UNDERWOOD: What will your legacy be?

-A A +A

By Rick Underwood

Our legacy will grow out of what we do this year. Matthew West’s The Story of Your Life raises some provocative questions about our future. “Is this the end or only the beginning? Is it the second chance you never thought you would get? The question is, will you do something with it? Or will you spend your days lost in your regret? This is the story of your life. You decide how the rest is going to be. This is your chance between the lines to redefine what legacy you will leave…is this the end or only the beginning?”

Many of us float from year to year without a plan or direction. One day we realize we are floating in a sea of regrets. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Whether in our personal lives, vocations, or avocations, we can create a direction that leads to a legacy that provides meaning, purpose, and accomplishments.

As a way of thinking about where we are and where we want to go this coming year, I would invite us to consider three factors that can help any individual or organization move from good to great. It may mean we need to change or revise our vision.

Jim Collins suggests that there are three interlocking circles that define our vision. Three questions help us focus our vision:

  • What are we most passionate about?
  • What are we better than or as good at as anyone else in our area?
  • What supports and finances the movement toward this vision?


What are we most passionate about?

According to Wikipedia, passion comes from an ancient Greek word that means profound suffering. It is also a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing.

Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or a desire for something. The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love – a feeling of unusual enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject.

Our passion is felt and expressed in many ways. We may be a passionate follower of our favorite basketball team and the beloved players. We all have strong feelings toward our family members. Some of us have passion for a particular political view or party. And some of us are passionate adherents to a specific religious or spiritual quest.

And all of this is as it should be. But sometimes our passions are misplaced. Are the things we are passionate about adding to our legacy?

Henry Ford, who was a fairly successful person, once said, “You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars.” 

Passion and strong feelings about a cause are contagious. Passion starts with one person. Each of us needs to have a vision of where we want to be down the road. Before we can add to the legacy of an organization or family we must be clear about our own vision.


What are our strengths?

The second question we much wrestle with if we are to have a compelling vision is what, if anything are we better at or as good at as anyone else? What is our edge?

All of us possess unique personality traits, special interests and abilities. Coach Cal has found a way to make the UK basketball program attractive to the very best in the world. The Kentucky Derby draws the best horses in the world.

We can’t all be great like these are, but we can identify and use what we are good at. For example, we might possess great listening skills, or know a lot about social networking, or be a great encourager, or be a strategic thinker, or be extremely emotionally intelligent.

There are strength finders that can help us determine our strengths if we aren’t sure. We need to discover what we are good at and double our use.   


What kind of support do we need to reach our vision?

The third question we need to answer in order to refocus a vision for our future is what supports or undergirds our work toward this vision.

In a for-profit business, this would mean identifying the streams of revenue that enable the business to realize its vision. Other issues such as people development, training, hiring the right people and making sure the right people are in the right jobs may help reach our vision.

For a nonprofit it might mean volunteers and streams of revenue such as donations. It might mean developing my strategic leadership skills or learning how to fund raise.

As an individual we might need a support system, or a coach. Perhaps we desire more education or training to reach our vision. We obviously need enough income to make ends meet, but maybe it would be helpful to find other streams of income. I have several friends who have increased their income and passion for health by using and selling Zija.

When businesses or we as individuals are failing or at least struggling to grow, there are two choices: cut expenses and/or raise revenue streams.

When I was the CEO of a small nonprofit counseling center, every year I would build a budget based on our expenses and income from the year before. That seemed like a credible approach, and it seemed to work. We barely made budget year after year.

Then, one year, our new board member, who had been a former client and was passionate about our ministry, said to me, “Why don’t you dream a little?”

She suggested that we decide first on our vision and priorities. In other words rather than looking at our current income and making a budget to break even, why not make a wish list that would allow us to do more.

We still had to be realistic, but from that day forward we began to grow and stretch.

Visions are about hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They’re about our strong desire to achieve something great or at least leave a legacy.

Here are some more questions that can move us forward toward a clearer vision:

  • How would we like to change the world?
  • If we could invent the future, what future would we invent for ourselves and our organization or business?
  • What absolutely obsesses us?
  • What’s our dream about our work or personal life?
  • What are our most distinctive skills or talents?
  • What’s our burning passion?
  • What does our ideal self, business or organization look like?
  • Where do we want to be in 10 years?

In conclusion I would use Paul J. Meyer’s famous statement: “Whatever we vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon…must inevitably come to pass!”

And then 100 yearsfrom now our descendants will read our story and be blessed, grateful and inspired. It is up to us…

Is this the end or only the beginning?


Rick Underwood is minister at Hempridge Baptist Church and a performance consultant and managing partner of the Leadership Management Institute. He can be reached at nextlevelinstitute@insightbb.com.