On the topic of leaving a legacy, Warren Buffett once wrote, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
This adage rings especially true for the multigenerational family-owned manufacturing business leader, like this week’s MakingChips podcast hosts, Jim Carr and Jason Zenger. Jim and Jason talk often about the metaphorical “trees” they sit under: those they inherited their businesses from, or those whose wisdom they drew on to start their own new ventures.
Leading isn’t easy. Day-to-day, hour-by-hour a leader is responsible for making tough and final decisions. Their legacy is the history of these decisions coupled with the personal values used to make them. Taking time to identify and define your legacy goals can go a long way toward setting the course for what you’ll leave behind in a direction that inspires and prospers those who follow you.
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” -- William Shakespeare
You can’t pretend to be a good leader. But what makes a “good leader” anyway?
Obviously the answers can vary. Yet chances are you have come across at least one person who has helped you see and experience the highest vision of yourself and the most positive and transformative view of the industry you're in.
You’ve likely also witnessed the complete opposite: a person who leads through fear, manipulation, intimidation, cruelty, divisiveness, narcissism, and deep insecurity. Both of these types still hold the title “Leader”, yet only the first one will leave a lasting legacy of positive change that will benefit all people involved.
Forbes Magazine published a list of five key behaviors that truly great and positive leaders NEVER use:
- Relentlessly targeting someone who challenges them.
- Fighting over trying to be seen as “right” and better than others.
- Spurning and putting down the very people they say they are hoping to lead and influence.
- Failing to hold themselves accountable when they make mistakes.
- Lying about the facts and then falsifying data to skew the reality of the situation.
Did you come up under a leader who demonstrated these negative traits? Are you using any of these tactics to lead your own team? Remember, no one escapes history. Now is the time to redirect your course and let your legacy be one that inspires, rather than one that is best forgotten.
"The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution." -- Stephen Covey
One really strange byproduct of the digital age is this common feeling that “the more connected we are, the less we actually connect with each other”. Sadly, this can create feelings of isolation, meaninglessness, and even hopelessness.
Unlike animals, humans are burdened with the ability to conceptualize our own mortality. Along with this, most of us quickly realize we will not live long enough to see the full fruit of all our investments, nor can we control how the world will respond to what we’ve created or left behind.
So, we want to live a life of meaning, do things that matter, and connect in valuable ways with the people around us before time runs out, but where do we start?
American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, said, regarding legacy, “actions are great and I talk about them regularly, but the important stuff is what lies underneath -- the principles.”
Part of Rohn’s lasting legacy were these core principles he published, which he said we must commit to in order to leave the legacy we desire:
- Life is best lived in service to others.
- Consider others’ interests as important as your own.
- Love your neighbor even if you don’t like him.
- Maintain integrity at all costs.
- You must risk in order to gain.
- You reap what you sow.
- Hard work is never a waste.
- Don’t give up when you fail.
- Don’t ever stop in your pursuit of a legacy.
"Please think about your legacy because you are writing it every day." -- Gary Vaynerchuk
Have you heard of “50 Year Goals”?
It may sound ridiculous, especially if you’re middle aged, like me. But even if your chances of being alive in fifty years are slim to none, you should still take a look at your life and plan a vision for the future at least five decades out because, like Gary V says, like it or not, the plans you execute now are the ones that have the ability to outlive you.
When you plan “50 Year Goals”, you are focusing less on yourself and more on planning your goals around other people. These are sometimes called “Evergreen Goals” because they have a long lasting impact.
One thing is certain, there is no time like the present to get started on defining and shaping your legacy. Sometimes it just takes a nudge to get started. Below you will find five prompts to help you write your 50 Year Goals. I’d love to hear what you come up with.
- Who or What Do You Want To Impact?
This may be children, family, customers, contacts, users, followers, readers, viewers or other people that are impacted by you. It’s helpful to identify specific people you feel you can truly help.
- How Do You Want To Instill Change?
Begin by identifying the change you’d like to see. You may want to impact your children by sending them to college. You may want to start a new business venture or organization that will benefit society. You may want to reduce your company’s environmental footprint. List the change you want to see, and let the vision drive your method of achieving an outcome.
- What Will You Do/Create That Will Outlive Your Life?
Financially you might include items like life insurance, investments, or annuities. For next generation leadership, you might include writing a book, creating a video series, or outlining a plan. Physical items may include things like building a new warehouse or corporate office, creating a new product, or digitizing a process.
- What Will Be The Results?
50 Years is a long time, and the multiplier effect of networking, leadership, and compound interest can lead to some spectacular results. This is where you get to dream a little and put those human skills of imagination into action.
- What Action Steps Are Necessary To Make This A Reality?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This is where you need to write down some milestones and outline some steps. You don’t need to get too specific - you can categorize by decade or major event. The important thing is: put some actions into words, and words into motion today.
American author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury, wrote, “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
What will you change? What will you leave behind?
Whatever you dream your legacy will be, I encourage you to imagine it being evergreen and providing lots of shade for those sitting under it.