What Is Your Legacy? Probably Not a Box of Stuff

Grandma had a knack of making me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it came from growing up with a bunch of brothers who picked on her, and she was forever looking for a way to get even. Many of the stories repeated about Grandma tell about her unique way of saying or doing something that would leave me speechless in public or cause me to shake my head in total dismay. She could lead me into a conversation, like a politician, and I would find myself defending my point of view with no satisfactory resolution. She exhilarated in taking normal conversation to the brink of frustration, irritation and bewilderment. It was the “gotcha” reaction in the end that always made me wonder how I had gotten to that point.

To her, it seemed like a game, and it didn’t come about with her advancing age; it was a gift she had for the forty-some years that I knew her. In her eyes, I would see the twinkle following the evolution of the situation that tickled her pink. So it wasn’t without expectation that one of the things we would remember most about her were the stories that became the legacy of who she was and how she skillfully maneuvered us into her plan.

One such situation followed about three months after her death. We received one of her bills in the mail that amounted to $12, but the interest charged was 64 cents. Minor, right? I paid the bill and asked the biller to waive the interest since she had died and the bill was not forwarded to our address. Next month the bill came again…for 64 cents plus more interest and a boldly marked statement that additional interest would be added until it was paid.

This really irritated me. I wanted to take 64 pennies, tape them to a piece of paper, and purposefully deliver them to the billing office. I quickly recognized my over-reaction and realized I was acting just the way Grandma would have wanted me to react to this situation. She would have loved to see me squirm as though saying, “gotcha!” This was just another story to add to Grandma’s treasured legacy!

Some people leave the world with meager personal possessions or worth, but they leave something much richer. They leave stories and memories about themselves that we will repeat long after the boxes of personal belongings are distributed.

Closing-up grandma’s home after her recent death made me think about the process of leaving our “precious belongings” to someone else. “Worth” and “Value” are very fluid words that can only be determined by the receiver. Legacies aren’t always about personal wealth or fame. Legacies aren’t found in the boxes of items left by the deceased. True legacies prove to be much more intimate and revealing. They speak to who this person was and what was important to him or her.

Among the dozens of boxes of items we packed up and loaded away for redistribution, there was nothing I valued as much as Grandma did. The worn cookbooks held some interest as she was an excellent cook, and I truly wanted to find some of her secret recipes. Her “valuables” were costume jewelry, family pictures, five-and-dime knick knacks, and lots of paper stuff. Her personal home accessories or belongings weren’t items I could use. I was grateful for a few wonderful things she had gifted us with years before. As we packed, we reminded ourselves this wasn’t about us. All these boxes of things held treasured memories for her.

About the same time as all this was happening, we were updating our own wills. The attorney offered an addendum page for distribution of personal items. It read, “Describe in detail and list who should receive each item.” As I started to write down my wishes, I found it difficult to name a person who would appreciate any one of the things I felt was valuable to me. I wondered if Grandma had felt the same.

Did I want to leave a box of stuff as my material legacy or would I rather leave something even richer? How could I resolve this dilemma knowing the emotion of removing Grandma’s possessions? I concluded it isn’t about the boxes of stuff we’ve packed and moved a dozen times. It isn’t about family jewels, or antique items with precious markings. Scrapbooks and pictures will hold interest for a period of time, but this fantasy too will pass. All the boxes of “stuff” l leave behind will be a reflection of me and my time here on earth. I am incapable of deciding who would value it.

It is rare when a group of young people have real interest in family artifacts, genealogy or grandma’s trunk. Pictures, unless well documented, stare back with unfamiliar faces of ancestors long departed, and often without names. A gift of money would be more appreciated than boxes of “stuff.” Today, leaving a legacy of family heirlooms is a lost art. A generation or more ago when we were poorer and greedier for family treasures, it would have been an honor to receive boxes of personal things. We would pick and choose items that held a memory for us and cherish them. Today, most of us are “spoiled” and interested only in the treasures we’ve accumulated on our own journey in life.

I felt determined to plan for a way to forego the futile task of deciding what box of stuff should go to who as part of the legacy I leave. Instead, I decided, I would selfishly leave that dilemma for some family member or designated person who reconciles my estate. I plan to let them give away, destroy, sort or sell all the un-meaningful items and spend hours doing it. I don’t plan to throw away anything that I might regret disposing of too soon, because, whether or not someone else finds happiness in the item, I enjoyed it for a time. And my plethora of items will tell everyone that I had much, much more than I ever needed. There are file cabinets loaded to maximum. There are boxes with time-honored memorabilia of happy days. Enough linens and dishes for two households, and enough clothes and shoes for a small tribe in Africa. Unless I live long enough to downsize again and again, I may still have all of it when the final curtain falls. The overwhelming task might bring a moment of disgust and frustration for some poor soul, but hopefully, a chuckle or two, also.

