Leaving a Legacy

The sad truth is that we will not escape this lifetime alive. It’s an undeniable fact that will eventually give everyone of us pause to consider our mortality. Whether we believe in an afterlife or higher power, we will still move on to another place. And when that time arrives, what will we leave behind?

Obviously, parents will leave offspring. Hopefully, they will carry on family traditions and memories. There might be an estate of material possessions: a house, furnishings, and even fortunes. Valuable heirlooms, photographs and personal mementoes will be assigned to various family members in a will or trust. But, after a lifetime of living, is that how you want to be remembered?

The memories you’ve earned by your actions will be carried and relived by the loved ones you leave behind. That might be the greatest gift you’ve been able to pass on: friends and relatives recalling your warmth, smiles, and gentle nature. Conversely, those who lived a less than stellar existence, may be cursed and ignored. Either way, you will have no control over what is said in your absence. There may be a cemetery plot or memorial to visit, or an urn of ashes to be gazed upon. Perhaps you desired ashes spread in a particular place. Either way, it’s small remnant of your former life.

Charles Dickens coined a classic metaphorical phrase in his immortal, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ when Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former accounting partner, Jacob Marley.

He tells the old man, “I wear a chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard.” He was referring to the heavy burden that he was forced to wear as an eternal ghost for all the miserly and terrible acts he committed against his fellow Englishmen in nineteenth century London.

We design our lives on this planet one day, or link, at a time. We make certain choices that determine how we interact with society. We can also make a difference after our departure, if we have given any thought to the subject. Besides having proper insurance coverage, an estate plan, and appropriate instructions, we should consider what type of legacy we want to establish after we’ve left. As I’ve said, the thoughts and prayers that follow are beyond our realm. I’m discussing the opportunity to make a difference.

The wealthy have a huge advantage. They form foundations designed to propagate and perpetually funds for their institutions providing for future generations. They may contribute to universities, research grants, charitable groups, and other organizations they recognized as needy during their lifetime. Presidents erect libraries of their personal affects and interests. It’s not unlike the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt that build the pyramids and tombs to carry their worldly belonging with them into their afterlife.

Assuming you’re not a monarch or billionaire, what can you do to carry forward a legacy that benefits people after your death? It depends on what you want to accomplish. You might have meager means and hope to leave with a bare minimum and not cause a burden with burial costs. But, if you are able to raise some funds and have foresight, you could target a specific group or even an individual you deem worthy of your planning. Being known as a benefactor, such as the inventor of explosives Alfred Nobel who left us an annual legacy called the Nobel Peace Prize, is a wonderful honor. Thousands are rewarded for their outstanding achievements in the name of helping civilization. Could you hope to become a similar philanthropist? Why not, albeit on a much smaller scale?

You might offer part of your estate to a charity, school or just one promising student. It’s not a matter of ‘how much,’ but rather that you made the effort at all. A few dollars given to a worthy candidate could possibly make all the difference. Don’t forget to will your body to science as an organ and tissue donor. That will insure you become a living legacy. You have the ability to make a difference even in your passing, but you have to start your strategy today. You never know when your time is up and then it will be too late. It all depends on how you want to be remembered and whom you would like to honor.

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Leaving a Legacy For Your Children

Anyone who enjoys genealogy realizes that four basic things are required when preparing a family tree: a person’s name, place of birth, date of birth and position in the lineage. An historian may expand this search to include specific titles or accomplishments as well as personality factors which were unique to those being studied.

For many years I have been gathering information about my grandparents and other ancestors. I have taken pictures of tombstones, interviewed nursing home residents and spent hours on the internet searching for details from the past. It is so interesting to realize that some interests and abilities such as music or spirituality can be traced ten or more generations.

Sometimes there is a great deal of information available about an ancestor and sometimes very little. For example, all I learned about my paternal great-grandfather was that he smoked a pipe and was always losing his glasses. What a legacy!

One of my relatives has completed the research for my maternal roots back to 1066 AD Norway. He claims that it is much easier to go back in history where the tree narrows than to keep track of the new births in the family where the tree is continually broadening!

