Your Legacy

September 1, 2007

In 1989, the great singer/songwriter Carole King shared with the world her compelling new song Legacy. She tells the listener that while we are trapped running in a rat maze, we forget to think about the legacy we want to leave behind.

This timeless song asks the following question: How do we want to be remembered? What will your descendants, the industry and the world remember about you? By thinking about our legacy and serving one another, we are actually telling everyone that our lives and work really matter. What will be your legacy?

It’s gotta begin with you…

What is a legacy? It is every human’s utmost desire to bequeath a mark or impression on the world. As we journey through life, we need to answer the following questions: Are we leaving the world a better place than how we found it? Are we doing things that are significant and enduring? Do we inspire others to achieve their ultimate potential?

A legacy is not only about producing results or record-breaking attendance for our meetings and events, a legacy is about serving others. A legacy is a lifetime of work and transpires every day.

Helping others is extraordinarily important to mankind and the world. Service gives our lives a sense of meaning and purpose. Nothing else can replace it. Many of us think that we do not have the time or the skills to serve others. Others think that the problem is too big for us to make a difference. But we can make a difference in the little things we do every day.

When scrambling around to get things done around the office, do we stop to take the time to listen to a colleague who is having difficulty with an assignment? Do we answer the call from the college student asking for advice about our industry? Do we stop in to see our elderly neighbor and ask if they need anything from the store? Do we deliver the leftover flowers from our event to a nursing home in the neighborhood? Do we look the store clerk in the eye and really take the time to listen to how his or her day is really going?

No matter how menial the task may seem, a legacy is all about leaving the world a better place with what you did.

You used to be as a child full of hope and wonder…

Confidentially, through surveys and audience response systems, millions of Americans respond that “work-life balance” is the No. 1 concern in their lives. While working at a frenetic pace, we rarely just STOP and think about the direction of our careers and our lives.

Do we STOP and ask ourselves the following questions: Do we truly love the work that we are doing? If we were given the opportunity to do our dream job, what would it be? How are we impacting the lives of others?

We may become frustrated with experts on their attempts at giving advice on “work-life balance” because it is so very personal. How can we expect them to give us advice about what is important to us?

As adults, we have layers and layers of filters on top of our dreams and aspirations. The challenge is to eliminate the thought that you cannot do something or you missed the opportunity. It’s never too late to develop your legacy. Observe a 3-year-old for 10 minutes—the way they dream and imagine will urge you to return to your earlier passions and aspirations.

Watcha gonna do about it…

How do you impact the lives of others? There have been many studies on how far our influence can be extended, and we know for a fact that pushing or bullying people does not work. People are willing to be influenced if they feel appreciated and understood. Influencing others is about moving people forward. It is one of the most powerful forces. The challenge with influencing or having an impact on others is to understand ourselves first and how others perceive us.

My mom gave the following advice to my five siblings and me: “Be careful with what you say and what you do, for whatever you choose reflects on our family name and reputation.”

Looking back, mom provided us with early training on the self-branding process—so natural, such wisdom! Self-branding is about building and maintaining your family name and reputation.

As children, we clearly understood that positive words and actions would protect our reputation—and please our parents—while negative choices would hurt our image and that of our family. It was also very clear that it was our duty and responsibility to our family to help preserve its reputation. During all of this a core value was instilled to support self-branding; the core value of representing a group first—your family—followed by your individuality.

Why is one’s reputation important in our industry? Most people agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s reputation and his or her professional success, and ultimately a company’s bottom line. How effectively you represent yourself in public often determines what you will accomplish in your career—and life. Your name can open—and close—doors for you, and guarding your self-brand should be a priority.

Telling Stories

Legacies are passed on in the stories we share with one another. What stories will others tell about you in the future? What will they learn from your legacy? What stories do you share with others about others?

Since the early ’60s, Carole King has written the lyrics and music of scores of songs made famous by others. She has developed a tremendous legacy of telling stories through music.

One more story: Since 1997, five tremendous women get together for an annual event called “Sisters’ Week.” The tradition is to drive from Chicago to the family cottage in Michigan.

Besides storytelling about family and friends filled with good-old-fashioned humor, they enjoy time at the beach, travel around the area, attend plays, and work on numerous projects. They have a chauffeur who also serves as their expert packer, coach, protector, and car maintainer.

This event comes at the busiest time of the year for the driver, but she takes the time anyway. Serving them is a joy—it seems fitting after all of the serving they have done for her. Another added bonus is to listen to their stories that have contributed to the admirable legacies they have built over 70-plus years and continue to build.

I am the driver for Sisters’ Week. What a great gift they have given to me.

Each and every day gives us numerous opportunities to make a small difference. Do you make a difference? After all, a legacy begins with you—and is timeless.

A generic silhouette of a person.
About the author
Michele Wierzgac