Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

LEGACY 1: What Is MY Legacy?

May 6, 2018

(Note: I wrote the following, exactly as is, almost 4 years ago, 9/16/14. I had intended to begin posting a series of LEGACY blogposts, but for whatever reason, haven’t followed through. I am now 65, in business full-time 25 years, and thinking more about LEGACY more deliberately. Thus, I’m coming back round. I will probably post 1/day for around 2 weeks, all of them written in the fall of 2014 and a couple during 2015. From there, I will try to be more intentional about posting. If you are reading this, thank you, and I hope these posts, and future posts, create value and add to your life.)

When I joined a short-term mastermind group last year, we were given a pack of 50 or so cards with terms on them like PERSEVERANCE, MONEY, SUCCESS, FAITH, FAMILY, FRIENDS, etc. We were told to sort through the deck and pick the top 6 we felt were most important in our lives, and then to prioritize them. My top pick was LEGACY.

I’m not totally sure why. But I know the drive to leave something of significance is reflected in many of the choices I make, some even daily. I sometimes think of a time 100 years from now, when I won’t be remembered, which really doesn’t bother me, because I know I don’t remember people of 100 years ago or think of them really at all, unless I’m studying genealogy. Life demands too much focus, simply sometimes to put one foot in front of the others, to even think about legacy, whether it’s the legacy we received or the legacy we’re leaving.

But we do leave ideas. We impact the future by how we think, how we live our lives, the concepts we embody, the ideas we embrace. “Ideas have consequences,” someone said. Indeed they do. “The pen is mightier than the sword” remains true today, even if you substitute “gun” or “bomb” for “sword.” An ancient Chinese proverb, “The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory,” points out the importance of leaving a legacy in writing if possible.

So what do I consciously choose to leave as MY specific legacy?

  • Life is process. It’s ongoing. Keep doing it. It’s worth living. (My basis for saying this: My father committed suicide when I was 3. He had 3 bullets under the pillow his head was laying on—and they may have been intended for my mother, my younger sister, and me.)
  • Invest in people. People have eternal worth—even God invests His universe in their care! (Wisdom dictates following others’ ideas of what’s significant, and the same logic should apply to considering what God thinks is important.)
  • KISS—“Keep It Simple, SIMPLE!” Stick with what you know, are good at, do best. (Warren Buffett and Donald Trump—and probably many others—espouse this idea. Being too scattered dissipates energy, and results in no legacy of significance. Dan Ariely, in Predictably Irrational, points out an experiment that supports this line of thinking. Often the most successful are those who focus on one or two things, and do them superbly.)
  • Communication is key. Talking—and, more importantly listening—is uniquely human, what distinguishes humans from animals, at least with regards to leaving legacy. (Animals do communicate, but for the purpose of short-term needs related to survival. Humans are able to think conceptually in terms of future, past, imaginary and theoretical concepts, hierarchy, eternity—in short, outside themselves. We need to relate to legacy with that in mind.)

That’s all for now. I want to keep these under 500 words.

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Genius, Unencouraged, Withers

May 8, 2012

Too often, I fear, we fail to recognize the small stirrings of genius in each other.

I was made keenly aware of this this past week in a small exchange of conversation between my wife and myself.

And sometimes it is because we are so used to the particular gifting we have but have gotten used to.

Here’s how it played out. While riding somewhere, I said something that for me was within my usual way of thinking of things, some observation about what was going on that, for me, encapsulated an idea, painted the bigger picture in what was going on. To give you an example, our son and daughter-in-law have been teaching their 9-month-old son to clap his hands when he accomplishes some major (for him) feat of growth—rolling over, grabbing something, making a sound that is recognizable to us, etc. I thought that was an admirable and praiseworthy way of helping him grow, but the way I said it was, “That’s neat! They’re teaching him to celebrate little things!” It was, for me, just a simple statement, nothing profound, but it moved my wife. “I would never have thought of it that way,” she said in amazement.

And then that old self-denigrating, self-deprecating little demon that leads to envy (we all deal with it) started hounding her. “I wish I could do that. You are so good at that, but I never think of things that way.”

I tried to head it off at the pass. “You are gifted in so many other ways, Sweetie,” I suggested—and she really is. And then I had a thought: “Why don’t we pray that you get that gift?” So we said a short prayer to that effect—nothing elaborate, just a simple request.

Twice later in that same day, she made observations that were on the same level of brilliance to me as what I had done earlier was for her. And I pointed it out to her, to her amazement, I think. And I’m sure she has done it more than either of us had been aware of in the past—we simply hadn’t noticed.

I do have a gifting with words, and I’ve been told that more than once, but it’s something I’m used to. I live with it, breathe it, glory in it, am tormented by it. It’s my atmosphere, my milieu, my life-breath. But I noticed that she has sparks that are just as brilliant, moments of insight, flashes of luminescence that surprise and fascinate me—but I seldom comment on them because it’s so commonplace for me. And the same genius in her, unnoticed and uncomplimented, withers and atrophies, wastes away, simply for lack of a little watering, a few well-placed kind words.

Far too many people live in a “home on the range, where seldom is heard an ENcouraging word”—not intentionally, but simply because we walk blindly—bludgeoningly, it turns out—through this life, not building up our fellow sojourners, and as a result allowing each other to wither in a dry desert of un-notice. We grow up that way, with no one feeding our deepest longings for significance, no one teaching us that we can, simply by our words, make a difference. We starve each other of part of our humanness, and kingdoms fall for want of a small nail. We don’t mean to—it just “happens.”

I think of two powerful images of this lack. The first image is from a scientific experiment (I can’t imagine doing this—it pains me to even think of it) in which they taped a patch over a new-born kitten’s eye (fortunately, only one eye) to see if it could learn to see, having known only darkness. It couldn’t—for the entire remainder of life. The other is a parable, a definition of heaven and hell based on how we treat each other: If we couldn’t bend our arms at the elbows, and had to try to eat, hell would be trying only to feed ourselves—heaven would be feeding each other.

I’m not sure we can undo all the patches we have been subjected to, whether deliberately or through circumstances. But we can try to learn to live in that parabolic heaven now. We can learn to celebrate little things.

We can help each other find our way on the path we all trod that Victor Frankl called “Man’s Search For Meaning.”

We can.

Notice. Become.

Aware. Alive.