LEAVING A LEGACY MAKING AN IMPACT
By Vincent Lyn
Maximizing your potential to make a difference
Let’s be honest; death is a pretty daunting prospect, which not many of us like to dwell on. But, like it or not, at some point we’ve all got to face up to the inevitable. Of course, there are the practical things to think about such as writing a will, making sure you’ve got suitable life insurance and even considering what kind of funeral directors and service you’d like. However, on a cheerier note, have you ever given much thought as to what kind of legacy you’d like to leave behind?
Legacy is a big and power-packed word. Simply defined, legacy is the positive impact one leaves behind. Where will the world be if not for the wonderful legacies that many of the heroes of our society have left us? What would you most like to be remembered for? What do you wish you could put a stamp on if you had a chance?
Consider Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
The Nobel Prize-winning German theoretical physicist is responsible for developing the theory of relativity. Not only that, but the famously eccentric genius also came up with the mass-energy equivalence formula, E = mc². In 1921, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, having discovered the law of the photoelectric effect. This was to become pivotal in the evolution of quantum theory.
Consider Martin Luther King (1929–1968)
The American Baptist minister was a non-violent activist and a leader in the country’s Civil Rights Movement. He led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and delivered his “I Have a Dream” public speech to more than 250,000 supporters at the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March; arguably the greatest speech in history.Consider Mother Teresa: Literally thousands of the underprivileged were touched because one woman chose to love unconditionally.
Consider Mother Teresa (1910–1997)
Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun and founder of the Missionaries of Charity. Born in what was previously known as Yugoslavia, she spent most of her life in India where she became famous worldwide for selflessly dedicating her life to care for the lepers, homeless and dying in the slums of Kolkata. After her death, she was canonized as Saint Teresa. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Consider Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary who spent his early adult life fighting for equal rights among Africans. After violent demonstrations, he was jailed for life on Robben Island, but was finally freed 27 years later. Following his release, he promoted messages of forgiveness and equality. Apartheid was eventually abolished in 1991, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and just one year later he became South Africa’s first black president.
Consider Marie Curie (1867–1934)
The Polish physicist and chemist became famous for her work conducting pioneering research on radioactivity. She discovered two new chemicals, radium and polonium and used her knowledge to carry out the first research into treating tumors with radiation. She was the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize, the only woman to earn it twice and the first person to earn one in two separate sciences.
Thankfully, the list of world famous “legacy leavers” are numerous. However, the ability to leave a legacy is not only confined to these giants of the world. Ordinary folk like you and I can leave meaningful legacies that are within our circle of influence.
Deep down embedded into each individual’s heart is the desire to leave a legacy. We all want to make a difference, to be remembered and to feel that we have contributed something to the world.
For some people, this can be a driving force leading to great undertakings and extraordinary contributions to humankind. But for most of us with more modest abilities, our impact to this world cannot be overlooked.
Here are four ways to leave a legacy:
1. Cultivate a sincere heart to make a difference
We cannot achieve anything that is of significant value unless we first have a sincere desire to make an impact. Once true desire is ignited, its fire will consume a person’s energy and focus resulting in courageous action and perseverance.
When Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes was doing some volunteer work in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in 2006, he noticed that many of the children were running through the streets barefoot. His compassionate heart took over and it led him to start up Tom Shoes, an organization with a unique business model. For every pair of shoes sold, a new pair of shoes will be donated to an impoverished child in a third world nation. What we are excited and passionate about will drive our actions, leaving a positive impact.
2. Build around your talents
The legacies that we can potentially leave behind will also very likely revolve around our talents. We usually do well in what we are naturally talented to do. This spirit of excellence often reaps a harvest of positive impact.
Consider Susan Boyle, the singer who came into international spotlight when she appeared on the reality TV show, Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. Despite being a 47-year-old woman who did not seem to have the “physical package” of a typical young, beautiful and attractive star, she braved her way to the audition and sang her own version of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. Although she did not win the competition, the world recognized her unique musical talent. To date, she has launched seven successful albums. Her rags-to-riches story is a powerful inspiration to the “underdogs” of the world. When our talents are magnified, our legacies can be maximized.
3. Work within your circle of influence
Many people do not fulfill their legacy potential because they think they do not have the right platform to make a difference. Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity or the “perfect break”, just work with what you have within your circle of influence.
After the Beatles were rejected by numerous recording companies, they had no choice but to play in local clubs. They worked hard with whatever opportunity that came their way and performed about 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 12,000 times. Their hard work paid off. History records them as one of the most influential music bands of all time. Their legacy rings strong even to this day. Think big, start small and build deep. You’ll be amazed what doors will open when we launch in faith, stay faithful and work hard.
4. Don’t do it for the money
Great legacies are often birthed from a motivation to achieve significance. People achieve great things because they want to make a difference. When Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank, the goal was not to make money. His motivation was noble. He simply wanted to provide micro-financing to the poor so that they can run their own businesses and make a decent living and hence, break the cycle of poverty in society. Those whose sole purpose is to make money seldom make an impact in the lives of others. Success may be attained but significance and legacy will be lacking. When businesses have a compelling reason for their existence that goes beyond making profits, it operates in a totally different atmosphere. Employees are more motivated in their work because they believe their organization is making an impact in society. In many situations, when they get their motives right, the money follows anyway.
Leaving a legacy is about making an impact for the present and the future. American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn says that: “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine”.
When we leave our legacies behind, we are merely sowing seeds of greatness for the next generation to reap through the inspiration we provide and through the doors that we open for them.
What legacy would you leave behind?
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts