This question surfaces in our lives in one or another form.
What is the purpose of your life?
What will people remember you for?
What will your obituary read?
What will your tombstone read?
What is your legacy?
I have thought over this for years now, fighting to create my unique identity, working hard to differentiate myself, trying to compete and punishing myself when I don’t do enough. As I touch mid 30s this year, something dawned on me.
This is from conversation I had with someone senior in my profession. He once asked me, while we were out for office networking dinner over drinks, what do you want to do in life (he meant with my work). I answered with three things and one of them was to leave a legacy behind. Few minutes further into the conversation, he said you will never be able to do these. I looked at him but he did not explain himself to me.
What happened next is important. With lack of answer on why I will never be able to do what defines success to me, my reflective self took over. I went quiet and did not stop thinking on why he said what he did. Was it because of my personality or because his experience enabled him to judge how far I would be able to reach or was it just malice. I could never find the answer.
My optimistic self did not let me give up for the fear of losing.
Today after over a year of that conversation, I was reflecting on my legacy. What do I want to leave behind me that defines or defined me. The answer was not what I expected.
The answer came to me from my three year old nephew. His success comes to him in creating something of his legos, constructing train track or even eating his food with spoon without dropping anything outside the plate. It is so simple. We want to create or do build or find something and when we achieve that we put next milestone in front of us. Parents often say that their children are their legacy. Entrepreneurs find their legacy in their startup. And then parents become grandparents and grandchildren become their legacy. And entrepreneurs find a new venture or set a new milestone.
The answer I found was that my legacy may not be for me to decide. What others inherit of me or keep of my work is what will define what I leave behind. I just need to be myself.
Life is too short to worry about our legacy, it is about cherishing what we have and being ourselves. Our thoughts and actions define our potential legacy, we will leave for those who want to adopt and carry it forward.