For a period of time, I expect there will be jokes and stories, like those about Grandma with all the stuff she had. I expect there will be some puzzled concerns about why someone would possibly keep this or that, because to the heir it’s a piece of junk. I can only hope they get sore muscles from lifting all the books and calluses from patching all the nail holes. I hope they grow bored downloading all my computer files and discarding out-of-date canned goods in the pantry. The legacy I plan to leave will be something for someone to talk about.

No matter how much I unstuff, redistribute or downsize, I’m never going to have a immaculate, compact, orderly residence that takes little decluttering at some point in my life or death. After all, that stuff is all about me. This stuff represents years of finding myself, primping myself, promoting myself and living up to such an image. Finally, it’s about trying to create one or two stories that describe me and that someone will remember. All this stuff, box or no box, is just a symbol of who I am and what was important to me at some point in time. The making and telling of the stories that come from all the boxes of stuff is worth a whole lot more than anything I could intentionally leave to someone.

Legacies are grander than “stuff.” They are timeless stories that bring a chuckle, a tear to the eye or a tinge of pride. They foster a forgotten memory. You might even hear the whisper of discreet voices from the people I love telling about all the things I did or didn’t do. And out of all the boxes will come the stories of who I really was. This is the legacy I plan to leave.

Leave a Lasting Legacy Or Be Completely Forgotten

Do you know your great grandfather? How about even his name? If you are a grandfather right now, do you ever talk about your father to your grandchildren? If not, then why not? Was he not an important man to you? I ask these questions now because I guarantee nobody has ever asked you these before. In today’s politically correct, “everybody is special” society, you have been forced to think only in the present moment; to think about what satisfies you today. So I challenge you to think differently for a few minutes as you read on, and open your mind to the possibility of building a lasting legacy for you to be remembered eternally.

As you live today a father, mother, grandfather, or grandmother, your impact on the lives of your immediate family may vary from casual visits to central focal point in frequent family gatherings. But what would happen to your living memory if you were to pass on tomorrow? If you have not laid the groundwork for a lasting legacy, the memory of your existence will completely vanish within the next generation. Shocking? It matters not how great you showed your love for your family or how your family showed their love for you. Only recorded, measurable accomplishments are ever truly remembered. Legacies are not about who you are, but about what you did. And it is what you did that will shape people’s perceptions about who you were.

So what kind of legacy would you leave? Chances are, if you are reading this article, you have not won an NBA championship or an Olympic medal, you have not founded a well-known international charity organization, and you most likely did not win a Nobel prize. The good news is that you do not need to perform miracles to be remembered for all time in your family tree and by your community. But you do need to take action now. The decisions you make today will shape how you are remembered tomorrow.

Who are the people you remember that had a positive impact on the lives of many? Let’s look at their similarities. There are the industrialists and inventors, like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. They are the major political and community figures like our President or Governor, and not members of a representative group, such as Congress. They are authors, musicians, and athletes that have reached the pinnacle of notoriety in their field not just based on their income earned in their field. They are the people whose names are on street signs, hospital wings, and community centers. What is common in most of these cases is that the people you most remember are not living in the “wage” system, but in the “profit” system.

An exception would be sports figures, but remember it is not their money that makes them memorable, but their moments in accomplishment. Also corporate executives and political figures that are famous and collect a wage also either collect company stock, write books, go on lecture circuits, or all of these which are sources of “profit” and not wages.

Making money for money’s sake will not make you remembered for more than a generation, even if you were a billionaire. It is what you do with your money and your time that matters. You can have a greater lasting legacy in your family and community than the typical professional athlete if the actions you take benefit the lives of hundreds or thousands. When you discover financial freedom, you will see that your greatest benefit is more time, and not more money. Financial freedom gives both the time to dedicate to your definite major purpose and the money needed to support your positive actions. Imagine working with community leaders to build a much needed activity center or medical center. Just donating money for the cause may be enough to put your name on a building, but is the combination of time spent within your community making a difference and money spent to fund projects that are both critical to your lasting legacy.

Make the decision now to work to escape the “wage” system and start moving toward the “profit” system. Employees collecting a wage, and retirees collecting a pension are hardly ever remembered after a generation, if not sooner. Once in the “profit” system, work towards systematizing and automating your efforts so that your time is freed to pursue your purpose and your goals. Time freed will also be enjoyed by your family as your bonds grow and your importance to your entire family is recognized and appreciated.

So what “profit” system should you choose? That is completely up to you. There are so many options available in America and around the world, your choices are endless. You can write books, create products to sell, become a paid mentor or coach, provide a service, start a franchise, and so on. Thinking of your main goal of freeing both time and money so you can build and realize your legacy, it would be best to start a home based business that has a proven system for marketing, active leaders and coaches to guide you to success, a large community of members for support, a compensation plan that is based solely on your efforts, and a product or service offered to the public that is both unique and not saturated.

