Stuff of Legends: What is Your Legacy?

How did St. Patrick’s Day Evolve from a Celebration of Faithfulness to a Day of Partying?


All of us impact others’ lives — especially when in a leadership role.  You may not consider yourself a role model (Hello Charles Barkley), but the life of someone is being changed by your actions.  Perhaps you’re cognizant of how you touch other people’s lives now, but have you given thought to the future?


Your legacy isn’t about people just remembering who you were.  Whether it’s a company, a community or your family, you can not only make an impact now, but continue to influence how people in your family, organization, industry or community act and think in the future.


St Patrick is revered for his impact on a nation.  However, many now think only of green and drinking on “St St Patrick cemetery legacyPaddy’s Day.”  You too may become legendary and one day society may Paddy your legacy, but let’s focus on what you can control.


Here are three ways leaders can build a legacy that goes beyond fond memories and anecdotes.


  1. Know What Matters.  

You can leave a legacy behind by accident, but it’s likely to be a negative one or at least ambiguous.  You’re intentional with your life and your retirement, so let’s be intentional with the future.

The foundation of legacy building is a deep sense of knowing what is important to you and what is ‘non-negotiable.’  What’s important to you? What do you believe? What are your values? If you had to be known for ONE thing, what would it be? How can you improve the well-being of those around you? How can you leave your mark on whatever you touch?

Your answers are the building blocks of your legacy. Knowing what’s important, what drives you and how you want to be remembered creates tremendous clarity in how you should live your life.


  1. Make it Real

Creating a legacy statement acts as a compass and will help you commit to a life consistent with those values you hold most dear.

Now let’s capture that philosophy on paper.  Write a manifesto.

Revise it regularly, amending the wording to clarify and hone your absolutes. Remove everything that’s merely a ‘nice to have’ until the manifesto is a succinct representation of you.

If the thought of crafting a manifesto is too daunting, start smaller.  Write a six-word memoir.  Larry Smith, founder of SMITH magazine, posed a simple challenge: “Can you tell your life story in six words?” He was inspired by the apocryphal story that Ernest Hemingway wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” to prove that an entire story could be told using just 6 words.


Try distilling your life and mission into 6 words.  You may surprise yourself and end up with a manifesto.


  1. Tell Your Story

If you spend time with great leaders, you’ll likely notice two things.  Leaders tell stories and they continually repeat their vision.

They do so verbally, and by example. They do it in person, in meetings, in writing, on the phone and by email. They recycle them and reinforce them until everyone around them is fully aware of those truths.


So what will be your legacy?


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