“Tell me I am a good man”, the elderly James Ryan says
“What?”, replies his beloved wife
“Tell me I have led a good life.”
These are the last few lines of dialog from the film Saving Private Ryan. The elderly James Ryan is kneeling over a memorial grave stone in Normandy, France. He has returned to pay respects to the Captain who gave his life to save Ryan’s in 1944. James Ryan, like many people, has a deep visceral desire to leave a legacy. Do you? Do you want to know how?
I have learned a few truths from the world of business and applied them to the world of real life.
The best method of leaving a good legacy is to live one. As I begin the last chapters of my business life I share the desire of Private James Ryan. I want people to regard me as a good man and know that I have led a good life. It would be one scene to gather a gold watch, celebrate a life of business achievement, cash in stock options, rollover the retirement account, and then sail off into the sunset. That scene would have an element of melancholy to it. Is this all there is? In a few years I will leave the world of business. What can I do to leave a lasting imprint? Not like a boot print in snow that will soon melt but rather like one in wet concrete which lasts and lasts.
Perhaps the best method of leaving a lasting impression is to walk out the remaining years of business knowing the footprints that are left can matter. Living out the remaining years of business enterprise prepares us for the next steps of life. This is living a legacy in order to leave one.
How will your footprints impact people permanently? Wealth and power wane. Position and status have a limited half-life like decaying radioactive isotopes. Eventually they become inert. So what lives beyond our presence to create concrete footprints? Relationships!
When I was 17 years old my grandfather, who was my hero, transferred a mantle of leadership to me. I was the youngest of his 16 grandchildren. He invested time relationally, pouring into me values which build character. Character evolves into integrity. Integrity brings legacy. So now, I am relationally investing in the members of our company who will take the reins when my time is done.
Psychologists teach us to not worry about the fact that children do not follow our spoken words. However, we should be petrified that they watch everything we do. I think legacy-living is like that! Our words are fleeting prints in the snow while our actions are prints in wet concrete. So, I am carefully walking with the key leaders of our organization. Our conversations and the relationships being created are the seeds of legacy. Looking back, I see my prints in the concrete, but I also see theirs! We are creating legacy for them as well.
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