Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Does promise and potential guarantee a lasting legacy? I am a huge sports fan. In the sports world, there are certain athletes that come to mind whenever the topic of wasted potential comes up. These individuals had stellar college careers, show great promise and potential to succeed, but fall short and leave the wrong type of legacy. One tragic example that comes to mind is that of Len Bias.

Len Bias was considered one of the greatest college basketball players of the modern era. He was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the year in 1985 and 1986. Whenever a discussion is started about the greatest players ever to play at the University of Maryland and in the Atlantic Coast Conference, his name always comes up. He was the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, a team that had just won the NBA championship. Three days after being drafted, Len spent a night partying with friends and snorting cocaine in his University of Maryland dorm room. The cocaine caused him to go into cardiac arrest and he died shortly afterwards. The Len Bias story teaches us that promise and potential does NOT guarantee a lasting legacy.

The founders of The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity have left us a lasting legacy. As we celebrate One Hundred Years of existence and excellence, the question becomes how do we leave a lasting legacy? I believe that there are three key elements that we must have to accomplish this.

The first element that is necessary for a lasting legacy is the Right Connection. The right connection is a connection with God. Our founders were deeply religious men who had a strong connection with God. Bishop Edgar A Love was a Methodist Bishop who presided over four churches during his career. It is that strong connection that allowed our founders to leave behind the legacy of this great fraternity. Proverbs 3:5 instructs us to “trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, lean not on our own understanding, in all of our ways to acknowledge Him and he shall direct our paths.” When we allow God to direct our paths we are sure to leave a lasting legacy. If we fail to connect ourselves with God, we are guaranteed to come short of our promise, purpose, and potential. The most critical step in connecting with God is accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The next step is to develop a consistent prayer life and have a regular fellowship with a local church.

The second element needed is The Right Company. To bring this point home I will quote to a famous person named Gwendolyn C Twiggs: “Birds of a Feather Flock together!” As I grew older, I was saddened to discover that my mother was not the original author of this profound statement. I also discovered that this statement is true, and that understanding it is critical for success in life. We must be careful to surround ourselves with individuals that have the results in their lives that we want. Proverbs 13:20 teaches us the following: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” The right company will hold us accountable to staying on the right path. The right company doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, but they will tell us what we NEED to hear. The right company brings out the best in us. Our founders gave us an excellent example of this. Oscar James Cooper, Edgar A. Love, and Frank Coleman were known as the Three Musketeers when they were on Howard University’s campus. When you saw one, you were likely to see the other two. These three men, along with Professor Ernest Everett Just, were men of like ideals and like attainment. Our fraternity exists today as a result of our founders keeping the right company. It is possible that the Len bias story may have had a different ending if he had different company around him.

The Third and final element that is needed is the Right Commitment. The commitment that I am referring to is a commitment to service. We have a lot of brothers who are standing on the sidelines. Lasting legacies are never birthed on the sidelines. Lasting legacies are birthed in service when we roll up our sleeves and get to work. One of the familiar Hymns of the Baptist Church is “Standing on the Promises.” I am afraid that some of us get that confused with “Sitting on the Premises.” The ultimate model of a servant is Jesus Christ. The Bible declares that He sacrificed Himself and put the needs of humanity ahead of His own. The world is different today because of His service. The true measure of any servant is that their arena is different because of their presence. If we are an effective servant, our fraternity should be different because of our initiative. The committee’s we serve on should be different because of our input. Our churches should be different because of our impact. Our communities should be different because of our involvement. If the arenas we operate in are the exact same as before we got there, we need to question our commitment to service.

To summarize, if we plan on leaving a lasting legacy, we need the Right Connection, the Right Company, and the Right Commitment.

My Legacy Will Be Picking Up Where Those Before Me Left Off

If you think about your family history as far back as you have knowledge of it, you are getting a view of what legacy is all about. From your most distant relative to your own parents, every individual in each generation has passed many things down to you. When you use these nuggets of wisdom appropriately, you are setting the stage to pass your ancestors’ amazing legacy down to the generations who will follow you in decades to come.

One part of legacy is the characteristics and attributes which you have inherited from your ancestors. Your ancestors may have come to the United States from a different country, bringing with them such values as a strong family unit, dedication to hard work, and the desire to turn dreams into the reality of success. They have passed these values on to your grandparents, your parents, and you, even if you never had the opportunity to meet any of them in person.

Living this legacy and passing it along to the next generation is not an old-fashioned concept. In fact, when you pick up where those before you left off, you are honoring their sacrifices, acknowledging the good that they did during their lifetimes, and deeming it all valuable enough to make it a part of your own life in the present day. When you do this, your own children and grandchildren will inherit this gift from you, just as you have inherited it from those who lived before you.

A second part of their legacy consists of the traditions and customs which were an integral part of their lives. These traditions and customs may have been related to the culture of your ancestors, the religion they practiced, or special traditions and customs made up within the family. When you practice their traditions in your own life, you are demonstrating how meaningful their traditions are to you; passing them on to younger family members or your own children in the future, will keep your ancestors’ legacy alive.

You can look at legacy as a very distinctive kind of keep sake. Although you cannot hold it in your hand or place it in your home for display, it is something to treasure. Unlike heirlooms which can become broken, damaged, or lost, the heirloom of your legacy will continue to be as strong and beautiful as it was for your grandparents, as long as you keep it this way. While photographs and other mementos may not withstand the test of time, your legacy can. If you realize how much it meant to those who came before you, and acknowledge that it continues to hold such deep meaning for you today, you are not only honoring your ancestors, but making your own life more meaningful at the same time.

