Building a Lasting Legacy: No Matter Who You Are Or Where You're From

Oct 10, 2023

I recently attended the funeral of my wife’s 98-year-old grandmother. Raised in a small town in Idaho, she later raised her own family in a small town in Utah. While her story may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, to the many family and friends gathered to celebrate her life, she meant the world. She was a devoted, kind, and caring sister, mother, grandmother, disciple, and friend. Living through some of America's most difficult times—including the Great Depression and WWII—she remained one of the most positive and cheerful people I’ve ever met.

As I listened to people share their fond memories of her—showing love through delicious food and tireless service—a question popped into my head: 

"What will my legacy be?"

So, that's the topic I want to explore today.

First off, what is a legacy?

A legacy is much more than what someone leaves behind; it's the lasting impact of that person’s actions on those around them and the world at large.

Enduring legacies are born out of selflessness. Many good things we enjoy today originated from the dedication and sacrifice of those who lived before us—individuals who lived for something beyond themselves.

When I think of legacy, the movie "It’s a Wonderful Life" comes to mind. The film continues to inspire people because it’s a narrative of self-sacrifice and legacy, as well as a cautionary tale against selfishness and greed.

In the movie, George Bailey continually forgoes his own dreams to help others. It appears, initially, that his sacrifices yield little reward. However, upon seeing what life would have been like without him, he learns to appreciate his impact.

Building a Legacy

As I consider this in my own life, I would like to offer a few ideas that have come to mind that could be helpful in building a legacy:

Focus On What Matters
This should be easy, right? But it’s not. The world seems like it’s been designed intentionally to distract us. To combat this ever-present onslaught of distractions, the best thing we can do is to focus on what really matters—PEOPLE. In the end, our greatest legacy will live on in the people we serve. Our family, our friends, our neighbors, our clients, our community, our countrymen, and mankind. Don’t take it from me; take it from a man who left one of the greatest legacies in history. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Dare Greatly
I’ve heard it said that our fears actually point us in the direction we should go. The longer I live, the more evidence I find to support this idea. The obstacle is often THE way. The path of least resistance, it seems, does not lead to much of anything except regret. So I would encourage you to dare greatly when it comes to your dreams. It may not turn out the way you expected, but it will always be better than spending your life wishing and wondering.

Study Deeply
To study deeply is more than just to read about something. It’s about diving deep into what excites you. It’s about learning all you can and applying it in your life. To study deeply is to develop more than a surface-level understanding; it’s about wrestling with an idea or subject until it becomes a part of you. The most important part of studying deeply is that you always remain the student—always learning and never learned.

Live Gratefully
A line my wife’s grandmother wrote in a letter to her son, who was having a hard time living away from home, said, “A man never went blind by looking on the bright side of life.” When we begin every day, and everything we do, with an attitude of gratitude, it always turns out better than it would otherwise.

These are just a few things that came to mind as I considered how to live more deliberately and build a legacy of contribution and impact.

I would love to hear what you would add to this list. What legacy do you want to build?

Before you answer that, here is a portion of a blog post Seth Godin wrote in tribute to Nelson Mandela soon after he passed away:

“For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of his (Nelson Mandela’s) life is this:

You can.

You can make a difference.

You can stand up to insurmountable forces.

You can put up with far more than you think you can.

Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it. 

If you don't require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world”


It’s time to start living your best life!


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