Life gets in the way sometimes. Important things we know we should do somehow don’t get done. Call it the frailty of human nature.
Sooner or later, though, we must enter the unknown wilderness and choose what our individual legacy will be, and how we want to be remembered when we’re gone … preferably, before we’re gone.
You don’t have to be famous to leave a legacy. In fact, right now, you are building your own legacy. Basically, everything you are and everything you do is a brick-by-brick component of what you will leave to others in some way, shape or form when you leave this world.
Believe in You
There is no right or wrong way to create your legacy. Singer Tina Turner kept it simple when she said: “My legacy is that I stayed on course, from the beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me.” Ms. Turner’s legacy, for example, might serve as an inspiration to others, or a simple expression of a troubled life, without any underlying or hidden message.
Legacy forwards traditions to be passed on to future generations, like staying on course and believing in something inside. If you are a lover of animals, they are special to you, and anyone who knows you will know that.
If you are in a financial position to give back, you can start by donating to local animal-focused charity groups. There are non-profit organizations that have missions to support, and a 503(c)(3) organization will use the money responsibly. Larger groups, like ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and others do incredibly good work and need help.
Leave it in Others
Business strategist Peter Strople said: “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It is leaving something in people.” He had 16 people living in his Austin, Texas, home with the goal of helping those families get out of debt and establish a new foundation for the future.
What might seem like rare generosity to some is actually “going the extra mile” to others.
Strople is passionate about children’s issues, combating child abuse, supporting foster care and reforming education. Friends of Peter (FOP) “Good People Helping Good People,” supports Invisible Disabilities Association, Texas School for the Deaf Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters and others.
“Being a friend of Peter is like having a trust fund that keeps giving to you and everyone around you,” said a former Walmart Stores CEO. Perhaps you’ve heard this before: Your life, as you have lived it, is plenty interesting without extra gloss.
It’s Not the End; It’s the Beginning
Leaving a great legacy isn’t about cumulative physical assets, wealth or accomplishments. It’s how you can improve what you see happening around you, and then helping those people who will carry that work on into the future.
Of all the many things that Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, has done, his legacy was: “To have created one of the most respected companies in the world. Not necessarily the biggest.”
He pledged ten years of profits from his travel companies ($3 billion), to global warming research. Branson founded Virgin Unite, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to four basic tenets of world change. There are countless other charities and foundations he has contributed to in some way; the causes range from cancer research to disaster relief.
The True Meanings
Used interchangeably, the term, “legacy” is something handed down – an inheritance, gift, endowment, birthright, heirloom, settlement or provision. These are the money terms. For example, an amount of money left in a legacy.
Other usages are, “handed down like a legacy of compassion for others,” or “Dad had a legacy of respect and love,” and being a legacyis synonymous with coming from a particular bloodline. “Being a legacy allowed him to enter an Ivy League college.”
Why do you want to leave a legacy? The answer should be because it matters to you, and you want to feel that your life mattered. Wouldn’t you want your years of memories to live on? Don’t they need to be shared with future generations?
Start Building It
Once you know what you want your legacy to be, you can start living in the way you want to be remembered. So start doing what matters now. Here are some tips to get started from Sixty and Me:
- Embrace how much you’ve learned from life
- Offer a gift of your learning, experience and values to others
- Tell someone how much he or she has meant to you and give a blessing
- Recognize what’s most important as you navigate the road ahead
If you want to send a special story to a friend or family member, tell them how much they mean to you. But the most important point here is: don’t wait to write your legacy story – or your own obituary, for that matter – because no one can write your story better than you can. Your heart is a better storyteller than your head. And that’s coming from a writer.