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  • Writer's picturedennisharris04

How Will You Define Your Legacy?


How will you define your legacy? That can be a tough question to answer for people, and it’s okay if that’s the case for you. My journey changed how I would define it a couple times, and I’m still not sure that I have complete clarity on it everyday. I do think I have a good foundation for how I see it after living some life and it is getting a bit easier now that I’m older.


The first step to defining your legacy is to figure out what that word means to you when you hear it, and take it in the direction that suits you. Stay true to who you are and focus on building what you want to leave behind. When you say “legacy” to someone, there is a good chance they might think of money. Some may argue that your legacy is having your name on a building because you built a very successful company.


I think that your legacy should drive you and give you a purpose to work at everyday because it means that much to share it and leave your work behind. When you hear the Beatles or the Rolling Stones you know who it is right away, and if you are a music lover it probably only takes the first note to name the tune. They both started from humble beginnings with the intent of being able to have enough success to play music for a living. Their music touched millions and is still influencing musicians to this day. Over five decades that helped change the landscape of popular music. That’s a legacy! Let’s not forget musicians like Bob Marley who brought Reggae to the masses. He has been gone for over forty years and kids from this current generation know his music.

There are many authors that transcend their generation, by writing timeless stories that have the power to transport you somewhere else. JRR Tolkien had his book “The Hobbit” published in 1937 and we are watching movies that his series of books inspired to this day.


Now if a financial legacy is your purpose, is it truly enough to drive you? The examples I listed above stayed true to what drove them passionately, and the money came later. Their art will live on as legacies that have lasted generations, and will probably continue for many generations to come. I think that vision needs to get you excited, it will be what drives you when times get tough, or you feel discouraged and you should be proud to leave it behind. Would it make you happy to know that you have done something meaningful, people will think of that something and associate it with you? I know the idea of doing that would warm my heart and comfort my soul.That something may not be as black and white wanting to be associated with fame or fortune, you may want something more defined and personal as a legacy. I am not going to undersell the power of never worrying about money or the constant boost of notoriety, but they have a price. You could spend all your time making money, and you may never get that much needed time alone with fame. Sometimes what you leave behind may be simpler and a little closer to the heart, but that depends on you.


A big thing that came from the world pandemic was a renewed realization by many of how important farmers and truck drivers are to society. Maybe you're a second or third generation farmer and want to keep your farm in the family and your legacy may be passing it on to the generations that follow. I knew a truck driver that started from one truck, grew it to many, and then passed the company to his son who had gone to school for business. There are some parents who may not pass down money, land or a company, but may feel that teaching their kids the value of hardwork and developing work ethic is most important. To those parents they may feel that is their legacy and is the best thing to pass on.


The generations following those parents may feel that they don't want to follow in their parents footsteps and to try and cut out their own legacy. I think that wanting to follow your own path is great, but there might be some guidance needed. That is where a good boss, mentor, a teacher or a coach may come in as a guide to help with that direction. Those people might feel like they are leaving their legacy behind by being the most inspiring and helpful version of those positions. I know that in my earlier years I looked for guidance from those types of people and any place else I could get guidance or inspiration. I didn’t think about a legacy in those times, but there were definitely certain, important things that gave me purpose.

I started to follow a direction which encompassed most of the positions above, such as teachers and coaches. I pursued the idea of Martial Arts of all forms, which started with a desire to never feel like a victim again and an admiration for Bruce Lee. Years later as I walked up the small stairs to the ring apron, stepped through the ropes to face a man that was 6’6” tall and 285lbs, I was proud of myself for making it to the point where I was capable of a test of that magnitude.


I also realized that I had taken my purpose to an extreme that most people wouldn’t have. In the beginning I liked the idea of people thinking I was formidable, maybe even a little scary, but something happens when you go on a journey to become a warrior. If you are good at your core and approach things with an open mind and heart, things will reveal themselves to you that were not necessarily expected. The more Martial Arts and training I did, the confidence I developed led me to realize something important about my journey. That I was there to speak up and stand up for people that couldn’t, to help them realize a way to do it for themselves. I didn’t want to just be known for my ability to protect myself, that it was certainly not the only thing about myself I wanted to leave behind. That idea of having a formidable persona did consume me in my early years, before I realized what I’m telling you, but it’s never too late.


I started thinking more about what my true purpose is, and what I could leave behind. I also began to realize more about myself with each passing experience over the years. I took stock of the experiences in a way to try and figure out what stamp I wanted to leave on the world.


