One of the commonest questions we get is ‘what is legacy?’
Let’s answer that in this podcast.
Few of us are comfortable with the idea that we live, we die and that’s it. We want to believe there is a purpose in life and that we will make a mark of some kind, perhaps only in the memories of our children and maybe their children. But a mark nevertheless.
We were here; we thought; we loved; we created.
Your legacy is greater than you imagine
Today, not only your belongings, but your memories, your values and even your body can in different ways be passed on to the generations that follow.
This is the fertile ground from which the desire for a legacy emerges. Because creating a legacy, in a very real way, is a stab at immortality. At living forever.
But it’s complicated. The very process of leaving something behind is intimately tied up with your life story. And with how you shape the way — to a lesser or greater extent consciously — in which you are to be remembered.
Have you given serious, intentional thought to these questions:
- What do you stand for?
- Who or which community of people do you most believe in?
- Who are you most grateful to?
These are important questions. Reflecting on them, constructively, will help you to make your life meaningful. Capturing your answers and sharing them with others will be part of your legacy.
In short, creating a legacy is a drive to make life meaningful and to continue your existence, on some level, after death — but largely through your life story.
Legacy is more than just a bequest
A legacy used to be a simple thing. It was a bequest to someone. A portion of money, property or some other material possession.
Much of the family business research and most of the wealth management research talks about legacy like this.
Business owners and entrepreneurs will often say, for instance, that they want to preserve the wealth of the family for future generations. This is a very traditional and simple use of the word legacy.
What is a legacy today?
For Jacqueline Moore, my wife and business partner, and for me, as researchers in this area, legacy has become a wider concept.
And first of all, it’s not about money.
Let me sketch it out for you here.
So what is legacy?
A legacy in the way we define it has three main components:
1) A legacy is a project created or led initially by an individual
2) It’s usually in an arena of strategic global importance
3) And it’s where a large and sustainable impact can be made at speed
How legacy affects you personally
So let me suggest now how you might think about your legacy and how it might affect you personally in the future.
First, I believe that if you as an individual apply the lessons of legacy building it will make a major impact in your life and within your family.
Why? Well, to get to the stage of being able to leave a legacy you need to have clearly reached a point when your future, your health and your financial security are not the issues uppermost in your mind.
How legacy affects any employees you have
Secondly, if you are a senior executive employing thousands of people, or if you’re a policymaker responsible for millions of others, then through applying the concept of legacy and legacy building you can have strategic global importance.
There’s something else I want to say about legacy.
This challenge is part your legacy
A legacy isn’t really a legacy until someone else takes responsibility for it and carries it on when you’re gone. A legacy is only then truly enduring and sustainable.
So here’s the gauntlet I throw down to you. The responsibility for defining the agenda for living longer is yours.
And the responsibility for implementing your legacy is also yours.
Think about this now.
Because building a legacy should not be an afterthought.