In the future, when there is a new generation to pass this legacy to, they will surely appreciate and cherish it as much as you do today. Legacy helps you to be one strong link in the chain of the generations.

What If Tomorrow Never Came: How To Build Your Legacy

How you see yourself, and how others might refer to you are often two different things.

While you might be concerned with protecting your reputation, have you ever given thought to how it might live on? What it stands for is something many of us don’t really consider until we reach a certain age and realize that we’re not immortal.

If tomorrow never came, what would you be leaving behind for the world to remember you by? This is something that has probably crossed your mind before. However, what are you currently doing to ensure the legacy you are en-route to, is one you can be proud of?

The Moment of Denial

When most people hear the word, legacy, they start to think about their portfolio, life insurance policy, will, and lingering debt. In reality, when you consider what should be most important, it isn’t your money, property, and financial inheritance that will be remembered the fondest and longest, but rather what you’ve left to the world that can be used and cherished for years to come.

There are several options a person has when considering their future. You can offer up words of encouragement and knowledge to your children and/or business partners, or confess your love and admiration to your significant other or close friends. You may also give away personal relics that will serve as reminders for who you were. You can donate money and time to a noble cause, give away property or stock, or designate a final resting place that will be visited by loved ones for decades to come.

These are all worthy goals. However, probably one of the most sought after goals in life is the one that says you left the world in better condition than when you entered it. That the world is better off for having known you, and people will look back on your life and appreciate the sacrifices you made to accomplish the things you set out to do. But what if you haven’t set out to accomplish anything? It’s probably time that you decide…

How You’ll Be Remembered

When you consider the legacy you are leaving behind, what matters most is not how you see yourself, but how others weigh your character and accomplishments. A better way to describe this is to ask yourself this important question, if a tree falls in the middle of a forest, and nobody was ever there to witness it, does it really matter? And when the day comes that you fall, will you matter? That choice is up to you.

There are several recommended means to leaving behind a noble legacy. One important thing to consider is that not all legacies are considered equal. In fact, depending on the route you choose, your legacy can last anywhere from a couple months to many centuries. Starting from the least to most memorable, let’s discuss your options.

  • Property and Money– The problem with property and money, is while they may represent years of hard work and dedication, giving away a portion of your financial worth is not often as significant as you’d like it to be. In fact, it may only be remembered for as long as it takes to buy a new SUV or plastic surgery procedure. This is why it may be better to begin giving away small portions of your inheritance while you are around to enjoy it. This will cut out a portion of the red tape and taxes, plus you can oversee how it is being used, and ensure it is going to a good (memorable) cause.
  • Experiences– It has been said that one of the best ways to create happiness for yourself, is to spend your money on experiences, rather than tangible objects. It is easier to bestow fond feelings towards someone you’ve had the chance to experience life with. The one word of caution is not to think of it as one last hurrah before the curtain closes. The problem with saving up for a certain point in your life, is that you never know when the end will come. Instead, it is better to live your life creating memorable experiences with as many people as you can.
  • Donations– Speaking of good causes, donations are another good way to leave behind a good portion of yourself. Part of a legacy should be to empower your existence while you are still around. Knowing that you have (and will be) supporting a worthy cause can give you a real feeling of accomplishment. And the good news is, no matter what’s currently in your financial profile, there is always room to volunteer your time, which can make as much difference as a moderate monetary donation.
  • Gifts– Think of the last time you crossed by an object in your home that reminded you of a fond person or moment in your life? This is the power of leaving behind a personal artifact to a friend or loved one. These can take the role of a relatively small gift, yet carry the emotional value of a much larger inheritance. The greatest limit to a gift is that it often loses a portion of its value and significance as it is passed to the next generation.
  • Goals– You may not have thought about it before, but almost all your goals can be accomplished by those you leave behind. This may be best taken advantage of in business, where a loyal staff or partner can take over from where you left off, and continue to accomplish your life’s goals. This is often called a business exit strategy, and is worth doing right. Incidentally, to successfully leave any business in good hands, the torch must begin to be passed years before your actual retirement, so it is really never too early to start.
  • Lessons and Values– Along the same lines as passing the torch in business, is passing your life’s lessons and values to those who will make good use of them. Many successful people find the most satisfaction in teaching others what they’ve learned in life, and seeing this advice accomplish things that would have never been possible if they’d kept it to themselves. The fact is, you can only do so much as one man. Invest a portion of your time and energy by sharing your knowledge, and your contributions to the world could become infinite.
  • Body of Work– If you think about a few of the most famous legacies that date back centuries (Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, etc.), many of them involved a body of work that impacted the world. While personal artifacts and lessons can lose their significance over time, a body of work continues to inspire, because it does not require someone’s memory to give it value, as it is inspirational in itself. This could be a book, art, or an invention. This may not be an easy feat to accomplish on a large scale. However, there are many levels to this success, including a self-published novel.

Live Life as if it Defines Your Last Words

Live your life with direction and inspiration, as every moment offers the opportunity to create a new and worthwhile legacy. When all is said and done, a person is rarely judged by the number of quality accomplishments in their life, but the quality of life that resulted from their accomplishments.