When I was coaching I got more enjoyment from watching players learn, progress and apply those lessons to a game, than I ever got from playing. Running my company was most rewarding at the times when I was training someone new or helping employees reach similar levels as I did. I started to realize that my pursuit of Martial Arts and competing was a selfish endeavor that I had to go through to figure out some of the big things I needed to conquer for myself. I think it is important to do that if you really want to figure out your true purpose, and what things will reveal themselves.


Some people may spend their whole lives self centered, money focused and become successful enough in their goals, and may believe that is enough for a legacy. If a legacy is leaving something behind, is it still that if it doesn’t add depth and a lesson to other people’s lives?


As I started thinking about the things that I experienced, I realized that my creative side was what I started missing. My wife suggested that I share my story by writing it, because it was something I enjoy and didn't realize how much until I stepped away from it for a while. I started writing blogs, and started to enjoy it even more than I had previously. People started expressing how much they were getting from reading them. I started realizing that for myself the legacy I want to leave is using what I have experienced in life to share and hopefully help people with their journey. I’m not sure how much of my writing will factor into that. What I do know about my writing is I enjoy doing it, it gives my friends and family a more detailed insight into my life and the lessons I took away from my experiences, and my sons will have a good Idea of who I am as a person from the years they were not around for. I would like my writing to help people, but at the very least, I hope the reader enjoys it.


So where am I as far as my legacy after sharing the above? Well, I haven’t put a tidy bow on what the end picture will look like. I know the path and the message of the legacy that I want to leave behind. I want people to think that I gave as much or more than I took from this hard, crazy and wonderful life we are all part of. I want people to think that I took a brutal upbringing and turned it to a happy productive life, where my hard earned lessons were passed on and hopefully made it a little easier for those who listened.


There may be one big thing, or a bunch of things that define me as a person that gave back, put my legacy at the core, and I hope it would be that I used bad to do good where I could. I think it’s okay to stumble a little bit, maybe experience some selfishness on the way to finding the best version of yourself to leave for people to remember. I know it’s hard to think about a legacy, especially when sometimes just getting to the end of the day or week seems impossible. The best you can do is try to make your purpose part of your everyday life, because I think we all fall between two extremes when it comes to a legacy. Some will achieve most of what they set out to leave, some will stay right where they are and the rest…


The two examples I will share of extremes are this, one is a story a co-worker shared with me when he was driving long-haul and it stuck with me. He was in the middle of nowhere, saw a house and what looked like a general store. The house was in a valley, hills on both sides and on the porch of the house was a man. My friend pulled over to ask directions because he was horribly lost. He walked to the porch and said,”I need directions because I have gotten myself lost”. To which the man replied,”son that hill to the left and the other hill to the right?, I couldn’t tell you what is on either side”. The man was implying he had never left his big piece of land and it didn’t matter if he just didn’t want to give directions. The idea of that stuck with me, because the thought of never knowing anything else seemed a ridiculous idea to me. I do not think that man cared about purpose and especially didn’t care about legacy. That is one side of the extreme scale. The other side is the person that spends their whole life building a fortune day in and day out to have a self proclaimed empire of wealth and power. That is the legacy that they will leave behind and probably tell everyone along the way. I think most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes.


All of this brings us back to the beginning question. How will you define your legacy? Are you happy with what you might be leaving behind? It’s okay to not know exactly, but do you have a purpose that might lead you to a great legacy that defines and celebrates how you were in life? Are you okay with day to day, ending up right where you are with no thought of a legacy? Are you the guy on the porch or are you building an empire? Let me know what your legacy might look like or what you are working on building in a comment below.





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dennisharris04
dennisharris04
Jun 02, 2022

Thanks for commenting Bob, and I really like that the first thing you thought is your children. When I think of my kids and how they live life, it brings me back to a poem that my wife gave me on fathers day from the child's perspective. The essence of that talks about the father living his best life as an example. Essentially that's why I talk about leaving something that might define you outside of everyday parenting, but for me leaving the best lesson of my life in that. In hopes that my boys will live their life with a similar path but defining their own way. In a way you and I have come to the same conclusion,…

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Bob Hale
Bob Hale
Jun 01, 2022

I found your article interesting and specifically that you only listed two possible "legacy" option that one might consider. My first, and only consideration for a "legacy", is my children. Although the materialistic options might be of value to some, my belief is that a true legacy is a living legacy. My children will be the reflection of their exposure to me and my spouse. Our values, beliefs, religion, political aspirations, and so on. Much the same as I am my parents legacy. Therefore, how I am today will be carried forward in my children; tomorrow. That's my legacy.

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