Chasing Legacy

We sat at a street corner coffee shop in small town which from my perspective could have been anywhere in America. It was a hot day but the people were out walking their dogs and iguanas (yes iguanas).

A friend of mine came into town to visit and take care of some old business. We know each other for most of our lives and we have both traveled on different paths. We both left Coop City as soon as we had a chance. He went north and I went south and from there on both of us found ourselves in the military but different branches and duties.

Perspective, Reflection, Understanding and Common Connection

It was interesting to watch the people and see where they were drawn to and how they were moving about. When we first arrived in town, we were pulling into a parking spot and positioning the vehicle to back into the spot. As we pulled closer to back in, a young women with a Jeep stole the space. I got out and asked her if she saw us backing in and she said “yes sir, but you were swerving so, I didn’t know what you were doing.” My friend was driving and he was less than happy about her behavior. It was such a beautiful day, I told the young lady not to worry and we moved on and found a spot right away.

The young lady moved on not caring about her behavior and most likely painfully unaware of how she frustrated my friend. I admittedly was irritated as well but I have come to believe that many people are living in a bubble. People are enclosed and encased in their phones and headphones. They may as well have a glass wall around them as they seem to see what is around them through the lens of their camera vs their own eyes. Even as we sat next to our iguana friend, as people approached to observe or interact every single person had their camera up. It was a social media event and an instagram experience, something to catch and share.

My friend and I started talking about legacy and how the world has shifted from when we were kids growing up in the north east Bronx. Coop was a bubble, it was a city within a city and we were disconnected from the rest of the world on most days but we were much more connected to each other as people. We weren’t knowledgable of the world but we were worldly in our connectedness. Possibly even more worldly than the kids today.

When we think and talk about legacy, we always talk about what we are leaving behind. Isn’t that what legacy is? Legacy, the money, the will, the stuff, the knowledge, the something that we leave behind. Our ancestors will receive these gifts and remember us. We, like our great great great great grandparents will be remembered for all of time. Our names will be written in the books of the many and our good deeds will be written in the halls of universities like Andrew Carnegie. Maybe not? How about all the people we helped after we retire? We have our careers, we take care of our families and our bank accounts, retirement funds and we make good monies. We donate to charity for good deeds and tax offsets and we leave our good names behind as we start the last chapter of our lives. I am a retired something or other and I’ve done my life stuff, I am in pretty good shape, now I will build something for the other people. You know who I am talking about. The other people, the people that don’t have what I have. The people that didn’t have the same smarts, luck, opportunities, friendships, connections, or whatever got me to here. My legacy is, I’ll help them and they will do well. I’ll feel good about it and they will benefit.

Is legacy represented by all the people who heard about your death and have come to see you off to the next world? I reflected on my many conversations on and about legacy with friends, relatives and business associates throughout the years. One consistent truth from my perspective is the older folks got, the more I heard the word. The closer to retirement, the higher the frequency.

Have you taken that class in high school called “Global Impact and Legacy” concerning your part in the world and what you leave behind?

I don’t believe such a class exists. As we get older and run between the disbelief that we are getting older and closer to our end and our desire to live on, some of us consider methods to live on. Our legacy is this magical concept that somehow we will live on through some actions or activities and be remembered.

What we may not think about or consider is two ideas concerning legacy. The first is that legacy is temporary no matter how long it is. At some point, our American history will forget our forefathers. If you don’t believe me, think about how Columbus is being gradually siphoned out of our society. He had a day! Now, we speculate he was not a good man and many believe he should be forgotten. How about all of the southern states who’ve taken down the statues? Who were those men and what did they think about their own legacy? If they fought for what they believed, were they evil? Is Putin a bad man? Does he believe what he is doing is evil? At his age, what do we think he is hoping to achieve? Isn’t he seeking legacy? If not, what would he be interested in?

Did the great leaders before common era have good intent? Did they consider legacy? How many common people in our world can name three men or women from these historical times? As I have said in many posts, do we know our own lineage? Can we name our own family members? What is their legacy? For that matter, when the earth comes to an end, will the people or whatever we evolve to at that time, remember anything about us?

Interesting stuff huh? Well, I’d say its not all doom and gloom but there are some really important things to consider here if we are chasing legacy. To what end is our expectation of legacy? If we know or believe that we will be forgotten, why do we do anything? Why do we wait to take action that we believe is worthy of someone else’s memory?

Do we have control of our legacy? Many people would answer this question with a confident “yes” but I don’t believe that we do control it. We certainly contribute to it but the way people see us has more to do with them vs us.

I also have asked many people why they choose to wait. In other words, why can’t you do something NOW as opposed to waiting until such time that you are ready? As an example, you are a CEO or C-level of a large company, instead of doing everything you can to help and serve all the communities you have a strong desire to serve NOW, you choose to wait until you are retired or semi-retired. What is the reason for this? What if you don’t make it? What would your legacy be? What do people think about you now?

I think if we consider life after death and religion, it may change the discussion. I am not looking to account for what we don’t know. I am suggesting, if we account for and think about what we DO know, we may think about these concepts relative to the idea of legacy.

Are you chasing your legacy? Are you living your legacy? Are you living your best life now? If not, why not?

What do you think?

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