I remember quite well during one of our father-son moments, my dad told me; “Son, riches mean nothing without legacies. Rather than building wealth, learn to build legacies. This, my friend, is one advice that has changed my perspective of life. My dad kept telling me how my siblings and I were his investments. I did not understand this until his passing. The point is, your children and/or your family can be your legacy. The quality of life you build around yourself can be your legacy. The impact you make in the lives of others is and will always be your legacy. Live on even after death for death is just a transition.
The Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as, “Anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” What are you leaving behind? What will you be remembered for long after you have left the earth? These questions should be the guiding principles to how you go about our daily lives.
There are names that we remember and easily forget. There are those that we refuse to let go, so we set days to commemorate such people and their impact. Such people left great legacies. A man or a woman will not be celebrated just because they have money. They will be celebrated because of their impact in the lives of others; because of something meaningful they left behind. What is the use of being rich if it doesn’t impact the lives of others?
Is there something wrong with building wealth? I doubt. But the emphasis of the whole matter is this: Why are you building wealth? Is it to help others or is it just to show that you have also made it? Your answer to this will determine how you build wealth. This is because if you trample over others just to make wealth, cheat, bully and use them just to rise on the ladder of riches, then it’s obvious that whatever you are doing is just about you and not about humanity.
The essence of living is to make an impact in others’ lives. It is to make the lives of other people easier through whichever way you can be using your talent, skill or money. So the essence of building wealth is to use it to impact the lives of others, that is to invest in other people so that they, in turn, can be of impact to others. So building wealth, on its own, is not the end itself. It is a means to the end that you leave a meaningful legacy.
Living to build wealth means that you do whatever you can to make money, not caring even if people would be hurt through the process. Building legacy, however, means that you care about what would be passed down to the other generation long after you are gone. Because you desire a meaningful legacy, you focus on what you can do to invest something good into people’s lives for the benefit the society and the nation as a whole.
Here are a few points on how to leave a meaning legacy:
- Decide to be joyful. Serve in ways that bring you joy. There are things you love doing, why don’t you volunteer to do it to impact lives?
- Monitor your impact on others. How are people benefiting from what you are doing? Are you really helping them? Is there something you can do to help them more? Find out all these so that you can continue to have an impact on them.
- What are you doing to make the biggest difference in life? Identify that and do more of that.
- Develop and maximize your talent, strengths, and skills. Know yourself – Bring yourself.
- Do what matters now. Everyone who’s at the end of life says it goes by fast.
- Seize small opportunities. Big ones may follow. Stop waiting to make a move only when there are big opportunities. Take advantage of the smaller ones too.
- Start investing in or impacting the lives of those closest to you and the ones you spend the most time with. As you impact their lives, it will gradually spread to others.
- Think service, not success. In everything you do, think of it as serving humanity. It will help you make decisions that do not hurt others.
- Elevate the needs of others over your own.
Legacy Blockers to Avoid:
- Lack of focus. Doing everything at every time without direction won’t make you achieve anything substantial.
- Living the life others want you to live.
- Bitterness, anger, and fear.
- Safety. Trying to be safe would prevent you from taking risks that would move you forward. This results in stagnation.
- Defeatism. Don’t think that what you are doing doesn’t matter or that it isn’t helping anyone. There’s definitely someone out there who is being inspired by what you do.
Build a meaningful legacy by eliminating behaviours and attitudes that dilute the impact. It’s not enough to add positive behaviours; eliminate bad ones. The only time to build a legacy is now. The only way to change legacy is to change now.
As you focus on building a legacy, you will be easing the burden of others. As Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” If you want to be remembered as useful, then give yourself, your talent/skills and money for the impact of society.
Life is only meaningful when we realize that we are each other’s keeper and that with humility and service, we can make life a little easier for each other. As Nana Awere Damoah rightly said, “Loss taught me about the frailty and transient nature of man. It taught me humility. It taught me about the urgency of service, of touching lives, of mentoring, of legacy, of making hay while there is still sunshine and life.”
Make hay whiles the sunshine. Do that very thing that makes life easier for others. Be of service to the people around you, your community and your nation. At the end of it all, being fulfilled is not about having mansions, cars, and all the world’s riches to your name. It is knowing that you are living to impact someone’s life. It is knowing that you are fulfilling your purpose on earth. It is knowing that you are leaving something substantial for the next generation to benefit from.
I end with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.