Edited from Lifestorming by Marshall Goldsmith and Alan Weiss.
The most successful leaders know that building your legacy starts now. Not next week, not next year, and not when you decide to retire, but right now!
Legacy is often thought of as something left behind or handed down by a predecessor. While that may be true and common, what’s not so commonly understood is that legacies do not appear upon retirement, departure, or death.
Legacies are created daily.
Every day you’re writing the story of your life—another page, another chapter. Your legacy is on those pages. The question is, of course: Are others going to read a boring book where each page is basically identical to the one preceding it, or will they read a splendid story that evolves and contains surprises and leaves a strong message for the reader? And perhaps even a philosophy, a set of skills, or a value system?
Two thousand years after they wrote we still read Homer, Socrates, and Aristotle. Global religions were begun by individuals thousands of years ago. The plays of Shakespeare and Molière still delight us, as do the stories of Dickens and Chekhov. Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra have left legacies with their music. Madame Curie, Jonas Salk, and Alexander Fleming created legacies in medicine.
But closer to home, more intimately, we are the beneficiaries of legacies within our families, our communities, our professions. For instance, your uncle may have left you the legacy of laughter. A business owner for whom you’ve worked may have left you with the legacy of entrepreneurialism. Many people may have provided you with the legacy of community service and philanthropy.
It may be somewhat shocking to hear this at first: You can consciously create your legacy, starting now. Too many people are unaware of this opportunity or ignore it, at their peril. Think about it: If you are consciously thinking about contribution and what you provide for others, not just for your lifetime but for theirs, might that not color and influence your behaviors and decisions today?