have families do many of us start thinking about what’s left after we’re gone.

What will people say about us? Will the years we spent working and racing from appointment to appointment matter? Out of the billions of people in the world, how will we stand out? It’s a daunting prospect when you look at it that way. And you’ll not likely succeed by focusing solely on what people will remember after you’re gone. If that consumes you, you won’t notice the life in front of you.

Legacy is something I think about from time to time. It helps me focus my energy on uncovering what motivates me and what kind of a difference I can make in my short time here. Yes, I’d like to push the boundaries of longevity, but advances in modern medicine aside, it’s still a short time. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, death and taxes are the only certainty. And, no, I don’t know what legacy I’ll leave yet.

But focusing on the legacy part is misguided. More important is focusing on setting your vision, mission and working towards fulfilling that. Defining the difference you hope to make, sharing that with those around you and leading with authenticity. If you do that, you’ll leave a legacy. If you take action daily, you’ll have the opportunity to create something that will matter. The key is in the doing. If you don’t, all your good ideas in your head will vanish with you. So get them out there. Iterate. Innovate. Experiment. Share. Learn. DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It’s like viral marketing. You can’t make something go viral any more than you can define your legacy. No, it comes from a life purposefully lived. A life in which those appointments you’re racing to and from add up to a whole. Your legacy will be defined after the fact.

So think about your work. Your appointments. Your purpose. Carve out the time to move some big rocks by taking little steps. Taking action, no matter how small, if connected with a purpose gets you somewhere. You’ll turn a single butterfly into a swarm that moves those around you.  Yes, such thinking means you need to shut off the TV and expend some calories.

Too many live their lives in mediocrity. I’ve certainly done my share of mediocre. They don’t take any action, instead get mired in the petty. Or they don’t believe they can. They think it’s someone else.  All it takes is a trip to the mall at the holidays to see how many shop wearily because that’s what they’re told to do. Living without a vision. Viewing the holidays as something to get through like a trip to the DMV.

Thinking small is just as important as thinking big.

At the very least, I can contribute to my daughter’s life. I can inspire her, support her in realizing her dreams. Legacy isn’t always global. It can be micro too. Maybe it’s the difference you make in the lives of the people closest to you.

If as chaos theory suggests, we’re all interdependent and our actions as a single butterfly influence events around the globe. We each do matter, but don’t realize how. Don’t worry about the how.  Focus on the what. On creating.

Never before have we had the tools available to make a difference. The very fact I can hit publish and share these thoughts with you is significant. Ben Franklin had to crank up a press and arrange the distribution to get his words out there, costing significant time and money.  Your thoughts matter. Maybe you’ll solve the climate crisis. Or maybe you’ll give a child the confidence she needs to succeed. Either way, it matters.

Your legacy is your life. Whether it’ll be remembered depends on how you live it. But don’t be daunted; that only drags you down. Keeps you stuck. Live it purposefully with vim and vigor. If you do, I think you’ll matter. You’ll be the butterfly that takes flight. Just take action.

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Comments

  1. Joseph says:

    One of my wife’s aunts passed a couple of years ago. She’d lived what seemed to be a most modest life. No earth shaker by any means, and she died in her late 70s, so many of the people she knew in life had preceeded her. But the church was absolutely PACKED to overflowing. With her simple life and her and her husband’s unremitting generosity of spirit, they had touched a great many lives, and we all wanted to pay our respects.

  2. Well said, Patrick. Focusing on creating the legacy is overwhelming. Here’s to jumping in, doing and getting those good ideas in your head out into the world.

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