BROCOLLI, WATER BUFFALO AND LEGACY!

Try this little test: at a polite dinner table ask your guests ‘what will your Legacy be?’ Most will end up staring into their broccoli. No time.  The career. The kids. I’ll get to it. I’ll get to it already.

I didn’t think I’d have a Legacy either. We couldn’t have kids, so after collecting all my ‘stuff’, and with no one to give it to, I wouldn’t be able to leave a ‘Legacy’.

Then a funny thing happened. On an airplane I told my friend I was going to receive a national award for the charity work I’d done. And I just finished a book on my Father’s war experiences.  And I just finished twenty years of building a local Literacy initiative. “That’s quite a Legacy” he said. Huh? said I.
 
I’m one of 80 million Boomers. We’re getting old and wise enough to ask some questions. As Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Do I want to make a difference?’ ‘Do I want to leave a mark?’ ‘Do I want to feel connected to people and happy with what I’m doing and what I’ll leave behind?’

Remember Star Trek and the credo they all lived by - ‘The Prime Directive’? Picard, Data, Jordie and the others agreed there could be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations.
The prime directive in the animal world is to ensure the next generation. My wife and I started raising honey bees. Nobody works harder than our little bees to create the honey to feed them through next winter and start again. And if the Queen doesn’t make it, the remaining bees make another Queen. The Prime Directive is to keep on, keepin’ on.

Our prime directive, according to the Dalai Lama, is really quite simple: ‘To be happy’ he says.

So If I want to be happier, can I combine that with ‘Legacy’?  And as Crosby Stills and Nash sang, should I get moving?

“I’m older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started long before I did.”

So what’s ‘Legacy’ mean to most people?

David King is the Board Chair of www.givinginstitute.org . He agrees ‘Legacy’ has been taken over by the financial industry. “Legacy has become synonymous with Planned Giving and Estate Planning” he says. “It’s either daunting because you’re not a philanthropist, or you’re too young to start thinking ‘Legacy’ just yet.”
Legacy ends up being all about money… and it isn’t. It’s about you, your talents, skills and values, and happiness.
 Here’s my definition:

“A Legacy is something I create that enhances my life, and others’ lives, now, and will continue to positively affect others when I’m gone.”

John Kotre (Make It Count: How to Generate a Legacy That Gives Meaning to Your Life) calls Legacy building ‘Generativity’ -- a feeling of mattering, of creating lasting value, of passing yourself to others.

Are Legacy-makers happier?

Neuro scientists say that those who engage in kind acts become the emotional beneficiaries of what they do. They get happier.

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But, sayeth the Dalai Lama:  “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions”.

Edward Diener (aka ‘Dr. Happiness’, University of Illinois) says close interpersonal ties and social support are the key to happiness.

Todd Kashdan of George Mason University says “the key to a happy life seems to be keeping in tune with your values, goals and passions.

Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania, says there are three components of happiness:

1.     Pleasure (sex, eating, exercise, TV, kids etc.)
2.     Engagement (depth of involvement with family, spouse, work, romance, hobbies)
3.     Meaning (use personal strength to serve a larger end – the most important component)

 So, if I want to be happier and believe in creating and leaving something positive, I should be thinking of my Values, Skills, Talents, Connecting to people, and, well, just doing it with my ‘own actions’! And the Legacies I create and enjoy now will then travel into the future as stories that my ancestors will tell over and over.

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn.
Tell me a truth and I’ll believe.
Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
— Indian Proverb

So, here are three of my Legacy stories:

1.     TELL your Story
Try this: identify 4-6 of your top Values. Here are four of mine:  Creativity, Connecting, Wisdom and Integrity. I’ve written a ‘Legacy Letter’ telling why each is important to me and how I practiced it. When I ‘go’ my family will know and remember me better, and ancestors hundreds of years from now will know their great, great, great Uncle Robb.
2.     GATHER their stories
"My mother told me the other day that there's a lot she'd like to know, but there's nobody left to ask. The door to the past is closed.”  Garrison Keillor
I didn’t want my Father’s story of his WWII heroism to go with him. We spent three years gathering his stories and launched his book in front of hundreds of friends. He was 87 yrs. old and proud. I was prouder.
3.     CREATE your stories
This is the biggest category of Legacy building.  Identify your Skills, Talents, Values and Resources… and build a Legacy that’s tiny or huge, one that connects you to yourself and others, and will continue to enhance lives when you ‘go’ (‘Go’ = leave a job, move to another city, or get hit by a herd of water buffalo). Here are three of my ‘skills’: 1. Gardener  2. Writer  3. Organizer.  Any idea what kind of Legacies I could build?  Next time I’ll tell you.

So… what’s your next Legacy?
 
Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
David Whyte

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