Your story of you

Your legacy is the story about you, both professionally and personally. While a separate legacy can be created in each of these life areas, it is rare that one’s professional life does not touch our personal life, and vice versa, so it makes sense to think about this in an integrated fashion.

Professionally, it is about what you accomplish for something larger than yourself. This means it is not about title or salary (which are quickly forgotten by others), but something done for the good of the organization or its various constituents. Personally, your legacy tells how you were in relation to family, friends, neighbours, co-workers.

Take George Shultz, for example. Yup, that George Shultz!  In Deborah Solomon’s New York Times Magazine (7/4/2010) column, she lists major positions Shultz has held in the corporate world and in federal government. Some consider the combination of these positions controversial, and as such, Solomon asks Shultz if he is concerned about his legacy. Shultz responds simply that he does not struggle with his legacy and that he would like his grandchildren to be proud of him. Here we find an example of the blending of the professional and the personal. For Shultz, one of the guiding forces of his legacy creation, including what he has accomplished in his career, is his grandchildren.

The wonderful thing about creating your legacy is it can be done at any point in your adult life. As a high potential in an organization, you can create your professional legacy through the decisions you make within the organization. Simultaneously, whether or not you think about it, you create your personal legacy through time spent with family and friends and activities with community organizations. Those of you nearing retirement can look back on your career and reflect on your greatest accomplishments. Share those with colleagues who are newer to the organization. Consider the time you have remaining at your organization before retirement and decide what you can accomplish that will help others.  Then, give some serious thought to what you would like to do after retirement and how this might contribute to your overall legacy.

Reasons to create your legacy include:

  1. Helps define and direct your life’s purpose
  2. Allows you to define your message of how you want to be remembered – and for what
  3. Provides perspective regarding what is important (goals, family members, friends, bucket list)
  4. Helps you track what you have accomplished and what you still want to accomplish
  5. Gets you “back on track,” if necessary
  6. Provides direction to answer “what’s next?”

Whether professional or personal (or both) it’s your story to write so others may tell it. What do you want your legacy to be?