This week we’ll talk about Legacy.
What is it, when and how to leave it, should it be big or small.
Let’s start with a story from Grego:
When I was about 27 years old, I think. And I was invited on this father-son camp to Fraser Island, off the east coast of Queensland. And I was up there sitting on a campfire late one night with one of my best mate’s father, this is a guy called Peter Shakhovskoy and we’re sharing a whiskey, would have been about 10:30, 11 o’clock at night. And we were just talking about where my career was going, all this kind of stuff. And I think I must’ve shared something about all that, I’d like to do something with a bit more purpose, didn’t know where I was going, I was maybe just embarking on this coaching kind of thing.
And Peter who had a career in, I think it was Telstra, but had created men’s groups and done a whole lot of work in the community. I know he’d personally helped our family out when we were in need. I had huge respect for the guy, still do, he’s just a remarkable man.
And Peter said to me, something that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Greg, you don’t need to work for a charity to leave a legacy.” He goes, “Even a banker can do that, just by the way they go to work every day.” It just took me a long time to sit there and think about that and go, “He’s got this right.” I mean, here is a man that, he needs a full-time job to support his, I think he’s got five sons, right? Plus he does this other stuff. I just thought he’d sort of cracked the code, I think, about how to live in a modern world and be the kind of guy that he wanted to be.
And I really felt that that was such an important moment for me, that doesn’t matter what work you’re doing, it’s the way, it’s the who you’re going to be every day that turns up, and the service you’re going to give to the world, that’s what legacy’s about.
Legacy is not all about, “Okay, what’s my legacy going to be?” Like a particular project you’re going to do.
No, its the who and what we leave behind, that is our particular legacy. And it happens in our every single day. Who are we in our every day? Who are we for the people of our day? What are we doing in our every single day? And are those things leaving behind something really, really good?
So when we deliberately do it, when we do it with a sense of a kind of a purpose, when we’re building up something good through our who and our what, we’re leaving behind something really, really special.
When you’re doing that, when you are living in a way where who you are and what you’re doing is leaving behind something really, really positive, that has a flow-on effect. When I’m doing that, I rub shoulders with someone else. And then they begin to be inspired by who you are and what you were doing. And so, that ripple effect grows and then actually grows.
For the majority of people listening to a thing such as this, it’s going to be in their actual kids. So their greatest project in many, many ways is who are they for their kids? What do they do with their own kids? And that is one of the greatest seeds you will ever, ever sow.
Many of us forget that you’re leaving a legacy right now. Every action you take has a ripple effect and it might be good or bad. I think this is one of the key things. Legacy can be good, indifferent or bad. And I think that sowing’s so important because there’s a trusth in communications… “Don’t forget that if just say someone sends you an email, or someone says something in a meeting and you don’t respond, that is a response, that’s actually a form of response.”
And it’s the same here with the action you’re taking every day. Whatever you’re doing is leaving a legacy, no matter what you’re saying. It might be a magnificent legacy, it might be good. It might be bad. It could have no effect at all, but that’s a really important thing.
We’ve got a human need to leave something positive after we’ve gone. There’s a something in the human spirit as we get older, to look back at our lives and say, “Hey, who have I been and what have I done? What difference has that actually made?” And it could be something you’ve done and at work and how you’ve done it. And people might say, “Hey, that guy was a fantastic boss. He built a sense of professionalism within our working environment. People had a fantastic sense of our team.” That could be part of the actual legacy.
Or your kids grow to be extraordinary young men and women, and you’ve sown within them that great sense of pride and of who they are. So there’s a real human need to leave behind the who and the what that’s going to make our world a better kind of place.
One of Greg’s gave him a book called Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. And one of the core premises of the book is that at some point, somewhere in your life, don’t know where that’ll be, is you tend to shift from doing things just for yourself to doing things for others. And that’s the shift from sort of preparing yourself for the world and dealing with emotion and ego and starting to say, “Well, now I’ve got to give, and I’ve got to serve.” And that’s where legacy really starts to get some legs and be important because if you get to the end of your life and you look back and go, “What did I do for others, for the world?” And you can’t count anything, you’re going to feel a pretty heavy heart.
The core to a great legacy is that “One of the greatest things a person can actually do is to plant a seed that will one day grow to be a great tree that will give shade to people that they have never actually known.” So that’s a great sense. We are planting a seed and one day long after we’ve gone, that seed’s become a tree and it’s giving the shade.
And I think when you have a sense of purpose there, and as you say, as you are getting a bit older in that first half of life, you are attaining your skills. You’re getting your university career going. You’re working out who you are. You’re falling in love. You’re building your first home, all of those wonderful things. But there comes a time when your energy begins to then shift. And you’ve got to begin to think, who am I for the world and for my family and for others? What do I do? What do I do to leave this world a better place?
This particular shift just opens up so many doors to being a real universal man. I mean, we talk a lot about what it means to be a universal man, but a man without a positive legacy, doesn’t matter how big or how small, is so, so important.
One powerful learning that Grego picked up from Pricey is that as tried to take the words Peter Shakhovskoy and put into his life one of his habits is to try to go big. And then he remembered when he reunited with Pricey the one thing he noticed is Pricey was never trying to do some great, big, great thing. He was just doing the small things every day, with the right intention, to listen to someone, to remove the labels, to hear their story. And as a result, he is leaving this enormous legacy and this incredible ripple that went through the world.
If people can learn one thing from Damien Price, it’s that. It’s focus on the now and who’s in front of you and doing something for the person in front of you. That can be legacy enough.
When you think about it, the people we look back on, the people that we admire, are those people who’ve grown to be their very best selves. Then there’s something in that journey where they are for the other.
There a couple of young men who started a van called the ‘Orange Sky’, it’s teams of people who go out all out Australia and New Zealand. And they have a van with the homeless where they provide a shower. They provide a thing where they can wash their own clothing.
Now, that whole van began in the most simple way when Nick and Lucas had been at the school and they’d gone out on the van with all the homeless kind of guys. And they’d got to know the homeless guys. They became their actual friends. Then in a simple time in a pub, over a beer. And Nick and Lucas looked at one another and they just said, “Why don’t we get a van that’s going to provide showers and a laundry service?” Such a simple thing.
And they weren’t famous at that particular point. And they just started to build. They went and saw people, they got sponsorship, they got their first van. They got a group of their mates and they’ve now left behind a great kind of a legacy. Not only have they got vans everywhere, but it’s a quality of the actual community. So who they are and what they’ve done has left the world a better kind of place.
One of the great keys here is to work out how to identify your legacy. There are four pillars to help you identify where you might want to leave the world a better place than when you found it.
To help fine tune some of your thinking ask yourself this questions from Buckminster Fuller, “What is the one thing on the planet that must be done, that if you don’t do it, no one will?”
It doesn’t matter how big it is. It can be big, small in the middle. Doesn’t matter.
I remember speaking to a guy called Peter Roberts. He’s a wonderful guy down here in Melbourne, he’s a physiotherapist and massage therapist, rock-solid guy. And we were just talking one day about his legacy and what’s his purpose. After a long chat, we sort of said, “Is it people or the planet or the community you want to look after?” He said, “It’s people at the moment, I think people I’m drawn to.” I said, “Well, what annoys you about people?” And he said, “It annoys me that we rush around and we don’t stop and smell the roses. We don’t see the beauty in art. We don’t see the beauty in music and each other.” And I said, “How does that turn into a purpose for you?” And he said, “Well, I want to help people to see the beauty in the world every day.” Isn’t that a simple little legacy? He does that through his work now.
You’ve got to look up and you’ve got to look down. looking up to the bigger kind of picture, what’s the bigger, bigger need that’s something that I can actually gift to our world. And looking down to who and what’s right in front of me now?
If you’re looking to do something now beyond home and you want to give to the world, don’t sit there trying to work it out in front of a journal for four years, get out there and just do something.
Go and help at a homeless van, or go and help at some other place. It may be clean up the local creek, whatever works for you.
It is by trial and error, you get closer and closer to the thing that you really want to do.
And then remember this powerful quote, “If you can’t do great things, do small things greatly.” This is how you build a legacy. It’s not necessarily one giant, big, huge plates, lots of small activities
Sometimes, the world needs people to do something big and to have a real crack at something. And if your small things combine with someone else’s small things and someone else’s can be combined into one big plan, you can change the world. And lots of people have. This isn’t beyond belief. Look at the Orange Sky guys. They started something small, but I would hazard a guess they had a bit of a vision for something far grander, even if they never shared it. It’s important.
Probably one of the greatest photos of all time is the Tienanmen Square photo and the young man who goes out in front of a tank and is going, “Stop.” He didn’t know he was doing a fantastic thing there, but that image has inspired us minions. So it could be that you’re the one who listens to the voice within you and reaches for the actual stars. And we all value that. Or it could be you reach the person who’s in front of you.
The great challenge though, is I often say, “If not you, who? If not now, when? And if not here, where?” There’s too often, you listen to a talk such as this, but then you do absolutely nothing. Then your legacy hasn’t been achieved and there’s a something missing within you. And our world is a poorer kind of a place.
Legacies are about compound interest. You describe it beautifully with the seed, right? The seed grows into a tree. And legacy’s like that. It’s this ripple effect of, if you affect one person one way, that’ll affect two, those two affect four, those four affect eight, those eight affect 16. And that is what is powerful about legacy when you get it right. You can change the world through one action that can actually just flow to so many different people.
If you are thinking that right now, in your life, you can’t leave a legacy and that’s just crap. Go back to the the first story from Peter Shakhovskoy. Even a banker can leave a legacy. And I know many that do. So right now, you can do something, if you just focus on what is going to be your legacy, where you are now.
Margaret Mead, the great anthropologist who says, was it that a small group of committed people can change the world.
Can a small group of committed people change the world?
And she paused and said, “That’s all that ever, ever has.”