Footprints in the Sand

Much has been written about legacies. I’d like to explore the topic as well, but with a bit of a different slant. One of the first questions usually asked is, “How do you want to be remembered after you are gone?” Does the name Daniel K. Ludwig mean anything? How about Oliver H. Payne or Donald Fisher? All three of these people were billionaires. Ludwig (1897-1995) was a shipping magnate; Payne (1839-1917) was a partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, and Fisher (1928-2009) co-founded The Gap clothing chain with his wife. The point is that each was a very, very successful and rich man and yet most of us probably never heard of them. So much for wealth in itself being a legacy.

Here’s the thing. After we’re gone almost every single one of us won’t be a passing thought for our descendants, much less for the public in general. Of course our immediate family will remember us . . . for a while. My dad has been gone since 1988 and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. But I doubt seriously that either of our daughters does. Is this sounding macabre or depressing? It shouldn’t. It’s just the way life is. Memories of our walk on this planet are like footprints in the sand. They are there for a fleeting instant and then they are washed away.

I personally don’t care if I’m remembered at all. But here’s the silver lining in all of this. We can live on forever through the good work that we do today. A couple of things matter to me the most where legacies are concerned. First, I want to make sure that the companies that I have helped to create exist for the long term. There are hundreds of families whose loved ones are my team members. It is important to me that these families live and thrive long after I’m gone. Building a sustainable organization is the linchpin for making this a reality. This means that our corporate infrastructure must be robust; our financial condition strong; our core values are constantly at the forefront, and we remain committed to our long-range vision.

The other aspect of the legacy I wish to leave involves philanthropy. I don’t want a building, a street or anything else to be named after me. My wife and I are committed to investing some of our hard-earned dollars in philanthropic causes that help other people. Educational scholarship programs that provide funding in perpetuity are one of the steps we’ve taken in this regard. Helping other entrepreneurs build their own sustainable companies through mentoring is another passion of mine. And I’m not interested in waiting until I die to begin realizing the results of our philanthropic efforts. I want to see the results today – not decades from now after I’m dead and gone (and can’t witness the results then anyway!).

The legacy we choose to leave is very personal for each of us. I’m not about to pass judgment on these choices. However, one thing that is for certain is that it’s unlikely that any of us will be remembered a generation or two after we’re gone. So it probably makes sense to think about making our mark on the future in a way that will be more enduring than our name and our face.

We will be remembered not for who we are today, but for how we benefit mankind tomorrow. The choice is ours whether this memory will be footprints in the sand or permanent stepping stones to a better world.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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The Legacy

Question: I work hard every day and have achieved success along the way. But sometimes I wonder if this is all there is. Why am I not completely satisfied?

Answer: Some entrepreneurs are wired a bit differently than other members of society. We always want more. More success; more out of life; more challenges – the next mountain to climb. There are those who might describe us as restless. This is actually what drives us to excel. But as the years go by and we continue to succeed; live life more fully; overcome the challenges and climb the next mountain, we become less energized by playing the “game.”

What more is there? At the end of the day are we just flesh and bones? What is our legacy? The whole concept of legacy is important to us as entrepreneurs. It requires a great deal of thought and self-reflection. And it isn’t something that we can know for certain early in our careers. Our perception of legacy evolves over time. But by intentionally seeking our legacy in our 20s, 30s, 40s, etc., it will become a part of who we are and help to shape us as human beings.

I have spent more time as I have gotten older considering my legacy though I wish I’d focused on it more when I was younger. Nevertheless, it has become crystal clear that my legacy is all of the good things I can do for other people. My life has become less about me winning and more about helping others win in their lives. When I am gone, do I want to be remembered as a conquering captain of industry? Or do I want to be remembered as someone who helped make the lives of others more special?

The opportunity to serve others plays perfectly into an entrepreneur’s success mantra. I’ve mentioned before that positive energy draws great good to us. And serving others certainly generates massive amounts of positive energy. I’ve found that the more I give of my time, talent and treasure, the more good things come into my life. The beauty of this equation is that it happens without any calculation whatsoever. For example, I have been part of an entrepreneurial mentoring program for a number of years. The business men and women whom I have been fortunate enough to mentor seem to benefit from my ideas and counsel. But I too have been the beneficiary in many ways. Besides establishing some amazing friendships, the time I spend with them has resulted in stimulating new ideas that I can implement in my own businesses.

It took a while for me to realize that a legacy of materiality was much less important to me than a legacy of hundreds or even thousands of other people whose lives were improved as a result of something I was able to do for them. And guess what? Material abundance has become even greater for me with this realization! It’s yet another manifestation of the Law of Attraction.

What will your legacy be? Give this question some deep thought and challenge yourself to explore the multitude of options. Whatever you decide will be right for you.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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