The presenter asked, “By show of hands, who out there has a 5 year plan?”
About 200 of us were all packed inside a mid-sized training room at my company headquarters.
I raised my hand.
Looking around it surprised me that most of the audience had their hand up also. Apparently everyone these days has a 5 year plan? Were they lying? I was. Well, kind of… I did have a few long term goals written down somewhere.
The presenter continued… “Great. Now keep your hand raised if you have a 10 year plan.”
I kept my hand raised. I was definitely lying now. Most other people dropped their hands immediately. I probably kept mine up because I was sitting next to a Senior VP as well as 15 other executives from our west coast sales team. Half of them had their hands up so I thought I needed to also.
Then came a weird question… “OK now, who of you out there has a 200 Year Plan?”
Everybody put their hands down and started laughing. What kind of question is that? People don’t live for 200 years, so how can someone have a plan for that long? We all thought it was a joke.
But the presenter was not joking. He looked at us all with dead serious face, and then continued speaking. For the next 45 minutes he absolutely schooled us in the power of thinking big, making a difference in the world, and planning a “legacy”. He drew something on the whiteboard that looked like this:
(Presentation was by Jon Sanchez of Team Performance Institute)
What is “Legacy” anyway?
The basic definition is: A thing handed down by a predecessor.
I think legacy can be viewed in a couple different ways. Either a legacy you are given, or something you are leaving for others.
Legacy #1: The legacy you are given…
This is what has been handed down to you by predecessors. How did the generations before you influence and enabled the things that you do today?
- Sarah has hosts the annual family Christmas party. She’s been doing it for 30 years in the same house that her mother hosted for 30 years prior, and her grandma 30 years before that. It’s her family’s legacy.
- David is an award winning classical music composer. When he was a kid, he studied Beethoven and Mozart and it’s as if their teachings were written specifically for him. Music is his legacy.
- Grant works for the WK Kellogg foundation and personally gives 25% of every paycheck to charity. He’s following an example and legacy set my the generous founders many years ago.
Some people know what they need to do from the moment they are born. Michael Jordan was put on earth to play basketball. Keith Richards was meant to play guitar and write songs (and take drugs).
Don’t know what your “purpose” is in life? Don’t worry – me neither. I’ll get into that in a little bit.
Legacy #2: The legacy you are leaving for others…
This is what you’re handing down, passing on, or giving back to the world. This is your 200 year plan, starting while you’re alive and continuing on well after you’re dead.
- Paul streamlined a business process at work. He documented everything and taught it to others. The entire company has now adopted his process as a standard practice and it will be in place long after he stops working there. Paul’s impact will last for decades.
- Bill Keating, Jr. started a “Thought of the Day” email on September 5, 2000 when his oldest son left for college. He never missed a day for over 16 years, until sadly he passed away after battling cancer. His daughter Liz took over sending the daily inspirational emails. Bill continues to change people’s lives today, even though he’s no longer with us.
- My wife is a middle school teacher. The lessons she teaches are helping her kids become doctors, engineers, fitness instructors, etc.. Some kids will grow up to be teachers themselves! My wife plays a critical role in knowledge being transferred down from generation to generation.
Figuring Out My Legacy & Purpose:
After listening to the presentation that day at work, I went home, overwhelmed, trying to figure out my personal legacy. I was thinking thoughts like, “What is my life‘s purpose? What was I put on this earth to do?”
These are such incredibly tough questions! And still to this day I have no clear answer. But I have figured out these few things so far that are helping me…
It doesn’t have to be HUGE: The term “making a difference in the world” doesn’t mean that I have to affect millions and millions of people. My legacy might involve just affecting the lives of a select few. Big or small, a difference is a difference.
It doesn’t have to be NOW: Many people don’t figure out what they want to do until much later in life. There’s no rush to become who I inevitably will become.
What am I passionate about?: When I talk to people about things like personal finance, real estate, or surfing, my face lights up! These things have made such a huge difference in my life, and I want to share them with others. Passion is infectious and it spreads far and wide. This is what people remember about you.
Helping, sharing, giving: I live an extraordinary life full of blessings. Sharing these with others makes me happy, and enriches the lives of those around me. The more I give, the clearer my value in this world becomes.
Legacy is built slowly over time: Little by little, day by day, I’m trying to better myself. The greater I can become, the greater value I can provide the world.
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” — Shannon L. Alder
Final Thoughts & Takeaways:
It’s been about 4 years since I attended that legacy presentation. And I still don’t have a 200 year plan. (Truth be told, I don’t even have a solid 5 or 10 year plan still)
But that’s not the point.
It’s about thinking long term. It’s about understanding the ripple and compound effect of how everything we do today will shape how we are remembered later. Picturing far into the future can give you a good idea of what actions you should be doing today.
As frustrating as it is sometimes to “not know my exact purpose in life”, I’ve found peace in the fact that my legacy is building in a direction I’m proud of. It may be forever a work in progress, and I’m OK with that.
What about you? You got a 200 year plan? What’s your legacy?