Legacy – We often don’t think about it until it’s too late

The past few weeks I have been reminded of the idea of legacy several times.  I have to admit, legacy is not something I think about too often.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  But I also believe that we often don’t think about it until it’s too late.

Three things have happened recently that made me think about this:

  • The loss of a dear friend and mentor
  • The loss of some friends close to my age, far too early in life
  • Our international conference, and a reminder of what our values are as FocalPoint coaches.

Let me talk about that last one first.

FocalPoint’s FocalPoints of Culture

I am part of an international team of coaches.  And even though I own my own business, I still subscribe to the values and vision of our global organization.  We have eight “FocalPoints of culture”.  We would call these values in most companies.  All eight of these are important to me.  But I have to admit, the first one on the list is the one I have thought about the least.

The first point on our list is “Legacy”.  And we describe it this way, “Every day, I contribute to the world in a positive way. The impact I make on my clients and colleagues will have a lasting benefit”.

Now, when I read that, I go “Yes!”, that’s definitely what I want to do and be.  But I don’t always associate that with the idea of leaving a legacy.

Why is that?  I believe part of it is we sell ourselves short.  We don’t realize the impact we make on others.  And the smallest detail, the most unimportant habit that we have, might be the thing that strikes a chord with those we come in contact with.

Think of it this way.  You can say one thing, make one suggestion, talk someone off the proverbial cliff, or simply give a word of encouragement; and that may turn a person’s day, week, or even career around.  In my career I have helped a business owner turn around a business that was close to failing, an organization’s leader on the brink of suicide, a young widow wanting to reinvent herself and her future, and two teammates that were to the point of not speaking to each other work out their differences.  And that was just this morning…   Not really, but it truly is just the tip of the iceberg.

You have likely left a similar legacy.  You just don’t realize it.  One of the best ways to realize what you have done is to reach out to some of those old contacts and just sit down and have coffee or connect via phone or zoom.  Recount some of the ways you have helped people, both big and small.

When I was starting my business a few years ago I sent an email out to several old friends.  I just said something to the effect of “real quick, what’s the first thing that came to your mind when you thought of me? A story, a comment, a joke… anything.  I’m looking forward to hearing what it is.”.   I promise if you do this, you will be blown away by what people remember of you.

Don’t wait, the time is always right

In the past few months, there have been several losses of people that I considered friends and colleagues.  They were all taken from this earth far too young, and I know they still had so much more to give.

Kevin Landgrave was one of the smartest IT professionals I knew.  If you needed something done, especially on the Microsoft platform, Kevin could do it.  I loved sitting down with him and discussing ideas.  He always could identify an approach or solution that I hadn’t thought of.  He had an infectious laugh and a love for Christ.  I’ll miss him.  And I know many others will too.

My FocalPoint brother/fellow coach Greg Pestinger lost his lovely wife Donna as well.  Donna was a quiet servant, always working behind the scenes.  I didn’t realize the impact Donna had until she was gone.  I am amazed by so many of the stories I heard about her during the days and weeks after she passed.

These and so many others have left a legacy.  On me, on their community, their family, their friends…   But I don’t think they ever intentionally thought about leaving a legacy.  They just did.

And you can too.  Now is the right time to begin investing in others.  And when you do, be intentional about it.

It’s never too late to leave a legacy

I mentioned just a couple of the losses we’ve experienced in the past few months.  This past week I lost one of my mentors, Jim Rives.  Jim was a legend in the Louisville area and beyond.  His business acumen and knowledge of the healthcare market was as solid as anyone I knew.  I’ve known Jim for seven or eight years.  But I only really got to know him about two and a half years ago.

We started talking at a networking event, and we realized that he’d been doing what I do for almost 40 years.  This conversation seemed to continue almost every day for the next two+ years.  We often saw things from a very different perspective.  And even though our styles were 180 degrees opposite, we both wanted the same thing, to help our clients survive and thrive.

A part of his legacy

We nearly lost Jim late last summer to a major health scare.  But he bounced back to a great extent.  And during the recent months, our conversations turned to this topic.  After one particular heated conversation where we butted heads, he said “don’t you understand why I’m doing this?”.  When I asked for clarification he said, “I’m trying to leave a legacy.  You are part of my legacy!”.

I was touched and blown away by this comment.  I had never thought of myself as anyone’s “legacy” (except for my parent’s of course).  The idea that he was intentionally investing in me was very touching.  At his funeral, his daughter told me that he had told her just the week before that he couldn’t leave yet, because he was still working on a few people (me being one of them).

My encouragement to you, if you are investing in someone (as I hope you are), make sure they KNOW why you are doing it.

Start now, the time is right

Get started now, don’t wait.  There are many people out there who need mentors and advisors. Here are the three keys again:

  • Ask others in your life how you have impacted their life.
  • Begin intentionally investing in others, and let them know what and why you are doing it.
  • It’s never too late, get started now.

Questions/comments.  Email me at jjennings@focalpointcoaching.com or contact me here.