Every entrepreneur and business leader waits too long before really working on the legacy that he wants to leave to society and his family. They realize too late that they don’t really want to be remembered for how many hours they spent on airplanes, how many emails they produced, or even how much money they made for the business.
If you disappeared today, what would your legacy show? What have you done for others? If you are not thinking in these terms, you may be making a mistake as a leader. Bill Gates will probably be more remembered in fifty years for the his efforts and Foundation to save lives in developing countries, than Steve Jobs for his “insanely great” consumer technology advances.
My colleague, Dr. Andrew Thorn, taught me the fascinating, and incredibly practical, daily-questions process. I now try to use this process every day. I find that it does a wonderful job of keeping what is most important to me ‘in my head’. My good friend and coach, Jim Moore, also uses this process for the same reason. We are both amazed at how well this works! Every day I challenge myself by answering 32 questions that represent behavior that I know is important, but is often easy to neglect. Every day Jim asks himself 17 questions. There is nothing ‘magic’ about the numbers 32 or 17. The idea is to just ask the number of questions that seems ‘right for you’.
How do you define legacy? It’s a word we misunderstand today because we abandoned the original meaning. It comes from an old French word that meant an ambassador or missionary who was sent out to start a future community. Because of the nature of the times they lived in, they were often killed while they were doing it. So they were remembered for the work they were doing. But I started using legacy as a word that is more energetic. It’s something we carry with us, and it captures our future and even our present. Legacy is something we take with us. It represents who we are.
Do most business leaders see it that way? I think they feel it. They’re trying to do something that they’ll be remembered for. But when they focus on results, that’s when they have the biggest problem. But when they focus on people, that’s when people say, “This is the best leader I’ve ever been around.”
I just finished an incredible five months participating in a program called The Telios Experience led by my brother, Dr. Andrew Thorn, PhD. This was a personal legacy-building program which allows its participants to look more closely at the rest of their lives and identify purpose, as well as fulfillment. I was overwhelmed several times during the program because, while I thought I understood my path, I really only had a very small inkling. This project left me high, but most certainly not dry – I learned more about myself than I thought possible.
For business coach and psychologist Andrew Thorn, the goal in life should not be to achieve a work/life balance that he believes was never meant to exist. After all, as he writes in his inspirational new book, Leading with Your Legacy in Mind: Building Lasting Value in Business and Life, work is about quantity (salaries, financial results, purchases you can afford), while life is about quality; and no matter what we do, we will spend most of our waking hours on work. Instead of an impossible and unnecessary work/life balance, Thorn argues that it is better to strive to achieve a legacy that emerges from making the most of both life and work.
The term “legacy” is often misunderstood, he writes. Legacy is also, like life, measured as a quality, not a quantity. “It is measured by what we learn and by who we become as a result of our learnings,” he writes, not by “quantities of stuff we accumulate.” Instead of something that is simply left behind, legacy is something that is created every day and that “encompasses your past, present and future.”
My father passed away when he was 65 years old. I was born when he was 30, so many of the important events of my life happened 30 years after they did for him. When he died, I had an overwhelming sense that I was next in line. This caused me to think about my legacy and the impact that I was making. I asked myself if I was satisfied with my life, and the answer was no. I began to make some changes and that included writing about the process of creating a legacy.
Dr Thorn is a TedX speaker and provides behavioral based leadership strategies. He personally guided 2 of the top 50 business thinkers, currently listed on The Thinkers 50.
His work extends to over 50 major corporate clients and over 250 Senior Leaders from many of the Fortune 500 Companies. Graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Dr. Thorn also holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology from Alliant International University, and a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching.
This year I enjoyed the amazing opportunity of helping a Fortune 100 company roll out a major talent and leadership development strategy for their emerging leaders in Central America.
As I held one hour meetings with 230 members of their sales, finance, HR, marketing and executive teams, I discovered something very fascinating. Even though everyone was working for the same company, with the same support and same rules, some locations were succeeding and others were struggling.
Obviously, there are many variables that contribute to this phenomenon: different countries, different economies, different cultures, different values, different lifestyles, different currencies, different governments, etc…
Are you there yet?
Have you reached that point in your life when you suddenly realize that there are more days behind you than there are ahead of you? If you have, then you may find yourself wondering “was it all worth it?” or maybe even, “is this all there is?”
The midpoint of life, under normal circumstances, is an intense transitional experience. These are not normal circumstances. The current economic, social, political, physical and spiritual environments seem to be more turbulent than at any other time in recent memory.
Some of us may be facing involuntary career changes. Many of us are watching the retirement funds we so carefully and painfully saved over a lifetime, evaporate right before our eyes.
What brings satisfaction? What brings success? What does success mean? What are labors that are worth laboring for?
How does a person bring meaning and purpose into life? What is purpose? What matters most to me? How do I learn? Who will support me? Is support necessary?
What are the most important connections? Is it all connected?
What do I want? Can I really leave a legacy? Are there secrets to life, or is it all invented?
How can I be better? Who do I want to meet? What will I say when I meet them? What is my influence?