For 22 years I lived within five miles of my family members (minus a few years at college…but you get me).
For 18 of those my cousins were built-in daily friends, I was active in 4-H, my community and dance team. I always had a role to serve, younger kids to lead and a house full of people to come home to. In a small town you also had to see the same people for 18 years, like it or not.
For four years in college it was made a bit more difficult finding ‘my tribe’ but through my sorority and organizations I was able to meet new people with solid relationships that lasted through the most important years of our life.
Then comes ‘adulting’. For us that meant moving to the upper-left-hand corner of the U.S. and into a lifestyle that requires lots and lots of time alone and far away from any support network. Add on several years of working from home or owning my own business, making friends only to have everyone move to another location every other year…and you realize how important it is to have your own thing and your own people.
We went from being kids having our parents always ask how our day was to being an adult and people letting you own your own situations. We evolve from being around people from proximity to necessity.
“You can’t change those around you but you can change those who are around you.”
I’ve had the same best friend since 4th grade.
I’ve had another close, best friend since Thanksgiving 2016.
I talk to each every day.
One knows everything about my entire life and the other knows exactly the struggles I face and life I am living because she is in the same exact place as I am. I’ve chosen both of these ladies to stay close in my life because they both bring so much value. I share the best and the worst things with them. I’ve had to weed out the superficial and ones that bring me down or make me feel worse to focus on my time with them.
Who are you surrounded by? Who comes in and out at their convenience?
Who is supporting you where you want to go to? Who is cheering you on and checking in on you?
If your legacy is constructed of those around you, what legacy is it that you’re leaving?
Your legacy is more than the awards or short-term recognition you received at one point in your life. Your legacy is more than the uplifting comments, the thumbs-up or the online encouragement.
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Having to move every few years, we’ve seen many boxes and have had to pack up a lot of things from each location. Whether it’s a shell from a beach trip, a picture from a tourist location or a souvenir from a weekend away. Everything we collect at each location means we have to handle, re-pack and move to the next location in our life. We consistently have to re-evaluate what’s important for us to continue to carry and take up rooms in our life. There are people who have rooms and boxes with things and things they have no idea what it is.
What clutter is surrounding you? What’s blocking your view or intruding the possibility of new and better things? Is everything (physical or not) more important than your sanity? Is there room for better things to come in?
Your legacy should- and will be- more than just the boxes of stuff you’ve accumulated. Your legacy will be the way you instilled your values and relied on your beliefs. It’s the people you’ve influenced and money habits you created.
We all have something to learn, teach, pass on and create. If you run a business, is it able to survive without you? If someone was thanking you in a speech, what would they attributed having learned from you? If your friend had to speak at your funeral (yikes, but hey) what would they have loved most about you and miss the most about you?
Your legacy is the memories and the lessons you’ve experienced. Your legacy is more than being memorialized with a statue or planting a tree. Your legacy isn’t left in a rush-job but instead consistent actions. It’s what we stick to in our worst times and what we turn to in the most desperate adversity. It’s what people remember after we step off the stage and what they tell others about our brand.
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There’s a leather-bound book that sat behind glass panes in my dad’s house for years. It’s titled ‘Footsteps Across Kansas’ and was written by my dad’s ancestors. Without meeting, talking or knowing these people there’s a sense of connection. There’s a sense of culture and history to understood where you came from.
Film a video. If you don’t like being on video, make a voice recording. Create a program. Speak at events. Write a book or publish an article. Record your family tree. Do something that will outlast you. Make something with purpose that is bigger than you. Ask questions and be a good listener, describe the big and small details, transcribe everything or be selective with big events. Leave something that can be placed in a time capsule and leave something only those who have experienced with you will remember and could never describe.
No matter the time or resources you have the most valuable thing you can provide to others. Starting a charity or joining an organization can allow you to contribute to your community. Give your time back to something that helped you. If you weren’t apart of something, find a new thing. Feed the homeless once a month at the Salvation Army. Ring bells during the holidays. Watch kids in the daycare during second service at your church. Volunteer or coach a sport you once loved. Be the adult or ‘fun older kid’ and camp counselor you once looked up to.
You can’t put a price on your time.
That’s what makes it your most valuable contribution.
Let me know if you’re the same but I’m not impressed by people’s money or name-brand whatever-you’ve-got. What I am interested in is the way you got there. What did you create or do to earn that level of success? Tell me how you built that business or earned that promotion.
(The right) people won’t be impressed by what you have to spend or lose or gain but what you give and your generosity. It’s about what you do with whatever you’ve earned or been given.
Even if you grew up in a five-mile town you can strive to leave a legacy larger than that. Even if you’re in your 20s or your 50s, what you do today will live much longer than you. Whether you have $5 or $500 to give, it will stretch further out in the world than it would molding in your pocket.
When you’re changing, evolving, adapting and pursuing greater things, you will single yourself out. You’ll make people uncomfortable and change can bring stress. People very well could choose to leave when you hope for more from them. Don’t be worried about a slimmer crowd or standing alone; it only means you’re making more room for better things and not all of that can fit in a box.
Find something bigger than you. Lean in to it. Leave a legacy.
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