Entrepreneurial Legacies

Much has been written about legacies. I would 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 being a legacy.

Here is the thing. After we are gone almost every single one of us will not 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 is 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 is 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 am 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 do not 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 have taken in this regard. Helping other entrepreneurs build their own sustainable companies through mentoring is another passion of mine. And I am 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 am dead and gone (and cannot witness the results then anyway!).

The legacy we choose to leave is very personal for each of us. I am not about to pass judgment on these choices. However, one thing that is for certain is that itis unlikely that any of us will be remembered a generation or two after we are 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 steppingstones 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.

Tick-Tock

Did you know that the earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old? And did you know that the lifespan of a U.S. male is 77.4 years? U.S. women have it better at 82.2 years. Do you realize that if we extrapolated the earth’s age to that of a U.S. male – 77.4 years – the human equivalency would be a mere 41.6 seconds? And for a woman, the human equivalency would be 46.9 seconds. Simply put, we’re but a tiny blip in the overall scheme of the time continuum.

When we contemplate how short our lives really are it brings a new perspective to how we spend our time. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I always had a thought in the back of my mind – “I’m young and there’s plenty of time to do everything I want in life.” Well I’ve done a lot in my life and I know I’m a lot closer to the finish line . . . and yet, there’s still a lot I want to do. We’ve all known people whose existence was cut short unexpectedly and didn’t have the opportunity to live a normal lifespan. And the knowledge that we are a heartbeat away from the same fate is a sobering thought. Thus, I am committed to making every moment a quality experience and let me tell you, I have a lot of work to do to accomplish this!

So, exactly what am I doing to make every moment a quality experience? I’m trying not to get hung up on inconsequential things that don’t really matter one whit. It’s become evident to me that fighting and arguing with others does not fall in the category of a quality experience. Thinking negative thoughts of lack and limitation are no longer in the cards either. Worrying about things is completely taboo. I find myself testing much of what I do by asking myself this question – “Is this a memory I want to make?” Do I want to finish cranking out a document on my computer on a Sunday afternoon at home, or do I spend a few moments and toss the football with my grandson? “Is this a memory I want to make?” Do I watch another mindless show on TV or do I take a walk with my wife? “Is this a memory I want to make?” Do I dwell on how a guy just cut me off with his car, or do I become immersed in the music from my stereo? “Is this a memory I want to make?”

Folks, it’s not easy making every moment a quality experience. But when framing each moment in the context of what kind of a memory we want to make, the task becomes much easier. Of course we still have to do certain things that may not be particularly enjoyable, but we can change our perspective enough to create a memory we want to make through the end result. For example, my mother made me weed our yard as a kid to the point that I was fairly certain that I never wanted to pull another weed as an adult. Yet, today I don’t mind weeding the shrub and flower beds at my home because the end result is beautiful landscaping that makes for wonderful memories.

When we realize that life is far too short, we’ll begin making every moment a quality experience. There’s not a moment to waste. And we’ll create countless pleasant memories in the process.

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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