A story is told of a son who took his old father to a restaurant for an evening dinner. The father being very old and weak, while eating, dropped food on his shirt and trousers. Other diners watched him in disgust while his son remained calm. After he finished eating, his son who was not at all embarrassed, quietly took him to the wash room, wiped the food particles, removed the stains, combed his hair and fitted his spectacles firmly. When they came out, the entire restaurant was watching them in silence, not able to grasp how someone could embarrass themselves publicly like that.
The son settled the bill and started walking out with his father. At that time, an old man amongst the diners called out to the son and asked him, “Don’t you think you have left something behind?” The son replied, “No sir, I haven’t”. The old man retorted, “Yes, you have! You left a lesson for every son and hope for every father”. The restaurant was dead silent!
The son left behind a lesson for every son and hope for the old. Would you have handled the situation like this son did or would you have been ashamed and disgusted by your father’s accident just like the other patrons did? You probably have been asked or have asked yourself about the kind of legacy you would wish to leave behind when your time in this world is up. The only concern I have with this legacy question is that it does not seem to have succeeded in eliciting the desired behavioral adjustments from those who are asked the question. Many people do not like to think about death and this has led to many people living by the assumption that death is so far away from now. As such, they keep postponing the answer to the legacy question hoping that one day they will be able to leave a legacy just before their time is up.
It’s not my intention to scare you with death albeit it being a reality we cannot avoid; rather, to trigger your thoughts and spur action that will help you be remembered in a better way. Legacy is more than just the material wealth that one leaves behind. Material wealth can easily diminish with time and no one will be remembering a thing about you once the diminishing happens. Good legacy is about who you leave behind more than what you leave behind. It is about the soft spots you softly touch in people’s hearts and not the holes you punch in those hearts. People will often remember you more for how you made them feel than for the tangible properties you left them with.
Legacy is not some piece of mango that you will request your spouse to bring you on your death bed for you to leave behind. Legacy is built every day and demonstrated by your daily habits before it can be left when you are gone. Today, you are busy creating a legacy as you go about your daily activities. People are not waiting for your death for them to feel your legacy, they are feeling it right now; so if you are not deliberate about it today, you might as well have nothing to be remembered for when curtains close on you. Every day that you live is an opportunity for you to leave a positive mark on someone’s heart; a chance for you to give your contribution in shaping the world in the positive direction.
To be able to answer the legacy question, we need to ask ourselves similar questions every day. Our ultimate legacy will be the sum total of our daily legacies. Just like the son in our story above, what have you left behind? As you leave your office today, what have you left behind? Have you left behind colleagues who are ululating with ‘Good riddance’ remarks because they see you as a pain in their neck or have you left behind colleagues who are yearning to see you tomorrow because you inspire them a lot? As you close shop today, what have you left behind? Inspired and satisfied customers or customers cursing why they came to your shop? As you leave your house, what have you left behind? A spouse and children who are happier that you finally left them in peace or a spouse and children who almost shed tears as you left because they cannot imagine and stand your absence the whole day?
All I urge you to do is to audit your own life every day by asking yourself the fundamental question, ‘what have I left behind today?’ Be cautious and deliberate in your actions as you handle people and situations around you. Every word you speak is being heard by someone; every action you take is being watched by someone. Purpose not to injure people as you pursue your objectives in life; purpose to help others on their course even as you run with yours, for in doing so, your legacy is being developed and felt long before you depart from this side of life. As Dalai Lama says, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Strive to leave behind traces of smiling faces and inspired hearts. While you may have no control of how people feel about you, you have full control of your actions, words and emotions, most of which determine how others feel about you. Take charge of what you leave behind, daily, for YOU CAN DO BETTER!
Motivational Speaker and Author.