Posts Tagged ‘Perseverance’

LEGACY 11: THE VALUE OF LEGACY: Why Does It Matter?

May 20, 2018

(Originally written 9/30/14. The grandson mentioned here is almost 7 now.)

Why is being consciously concerned about leaving a legacy important? Why does it even matter?

The only answer that even works is love.

A hundred years from now, who will remember me personally? No one, most likely. A century later, if any of us exist at all in anyone’s consciousness, it is as a name on a building plaque or tombstone or in a genealogy. Nothing remains. Anonymous dust. (Since I plan to be cremated, there won’t even be the tombstone in my case.)

So why bother caring? For the same reason that, in that unthinking heartbeat, without batting an eyelash, we would lay down our lives for the grandson we are taking to the museum. He matters that much.

True, he probably won’t be around in that same hundred years, but leaving him something significant, consciously, may make it easier for those he transmits his legacy to. Someone has transmitted their legacy, even if only genetically, to get me here, and others have transmitted culture, knowledge, and sustainability to get us all here. So somehow, it matters.

We have to love enough to leave a legacy. The only legitimacy legacy can claim is caring enough to make it happen. Deep inside, in our core, we care, enough to want it to matter. So we strive to leave something behind.

I can remember crying in my early school days, asking my dad—in my own mind— why he had had to leave me. (He committed suicide when I was 3.) But sometimes a clarity would come in, that perhaps he had left me more by leaving me—I had social security and veteran benefits for school that I would not have had otherwise. And who knows what negative memories I was spared? Maybe in leaving me, he loved me more than even he knew. I still pray for him—that is part of his legacy in leaving.

We have to love our past adequately in order to value the future. The continuity needs to be established. It took me until I was age 60 to track back past my father’s father’s name, age, and residence listed on my dad’s birth certificate. I found a brokenness in the life of his father—my great-grandfather—that explained it. He had killed his mother accidentally at age 17, and died when his son was 12. That son, my grandfather, never married my grandmother, leaving more brokenness. (My father’s birth certificate says they were married, but I’m almost certain that was a cover-up, based on other genealogical clues.)

But out of all those brokennesses, and a multitude of others, the mosaic of my life is pieced together. I have to try to step back enough to discern the picture. And even then, I only catch glimpses of glory.

But I care enough to try to leave it for my son and daughter, for their daughters, and for this grandson who is not even my flesh and blood. He may never read this, but it matters to me. I love that much.

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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.

A Man Called Marshall

July 23, 2012

Yesterday, Sunday, my wife and I were driving down to have lunch with her son, Allen, who is my step-son (though he has become as much a son as my own flesh-and-blood son), and his son, Colt, our 1-year-old grandson. He is in the middle of family and custody issues that rival a soap-opera, and we, of course, get caught in the middle, trying to navigate the treacherous waters that will bring the most benefit for the little tyke, whom we want to have the best family and spiritual heritage possible in the midst of a not-so-pleasant situation. It IS resolving itself some, but it is painful, and we were going to lunch to try to resolve some of most recent eruptions of the issue.

On the drive down, we are talking about a man who paid tribute to his just-deceased father at the start of a long teaching I had been listening to. We have a lot of respect for this particular teacher, having heard him in person a number of times, but this particular video is on YouTube, and has become relatively well-viewed. Out of the blue, my wife says, “I don’t know what I would say at my father’s funeral. I guess if I don’t have anything to say, the best thing would be to simply keep quiet.”

