11. Your legacy starts now
There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is cap tured in the phrase “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.
-- Stephen Covey
The Danger of Success
Was I going to be talking about West Africa to everyone I met 30 years from now? If so, how would I be different from someone who’s still reliving a war that ended decades ago?
The Search for Meaning and the Two Questions
“What do you really want to get out of life?” and “What can you offer the world that no one else can?”
- Vision—how will the world be different because of the project?
- Beneficiaries—who will benefit from the project?
- Primary Method or Medium—how will you do the work?
- Output—what will be produced as a result of your work?
- Metrics—how will success be measured?
Legacy Projects Require Legacy Work
There’s nothing wrong with it, but the problem is that we have too much good work. Great work, on the other hand, is revolutionary. Great work leads to innovation. While most good work is comforting, great work is simultaneously comforting and discomforting because it pushes us to go further.
GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN PLANNING FOR LEGACY WORK
In the mornign:
- How am I feeling?
- What do I want right now?
- What is the single, most important thing I can do today?
In the evening:
- Who did I help today?
- How much time did I spend creating today?
- Did I move closer to one of my big goals today?
- How much exercise did I do today?
- How much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol did I consume today?
- What do I want for tomorrow?
Creating vs. Responding
Measure work in output, not hours.
Which is more important—showing up for eight hours or actually doing the work?
If I spend eight hours staring at the screen and reading the news, the world is not a better place. If I spend 30 minutes work ing on a project that will add value to my readers or customers, at least some part of the world is better off.
My deliverables are articles, essays, product creation, interviews, and so on. An art ist’s deliverables may be canvases, songs, or something physical.
Create a continual metric for your most important work.
Regardless of what you’ve done before or where you are in life now, you can make something beautiful that will outlast you. You can help others in a unique way that couldn’t have hap pened without your influence. That’s what a legacy project is all about.
- All those good things you’ve done before are nice, but the future can be even better. Focus on that.
- Increase the percentage of legacy work as opposed to busy work (or even just “good work”).
- Setting a continual metric (like the 1,000-words standard) can help keep you focused on what really matters to you.
- Wake up in the middle of the night with good ideas. Share them with the world.
Conclusion: Dangerous ideas
Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
-- Sir Cecil Beaton
“We can’t all do what we want all the time.”
“Some of us have to be responsible.”
“That doesn’t work in the real world.”
“You wouldn’t want a non-conformist heart surgeon, would you?”
Innovation comes from entrepreneurs and others who are wiling to accept risk and try new things.
Many of us have found the feeling of being alive more than compensates for any negative consequences of living life on our own terms.
A Few Dangerous Ideas
In fact, the basic belief that you should do what you want most of the time is uncomfortable and troubling for some people.
- Grading could be abolished or modified, and curriculums rewritten to reward trial and error more than rote memorization.
The Opposite of Luck
Be daring, be different. In choosing to live a remarkable life. If one plan doesn’t work out, you can try something else—but if you never try, you’ll go to your grave with your song still in you, as Henry David Thoreau wrote long ago.
Be impractical. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
Assert integrity against the play-it-safers and slaves of the ordinary. The world has enough sleepwalkers and cynics; the rest of us need your help.
Frequently asked questions
What should I do with my life?
Something excellent that you want to do more than anything else in the world. When you start waking up at night with ideas, that’s a good start.
To start a business, don’t I need to raise a lot of money and go to business school?
You can start most businesses for less than $1,000, and many for less than $100. To get started, read Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation, which at about $18 is a better investment than most classes you could take for much more money.