Beginning With the End in Mind

By Eric Wright

One of the most memorable pieces of advice I ever heard was from Stephen Covey who recommended writing your own funeral eulogy in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I though it rather morbid at the time, but since it was in a chapter titled “Begin with the End In Mind,” it seemed like, and actually is, a very strategic point.

Though it may seem rather egotistical the way Bill Clinton was said to obsess on his legacy or that Steve Jobs contacted the brilliant author Walter Isaacson to write his biography, if any of our lives are going to have a sense of purpose and focus, then thinking about our legacy is an essential prerequisite. 

Why Live For a Legacy?

1. It makes you think on a grand scale.  

Legacy is thinking of your life as a seed, not necessarily a full-grown oak. When you consider John F. Kennedy and the space program or Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights, they died before their legacies were fulfilled, but they will always be remembered for their contributions. 

Entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn once said, “The legacy we leave is part of the ongoing foundations of life. Those who came before leave us the world we live in. Those who will come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part.” 

To do that, writer and politician Clare Boothe Luce embraced the idea of writing a “life sentence,” a sort of personal mission statement. As she put it, “a statement summarizing the goal and purpose of one’s life.” If you are reflective, you’ll probably revise it over time. John Maxwell’s went from, “I want to be a great communicator” to “I want to add value to leaders who will multiply value to others.”  

2. It gives meaning to life’s challenges.  

Life is full of situations that are difficult, if not agonizing, or tasks that are rather mundane, but someone once said, “Leadership and legacy are not just what you do, but how you do it.” Often that means making character decisions that delay gratification, enduring a painful situation or simply continuing doing something that doesn’t always seem glamorous, like raising your children or performing your job with a sense of pride and craftsmanship.  

My father-in-law, Gordon Bauer, worked his small farm until my wife was in junior high and then moved the family into town where he took a job for the city, plowing snow during the long Minnesota winters and keeping the small midwestern town beautiful. A year ago, Gordon and his wife’s eight children celebrated a reunion in their memory with over 100 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in attendance.  Some were accountants, stock brokers, actors, pilots, law enforcement officers, doctors, business people, moms and dads and a whole lot of kids.  

There are no statues or buildings named after the Bauers, but what an amazing legacy of simply showing up for life, laying a foundation of faith and providing a stable, nurturing family environment. John C. Maxwell said, “Too often, leaders put their energy into organizations, buildings, systems or other lifeless objects. But only people live on after we are gone. Everything else is temporary.” 

Think back on the people that made a lasting impact on your life. At the time, did they even know it?

This article appears in the April 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
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