What Will Your Legacy Be?
Have you ever thought about what’s going to be in your obituary? Does this sound morbid? Stick with me for a minute.
When I was a child, I was lucky to spend a few summers attending Kilcoo Camp. While I certainly suffered from feeling homesick, I also made new friends and learned many skills I still use today (I’m not too shabby in a canoe).
The camp was run by John “Chief” and Peggy “Mrs. Chief” Latimer. I remember many warm moments speaking with Chief about missing home. He was always keen to help me overcome being homesick and made sure I was connecting with the other kids.
In 2003, Chief sadly passed away. I saw in his obituary that a celebration of his life would be held at St. James Cathedral in Toronto. Anyone in Toronto is familiar with the sound of the bells ringing at St. James; it is one of the largest churches in the city with the biggest peal of bells in North America. I mention the size of the church because when I arrived for the service, I was shocked (but not surprised) at the number of people present. There were so many people in attendance that they overflowed to the park around the church where the service was amplified through speakers. Chief touched thousands of people’s lives through his work at Kilcoo Camp. His legacy of being a kind, sweet, smart man lives on.
Thinking about your legacy
I recently watched best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer’s TEDx talk “How To Write Your Own Obituary.” In it, he describes the four types of legacy that you will leave.
Try this exercise for yourself. Write down and separate all of the things you do for yourself versus what you do for other people. Those things for yourself will be the least remembered — your resume will fade. Your legacy is what you do for other people and the impact those actions have on their lives. This very much is in line with my approach to networking, nicely — always find ways to help others.
Meltzer describes the four types of legacy.
Family. You are your parent’s legacy. The way you interact and help your siblings will be remembered. How you raise your children and how you treat your spouse make up your family legacy.
Friends and colleagues. Helping your friends and treating them kindly will play a major role in your legacy. I believe we should find ways to support our friends beyond simple Facebook likes. Reach out over the phone or coffee.
Community. Who will remember your name? The people in your community will remember you for your participation and contributions. What have you done to help the people in your community?
Strangers. What impact do you have on complete strangers? Do you donate to charities? Do you help people without their knowledge?
Brad Meltzer recommends we all take the time to consider who will remember us. If you are struggling with getting started on this process, begin by saying “thank you” to everyone who has affected your life in a positive way. Make a list of those who have helped you. Take the time to thank each person. Set a goal to do this each day or week.
Chief Latimer’s legacy reaches far beyond the shores of Gull Lake in Halliburton, Ontario. Kilcoo continues to draw campers from across Canada, the United States, Central and South America, England, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and beyond.
Focus on your legacy now and you will have no doubt that your obituary will be one to be proud of.
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