In sports, a player’s legacy is often cemented by incredible stats, broken records and championships. The truly great ones are even enshrined in their sport’s Hall of Fame. Fans of all ages will walk the halls of those Hall of Fame buildings and be reminded of their greatness for years to come.
And what about the rest of us?
I’ve often thought about what my legacy will be years from now – probably more so now that I have a family and two small children. What will I be remembered for when I am gone?
What would I need to do in order to create a meaningful and memorable legacy?
However, the more I think about it, the more I question if I’m asking… the right question.
Is it really about what we do that defines a meaningful legacy, or is it more about what we spent our time being and becoming throughout our lives? Or how we’ve consistently shown up and been of service to others?
Is it more about our character?
In my opinion, it’s all about character.
So what would people say about yours?
While growing up, I was very fortunate to have an incredibly strong family and support system that helped me develop a strong moral compass and the beginnings of a character that I could be proud of.
It’s funny, whenever I think about character, I immediately go back to a grade school trip to Washington, DC. While finishing up a visit to one of the many sights, my class ended up in the gift store. As I walked around, I came to a display of desk paper weights that had a variety of inspirational quotes…
The following quote really hit me, and that paper weight left that gift store with me and followed me through the remainder of grade school, high school and college. That quote read:
“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself” – Dwight Moody
I don’t really know why, but that quote caught my eye and became a cornerstone of who I set out to become from that day forward – it echoed in the back of my head during many difficult choices and decisions.
As I grew up, I began to hear more and more about people’s reputation.
Reputation in and of itself always felt so shallow. To me at least, the people who cared entirely about their ‘rep’ always seemed inauthentic. It’s as if they were always putting on a show.
Sure, many of them ended up being the ‘cool’ kids, but there had to be more…
This quote opened my eyes to the reality that by focusing on building, maintaining and evolving an impeccable character, my reputation would build itself.
As I sit here writing this post, I’m coming to the realization that if I take the sentiment of that quote a step further, and continue to strengthen and evolve my character, then that same character will allow for my legacy – whatever that may be – to build itself as well.
And the lesson remains… instead of focusing on what my legacy will be, I must continue to focus on building and cultivating a world class character. If I do, everything else will fall into place.
So let’s refocus on building a character that we can be proud of each and every day.
Build Your Character
Character is the cumulative effect of all your decisions – big and small. Therefore, we need to be intentional in how we show up each and every day through those decisions as well as our interactions with those around us.
As we begin, or continue, our work on building a world class character, here are a few nuggets to support our path forward:
Be clear on what you stand for
If we don’t have a strong and clear foundation around our values, then it will be extremely hard to build an authentic and consistent character.
Take the time to build your foundation and then place it at the forefront of your leadership.
Clarify your purpose and vision
Once you know who you are and what you are about, the next step is using that awareness to understand where you want to go.
Having a clear purpose and vision will provide a guiding direction and focus around where you want to go and who you need to be and become in order to get there, and by maintaining a strong sense of self and character, you can be confident that where you end up will be a fulfilling and special place.
Be good to others
The significance and power of a person with strong character only comes into play when they interact with others.
Be good to those that you encounter in all areas of your life – each and every day.
Sure, some people may really get on your nerves and rub you the wrong way. I challenge you (and myself) to be true to what we stand for and act accordingly – treat others with respect, and treat them well. If we do, then when we look in the mirror at the end of the day, we can be proud of who is starring back at us.
Also, let’s remember that people you see on the way up will be the same people you see on the way down. Act accordingly.
That’s right, do you… be you… live an authentic life.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” -Oscar Wilde
People know when you are being fake or trying to fit in for the sake of fitting in. I know, it can be tempting to want to fit in with the ‘cool kids’. And no matter what season of our life we are in (that’s right – young or old), there are always going to be ‘cool kids’.
I challenge you to not become a chameleon. There are already plenty of people who are willing to blend into the background – don’t be one of them. Stand up and stand out.
Cement Your Legacy
If we take care of business each day, and continue to work on becoming our best self, then the future we desire and the legacy that follows will take shape on its own.
Never compromise who you are or what you are about by taking shortcuts. It may feel worth it in the moment, but I promise it never is. If you don’t believe me, listen to the Oracle of Omaha:
“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” -Warren Buffett
As I close today, please know that it is my sincere belief that if we live our lives the right way and be true to our character and moral compass, be of service to others, and be committed to always improving (1% better each day), then we will create a legacy that will echo through the future – through the halls of our own Hall of Fame…
No matter how well-known or anonymous we may be, those who know us best will carry our memory and the best parts of us forward in and through them.
Our example and character will influence and shape those around us. And more importantly, they will go forward to shape and influence even more people through their character and example. Now that’s a legacy I can be proud of.
So let’s get back out on the field and lead with our character on each and every play. #unleash your Inner Athlete.
Discussion Question: What is one aspect of your character that you want to improve? How can you take one step to begin that improvement this week?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."