Legacy is a box that can never be checked. The work is never done. But it happens whether you do something about it or not. In other words, you can be intentional or unintentional. Either way, your influence will be felt. It just may not be felt in the way you want it to be.
This was never more apparent to me than just last week when I spent time interviewing a potential new client. (I will call him Joe)
Joe is now 77 years old and still running the business he founded over 40 years ago. His health and energy are fading and he can no longer influence the business the way he once did. It is past time for him to step aside, but he can’t. He never took the time to intentionally develop an exit plan, so the business is poorly positioned to survive without him.
He thought his children would one day take over for him, but they are unprepared to lead, and they don’t know how to partner with each other. Their inability to communicate their own perspective, and to see and hear the perspective of the other is making it impossible for them to act in the best interest of the business. They are feuding and each is seeking after their own. This is a lose-lose scenario.
After my initial interviews and evaluation, I had no choice but to recommend that Joe sell the business to an outside party. It is his best option, and quite possibly the only way he can ensure both peace and payment.
This option causes him great sorrow. His children are now 56 and 54. He doesn’t know how they will find new work that will allow them to provide for their families. It is difficult for him to cut them off. He is also troubled by the idea that his business will be in the hands of someone else. He is worried about how this will affect his personal and professional legacy.
He knows he should have begun the transition process 20 years ago. Now it is too late. His options are limited. Whatever he chooses will cause pain for him and his family.
As I share the story of Joe’s business with you, I want to make sure to illustrate how it is affecting his entire legacy.
All of his personal relationships are affected. His wife of 57 years is worried about the kids and this often puts them at odds. The kids are fighting and asking him to take sides. The grandkids barely speak to each other. The family is broken.
The business is failing and he needs it to succeed, or sell it now for a profit. He has some money saved but it is not enough. He needs the income to ensure that he will have enough money to live out the remainder of his days.
The constant demands made by the business and his family are affecting his physical, mental and emotional well-being. Both Joe and his wife recently had back surgeries. The constant family bickering is wearing them down. They have run out of options.
This leaves Joe with little time to think about anything else. The golden years are filled with turmoil. The peace he imagined is eluding him now.
The Future of You and Me
It is said that hell is full of good wishes and desires, but heaven is full of good works.
Sometimes we wander through life putting off the good work that we need to do right now, because we think we don’t have enough time. We just keep telling ourselves that when things settle down, we will focus on the things that really matter.
Things never settle down and time marches on. Too many of us wake up one day and find ourselves in Joe’s shoes. Our opportunity to do good works is past and we are left to live in the hell of our unrealized wishes and desires.
I invite you to wake up now and commit to taking the actions that will ensure your wishes and desires. These actions will most likely produce very few short-term benefits. Don’t let that bother you. You must move your feet in the right direction or you will end up somewhere else. Once you get started the fulfillment you feel will make it all worth it.
You may not be running your own family business like Joe, but this story still applies to you and your legacy. As I looked him in the eyes and listened to his sad story, I saw a reflection of what the future holds for you and me. We can either be creatures of circumstances, or creators of circumstances. I choose the latter, and it really isn’t that tough of a choice.
It only takes a moment to choose how we want to spend our time. No matter how well you are doing right now, you can do better. Don’t wait for another day. Examine your circumstances and ask yourself how you can make them better.
If you read this without examining your current circumstances then you are missing a great opportunity to grow and develop.
What actions do you need to take?
What obstacles, fears, or stories are preventing you from taking those actions?
Hell is when we realize that we can no longer exercise our agency. Don’t wait until your options are closed. Engage yourself in the greatest and most meaningful work you will ever find – the work of living into your own legacy.