For the better part of my adult life, my Grandma Alkie could be heard saying she wanted her last days to be her best days. She lived to 94 years of age. In her yearning was the notion of legacy and how she would be remembered. She also made it clear how she wanted to be treated in the waning years of life.
My grandma was regal in her demeanor and our family, to the best of our abilities, treated her like royalty. Although she beamed under the attention, she wanted something more. She wanted to leave an indelible imprint on the family. She wanted to leave a mighty legacy. It is probably natural to have such feelings as we get older. It is also natural to want our last days to be our best days as we near retirement or transition from one career to another. We want to be remembered for having made a difference. This is especially true of those who hold leadership positions
Unfortunately, many leaders have difficulty accepting the “last days”. What happens to leaders who were once highly influential but who find themselves in a new space with limited power and shrinking influence? Some seem prepared for the natural transition. Others struggle to remain relevant, trudging paths of powerlessness, only catching glimpses of the power they once had. Many claw and scratch and try to hold on to something that is long gone. A few even use their last bit of power to harm others in acts of vengeance.
Tides will shift and power changes hands. This is a fact of every work environment. When something is over, it is over. One can only hope the time spent in any endeavor is time well spent. Hope the imprint on the lives of others is a positive and lasting tribute. What else is there?
The only “fix” I can think of is to approach your first days, and all days, as if they are your last days. You cannot build a legacy in the 11th hour of a career. Influencing how you want to be remembered when you leave, starts the first day you arrive on the job.The enterprises and bosses with whom we work have a great deal of power over when our employment is terminated, if our exits can be planned, or our departures finessed. Nevertheless, we, not they, have the power over legacy rooted in how we impact the lives of others. Not just lives of peers and cronies, but ordinary walking around people we do not know. Long after we are gone, those we coach, mentor and inspire will ensure our thoughts and deeds continue to roam the workplace. This is true legacy.
- Tides shift and power changes hands.
- Legacy building starts in the first days not the last days.
- Our legacies are only as great as the lives we touch and endure in direct proportion to time spent helping others.