I was appalled. My wife’s father, Marshall, is in his upper 80’s. He has lived all his life in flat farming country in the Midwest. He was a successful farmer, a major officer in a land bank, and still married—they just celebrated 65 years in May. But that is not where I think his greatest success lies. The last 6 years have been probably the most painful of his whole life, watching his wife be slowly stolen from him by the ravages of Alzheimers. Whether out of stubbornness or perseverance (flip-sides of the same coin to me), he resists putting her in a nursing home. In-home care is costing him into 5 figures each year, and is slowly eating away the inheritance he longed to—and was giving some of—to his 3 daughters. He has had to make necessary adjustments—keeping the stove power off because his wife tried to boil water in plastic, having to restrain her in ways that tear his heart out, watching her weep when she gets up on a Thursday morning and dresses for church and cries because she can’t go (it’s not Sunday), seeing her personality disappear out of a body that is like a walking death endured in a thousand indescribable ways. (The blessings of our medical prowess have brought us curses as well, like the Cumaean sibyl of Ovid, able to live forever, but having failed to ask for eternal youth, withering away till we’re trapped in a jar with only a voice left.)

So I said to my wife, “Your dad is a monument. I wish the world could be full of Marshalls.” I went on to describe some of the ways I admire him—a man who at 88 still lives in the same house for half a century, who still makes his own ammo and shoots prairie dogs, who is still able to drive to visit his daughter a thousand miles away, who is proud of how little he has to recycle, who still eats a simple breakfast—the list goes on and on. I said, “If the world had a lot more men like your dad, we wouldn’t be having all the situations like we are going to try to take care of today. I wish there were thousands of men like Marshall.”

She got teary-eyed and said, “Thank you. I appreciate you helping me see that about my dad.” But it’s true: I would gladly be like a man called Marshall, and I wish far more men had models and monuments like that to look up to.

The Value of Just Holding On

April 6, 2012

Sometimes it’s all you can do just to hold on. And that’s OK. That’s enough. That’s what it takes.

Of course, it goes without saying, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” So there is also a time for just letting go.

Getting them right is what matters.

History is replete with names of those we remember just because they knew to just keep holding on: Christopher Columbus, Helen Keller, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, Mother Teresa, and many others. We remember the names of famous battles for just holding on, even to the point of death: Thermopylae, Masada, the Alamo, Gettysburg, Normandy—the list goes on. Scripture has its own “Hall of Fame”—Hebrews chapter 11 lists many who just held on: Noah, holding on for 120 years building, and then another full year afloat; Moses, holding on to the possibility of creating a free people out of slaves (even holding out against the Lord, who more than once told Moses to move over and let him kill them all and start over with Moses!), Jacob wrestling with the angel and holding on till he limped. Our favorite heroes in books and movies are often those who held on against extreme odds: Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Rocky Balboa, Neo, Jake (in Avatar), and more. We admire survivors and survival stories, and tell them to ourselves and our children, and even make up reality shows based on seeing who can hold on the longest!

Why do we hold on? What do we hang on to? What makes us hold on? What is it that makes us value tenacity, total loyalty, unflinching bravery? There’s something unquenchable in the human spirit. Maybe it’s related to the will to live. Maybe it’s more.

Sometimes we hold onto HOPE. Sometimes it is knowing that what we’re holding onto is somehow “RIGHT”—right and good and just and wholesome and fair and desirable. Sometimes it is the encouragement of someone whose insight we respect, telling us that we CAN do it, that it IS worthwhile, that the end IS IN SIGHT. Sometimes it’s because, as the song says, “I still haven’t found what I’m lookin’ for.”

Sometimes it is because we have seen others not hold on, and we know how devastating that can be. I had a professor in college who used to say, with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t commit suicide today—you can always do it tomorrow.” And I did find it humorous, but it helped me because I had seen personally how my own father’s NOT holding on impacted my life—he committed suicide when I was only 3 and my sister 2. But maybe, in his own way, even he held on—he had 3 other bullets under his pillow, but at 6:45 am, told my mom to get up and fix breakfast. Somehow he found some measure of hope and allowed us to live. Even in the ultimate giving up, he held on. At least I have to hold onto that belief.

And if I’m wrong? There are a lot of places where being wrong IS clearly wrong. But here, I don’t think it is. Holding onto that kind of faith and hope has enabled me to live more than twice as long as he did, and to see my grandchildren, one of them almost grown. Even holding onto the failures of those who have preceded us—or even our own failures—can be a good thing, if it points us toward holding on in the right way.

Just hold on. Someone needs you to.