When deciding what career path to take, you’re always told to do something you’re passionate about. In the last few years many well-known people, such as Mark Cuban and Thomas Keller, have been weighing in on whether following your passion is the way to go. I started to question this myself when I lost my job last year. I wrote a post about it years ago titled, “Why Purpose Matters Most.” In further thinking about this, I believe it goes beyond purpose, passion, effort, etc. I think what we need to focus on is creating a legacy.
Many famous people over the course of history are remembered by their legacy. People such as Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein and even Steve Jobs. There are also people that are still alive that have created a legacy, such as Gloria Steinem, Oprah and Elon Musk.
What is the meaning of legacy?
By definition, legacy means a gift, a bequest or personal property, even a will, that is handed down from the past. This is how we all understand the definition of the word. But I think we need to shift our definition of legacy to something much more significant.
I came across a great definition from this life coach site based out of Vancouver, Canada called Meridian Life Design. Their definition says, “when you shift to living your legacy, your influence comes from who you are authentically at the core and you measure value and life purpose other than by emphasis on accomplishments, wealth, recognition, prestige, acclaim, power or position.”
What makes this definition much more powerful is, rather than legacy being something that is handed down or only reserved for a select few famous people, it becomes a way to live life. In this way it forces you to think about what your life purpose should be, but takes it a step further.
In, “Why Purpose Matters Most,” I mention that passion is not enough, not even effort, because purpose adds meaning to your life and career. However, legacy is like purpose on steroids.
Examples of creating a legacy
To better understand this new definition, I want to give you some examples.
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, a significant position in the business world for anyone, let alone a woman. If Sheryl wanted her position of COO at Facebook to be her legacy, that is solely what she would focus on. However, since 2011 she has been focused on women empowerment.
It all started with her TED talk, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders. She talks about why so few women reach the top of their careers, especially C-level positions, and offers three pieces of advice. Since then she’s written two books, Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead and Option B (co-written with Adam Grant), started an organization under the same name Lean In, and continues to raise many issues, the most recent being this piece in the The Wall Street Journal.
Arianna Huffington is the Founder and CEO of Thrive Global and Co-founder of The Huffington Post. She co-founded the digital newspaper in May 2005 and it quickly became one of the most prominent publications online. In 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million. What an accomplishment!
However, in 2007 Arianna collapsed from exhaustion and that was a wake up call for her. Since then she has transformed her life and embraced the vital importance of sleep. So much so, that she decided to write a book about it, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time. The book was the catalyst for launching Thrive Global.
Your legacy can be anything
You may argue that both Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington will forever be known by their professional accomplishments. I believe they want to be known for much more.
Your legacy can be anything you want it to be. For some it may be focused on their professional life, like it is for Steve Jobs. For others it may be focused on something much more philanthropic, like it is for Gloria Steinem.
You have to ask yourself, what is it that defines who you are authentically? Once you’ve made that connection, then it’s time to start creating your legacy.
This even goes for me. In the last year I started to connect with my core self and I realized for several years I’ve been focused on my passions. However, there’s something deeper inside me that’s more than just a passion. So it’s time for me to also start creating a legacy.
“Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on. ” -Rasheed Ogunlaru
There's another great definition of legacy that I heard from Oprah when I had a chance to see her at the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit last year. She said, "Legacy is every life you touch." I love that, because it's simple, but powerful at the same time. She said it was something that Maya Angelou told her when they were discussing what legacy is before she passed away.
Are you creating a legacy or just merely following your passion?
Who are some of your role models that have created a legacy?
If you’re living your legacy, what is it and how did you connect with it?