I find it very interesting that even though we tend to place so much emphasis on accumulation of wealth during our lives, seldom do we discover records of personal net worth in genealogical searches. Obituaries do not include profit and loss figures or lists of personal assets. Even when history books indicate that an individual was financially “well-off” there is usually no indication of the amount that person has earned or saved. In fact, emphasis is usually placed on the amount that individual has given away rather than on what was kept.

Each of us has our own idea of what a legacy is and how we will establish one. Some set up trust funds for charity. Others build monuments or scholarship funds. Many pass family heirlooms to the next generation.

James Rohn, a motivational speaker, claims that the best legacy consists of your library, photographs and personal journals.

A Legacy is a way of communicating your values to your descendants. In order to set up a legacy it is therefore important to examine your own beliefs and then develop a plan for passing them on.

A long time ago, I decided that there are really only two things that I can do for my children. One is to pray for them and the other is to set a good example. Leaving them money will not help them mature or develop skills and may actually set up a situation that leads to conflict or resentment. I prefer to see families focus on good memories and role-modeling that involves treating others and self with dignity and respect.

What would you like to be remembered for? What organizations do you believe in and support? Fifty years after your death, will there be reminders to society that you had lived?

How would you feel if the only thing people remembered was that you smoked a pipe and always lost your glasses?

It’s time to think about the legacy you will leave. There will be one – whether or not you plan it.

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Legacy of Jobs

Steve Jobs has become immortal upon his death. His wonderful creations, his passion and his uncanny drive- all have made him a superstar reigning in stratospheric heights.

Jobs showed an “unconventional” path to life. The urge to run by the heart, instead of the brain. Chase after what the heart desires, instead of conventional establishment. This is THE difference, the “Road Not Taken” approach of Jobs. In Job’s own words, “….Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else in secondary.”

It takes radical determination, it takes a hell of a courage to come out of comfort zone, come out of convention. It takes brimming tenacity of mind to pursue the inner-most urge and stick to it. You should be dead serious to stick to that hardcore urge. It’s like follow “What the Heart Says”, instead of convention, or establishment tells you to. He was so radical, he made his own rules. He judged the world in binary terms. Products are “insanely great” or “shit”, one is facing death from cancer or “cured”, subordinates are geniuses or “bozos”, indispensable or no longer relevant. His outrageous comment about Microsoft, in the tele-documentary “Triumph of the Nerds”, was, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste……I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products”. This statement is quintessential Jobs: arrogant, frank, insightful and perhaps more than half right, though brutally overstated. One of NeXT executive commented, “Being around Steve is a reality distortion.” It is this Radical Mind that created the difference- in his own life and in his works.

His trademark is intensity, intuition-driven and radicalism. He had vision, he had the insight to exercise “think different” approach, which contributed to put Apple’s designs a head above the competition. He was intensely focused to his vision. In pursuing his heart’s urge, he was relentless. “….I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love….Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

He had unconventional ideas. The thinking of death and get yourself done before you are gone-both are unconventional by western standards. The norm is think of everything else other than death and get going as usual. The unusualness is evident in his behavior. He would park his Mercedes in handicapped spaces, didn’t put license plate on his car, offered stock options to his employees by backdating the option’s value.

He was visionary by the super-most standards. That’s how he became pioneer in his every endeavor. He is without a doubt one of top pioneers of computer generation. His uncanny creativity is obvious. He was the clear visionary to see technology to be designed and sold as consumer product, which was the revolutionary idea in early years of computers. His leadership in innovative products like Macintosh personal computer (the dominating Windows Operating System being modeled from Mac’s point-and-click system), computer animation (withToy Story being the first fully computer-generated feature film by his company, Pixar) and series of wildly successful products of “simple elegance” like iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and other gadgets. Very few human souls invoked such immense repercussion in contemporary world like that of Jobs. This “alternative” philosophy, this alternative approach to life, this intensity of heart’s passion, this mountain-like determination to materialize one’s own vision- are the true legacies of Jobs.

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