Building our Legacy

We were having dinner the other night with a couple who we hadn’t seen in a long time. The husband is well into his 70s, a very successful attorney. His wife is considerably younger, maybe by decades, but wise beyond her years. We began a wonderful conversation about life, loss, grief, joy, happiness and all the range of feelings that are tied to every story.

When this man, who is very healthy and fit for his age spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the place that he was speaking from. It was from a place of lived experience with authority but humility. All of his energy was that of gratitude for the simple things in life, like the opportunity to be sitting at that table in that moment with his wife and young daughter in our company. It made me think of how much he’s seen, how much he’s lived and how his attitude resembles a life well-lived, one that has had its shares of ups and downs but one of purpose and determination. 

As I listened to him speak and comment with respect and dignity toward the less experienced of us in the room, I couldn’t help but think that he was sharing his legacy. Leaving a legacy is the ability to tell our story for the sake of sharing it so others can benefit from hearing it. We tell our story so that others can be inspired and they can make the world a better place. Legacy is what we do with what we have, the intangibles of what we have built, like the love and the true friendships that surround us. Legacy is telling our stories about the roads we’ve taken and the wisdom gained from making mistakes.

When I think about legacy, I think about one person in my life, my great uncle who lived a life well lived and who focused on simplicity, always. He spoke succinctly and passionately and one of his best nuggets of wisdom to me was “Be happy”. What he meant with those two words was “Choose to be happy in spite of our story, in spite of the circumstances that surround us”. That choice will become our legacy. So, much like my uncle, my older friend commanded so much respect when he spoke, not because of all his accolades and accomplishments, but simply because of his respect and dignity for life and for living a life well-lived.