Finding the right home based business is a critical step, but it is not your first step. Determining your goals is more important because chosen correctly, your goals will help you determine the right business model for your needs and will lay the necessary groundwork for your success. Remember, your ultimate goal is not to be stinking rich, but to be a leader in your family and community whose actions positively impact the lives of others. Financial wealth will match your effort and desire to leave a legacy. Your next step is to find a home based business that not only will meet your written goals, but provides both a support system of automated marketing tools that are inexpensive to implement, and a business coach that walks you through the entire process and helps you set up your business. Your third step is to act by signing up for a system, setting it up as quickly as possible, then begin working the marketing system with passion and commitment, always keeping your goals as a driving factor to your success.

This is your business, not a hobby, so take these steps seriously. Do not simply settle for a multi-level marketing “sponsor” who does not care about your personal success so as long as you keep paying your monthly membership fee. Businesses do exist where your coach is positively incentivized to make sure you succeed. Take advantage of those businesses, find one you like, and go for it. Work your business as if your life depended on it, because your living memory does. When you start giving your time and money to the betterment of your family and community, you will continuously be driven to achieve more, ensuring your lasting legacy and the admiration of thousands. Your life will have meaning and purpose. You will live a much happier life. And your legacy will live on long after you.

Leave A Legacy – Who Will Benefit?

Who will benefit from your legacy?

This question is probably of more concern than the ‘what will be my legacy?’ question, since it smacks less of self-interest and the pride of being remembered and actually looks at who might gain from your legacy.

Traditionally we have looked at our legacy being things we pass down to our relatives to help and prosper them as they make their way in the world. Who else could benefit from how you creatively choose to live your life? And will the impact be huge for a few or a gentle touch for many people?

When it comes to the people affected though, how much does scope matter? I was talking to a friend recently who has started to think about the legacy he will leave, particularly in terms of the children that he teaches. As we kept talking though we realised that if all he accomplished in the course of his life was to bring up his own children in a stable, secure and loving home then that in itself would be a great thing. Maybe we will only be remembered by one person for a single throwaway comment we have made but if that touch changes the course of their life or starts to alter their thinking then who knows where the ripples might go.

I suspect that when we think about how far-reaching our legacy goes then it will be hard to keep pride out of the equation. However, if we think about the quality of our impact on others and get less hung up about quantity then we will leave a longer lasting legacy. Mother Teresa probably didn’t set out to create an order of 4500 nuns when she started the Missionaries of Charity – she simply wanted to bring Jesus’ love to individuals but look where her wholehearted commitment to that goal took her.

Who will you make a difference for? Two other simple examples spring to mind. I was sitting in a pub with a great friend recently. Outside a dog was running out of control around the middle of the road. I disinterestedly saw an animal, she saw a situation where she could make a difference and went out to stop it getting run over. In the end she wasn’t able to collar it – it was remarkably vicious in its response to help – but yet her actions challenged my thinking. What consequences, planned or unexpected, will our positive attitudes, actions and intentions have on those around us? Secondly, I was working at a children’s activity camp a few weeks ago where all the children volunteered for an afternoon to Make a Difference. For some it was clearing up a beach but for others it was befriending elderly people around a game of indoor curling. You could see the joy and pleasure writ large on the faces of the participants, from simple words and actions.

Who will benefit from your actions and what impact might that have long into the future? How will those you impact pass on the blessing to others in their lives?

What are the foundations and how is the building progressing?

So if you want to leave a legacy behind you, you need to decide what that will be. Yes, you may have an impact accidentally but the experts are right when they say that we can achieve so much more when we are deliberate about it.

What is important to you, who do you want to impact, how do you want to make life better? If you can’t answer these then now is the time to go away and address them. Maybe start by thinking about your values and what is important to you in life. My article on values and the worksheets you can download off the website will help you delve deeper.

Once you know though, what are you going to do about it? Are you the right person to leave this legacy or do you need to change who you are or how you approach life in order to be the difference that you desire?

Have you got all the resources you need in terms of capabilities, skills, position, authority, time or money in order to bring this legacy to fruition? If not, what else do you need to put in place a foundation on which to start the building process?

If you have all the basic blocks though, how is the building coming on? What do you need to put in place to ensure that work carries on? How do you need to speak to, what little action do you need to complete? Maybe, if it is not a one-off ‘building’ or it will not be complete in your lifetime, you also need to think in terms of who can you inspire to carry on the work once you are gone.

Whatever impact you want to make on the world and on individuals, get started now. Gather what you need and take action. Leave a legacy that makes the world better, even just for one person – they will thank you for it.