Are You Creating a Legacy?

Are you creating a legacy? That’s actually an invalid question, because you ARE creating DSCN1350ba legacy. There are two kinds: physical and spiritual. So, what kind and what quality of a legacy are you creating?

Webster’s dictionary says legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor, or from the past. It also refers to the memory of those who have passed from this life and to what contributions they made to society while they were alive; and that reflects on the person’s character. So, if you were to leave this life in one, five, ten, or fifteen years from now, what legacy would you like to leave? How would you like to be remembered?

A funeral setting might help you think about it. When the person (parent, relative, friend, neighbor, whomever) in the casket was lowered into the ground and you left the cemetery, what left with you? Money? Land? Clothing? No. So if none of that left the cemetery with you, what did?  MEMORIES! The person’s character – exemplary or disappointing – does not get buried, but remains in the minds of all those who know him or her – or even know OF him.

I’ve read about a funeral where the talk of the town was how much the man loved people and how much he will be missed. Hundreds of people attended the funeral. But although the deceased didn’t have a penny to his name, he left a rich legacy. Another time I observed the funeral of a wealthy man where the attendance was minimal – not even all the family was there. Oh, they got their inheritance – the physical portion of the legacy – but the spiritual side was bankrupt. In that case the talk of the town was how the world will be better off without him.

Sadly, in the second funeral, even the money (physical legacy) that was left to the heirs will not, in the long run, help them live better lives. Their bitterness (spiritual legacy) will lead them to use their money unwisely, and they will be left with nothing but disappointing memories.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against money: I could use a little more of it, myself.

That reminds me of what Tevye said in Fiddler On The Roof: “If money is a disease, may God smite me with it; and may I never recover!” Yes, that was intended to be humorous. In that film, Tevye’s legacy was (in spite of his faults): stability within the community.

Another way to view a legacy is a launching pad. It takes thousands of workers to build our rockets and space shuttles. I was on several of those teams. Each person designs, programs, or builds his own portion, then hands it (the legacy) to someone who takes the product to the next level. There is always someone who will pick up where we leave off. If we do our part well, we have created a good legacy. Then when all the parts are finally assembled into a rocket and space shuttle and placed on the launching pad, what happens? If the vehicle is assembled properly the passengers will safely reach the space station, the moon, or whatever destination has been programmed.

So, what legacy are you creating for those who come after you? Remember, the physical legacy is needed and helpful if used wisely. But it needs the support of a wholesome spiritual legacy to fully help family, friends, and society. Someone is going to take what you hand them and build on it. So, what do you have to give?

A.W. Tozer once said, “When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies. The legacy of the man lives on!”

Paul said in Galatians 6:7, “You will always reap what you sow.” And it has been proven throughout history that others will be either blessed or hurt by how we live. Proverbs 11:18 tells us that if we do what is right, we will be rewarded. Proverbs 22:9 informs us that those who share what they have with others will be blessed. Those three verses talk about our legacy.

So, what is the name of the legacy are you creating? Selfishness? Hedonism? Monetary? Loving? Giving? Godly? Altruism? Think about it: will people remember you for what you gave them, or for who you are? How will you be remembered?

The answer to that question will be your legacy.

Seven Helpful Habits

From 1994 to 2005 I was an operations officer in the Nuclear Physics division at the Los Alamos7 Habits National Laboratory. One of my responsibilities was to assure that our staff’s training was up-to-date. One day I read about a seminar titled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” That intrigued me, and I attended the seminar to see if I should recommend it to our staff. I’m glad I did, and it was my privilege to meet and talk with the speaker, Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Dr. Covey condensed his seminar into a book titled by the same name: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” (He passed away in July of 2012. America misses him, but his teaching will go on. And yes: I recommended this course to our staff.)

Covey taught that developing good habits presents more long-term benefits than trying to build a good image – corporate or personal. He said:

“The difference between the two approaches is similar to the difference between cramming for an exam and taking care of a farm. ‘Cramming’ is an image-based approach that nets temporary results, whereas taking care of a farm requires continuous, daily attention that will provide long-term dividends.”

And ‘taking care of the farm’ is the phrase he used for developing good habits for living.

The first three habits deal with the Personal Level. Individuals develop Independence by adherence to these habits.

Habit One focuses on taking control of life: Be Proactive. Don’t create or accept excuses for failure or lack of progress. Blaming or accusing doesn’t help anyone. And stop being overly concerned about things over which you have no control, but respond properly to situations. Covey called this: “response-ability”.

Habit Two is the development of a Personal Mission Statement: Begin with the End in Mind. Leisure time? Travel? More efficient teamwork? More effective sermons? Quicker meals? Whatever it is, define it. Whether you are a husband, wife, business owner, student, pastor, etc., develop goals to define your direction. This can be difficult; but once accomplished it will help you develop more effective leadership qualities needed in your personal or business life. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.

Habit Three is the essence of personal time management: Put First Things First. Separate tasks or projects under “urgent” – “important” – “necessary” – “desired.” This takes insight, planning, preparation, and promotes efficiency. It also greatly reduces time spent in crisis-management. That, in itself, is rewarding.

The next three habits deal with the Interpersonal Level. This section is more complex because practice of these habits leads to valuable Interdependence, which leads to personal and corporate maturity.

Habit Four is the philosophy that creates more productive, long-lasting relationships: Think Win/Win. We do not have to step on someone in order to succeed (except for sports games: one team must win). We need to fix in our mind that in order to truly get ahead we must depend on and help others. No one ever succeeds by himself. We must ignore our competitive instinct and help others succeed. The Win/Win concept requires courage and trust, but pays big dividends.

Habit Five is the skill that allows Win-Win to work: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This concept made a long-lasting impression on me. Learning to actively understand someone else and his/her point of view is mandatory in order to effectively communicate our thoughts. If the other person realizes that I am concerned about him, he will be open to hear from me and perhaps willing to help me.

Habit Six is Synergize. Often (but not always) a corporate concept produces a better solution than our individual ideas. And this is actually the fruit of Habits four and five.

And Habit Seven is Sharpen the Saw. Our skills and methods are never perfect. Therefore, we need to continually hone or refine them.

PrinciplesThe information I gained at the seminar, and in reading the book, did not guarantee quick fixes to any personal, interpersonal or business problems. But I was supplied with tools to improve my communication skills, my outlook on life, and reduce unnecessary friction.

I also recommend two other books: “The Leader In Me” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.” To learn more about the “7 Habits” and other Covey books, contact Franklin Covey Co., Debra Lund, 801-244-4474; Debra.Lund@FranklinCovey.com.

How Should We Respond?

A friend asked recently, “How do you respond with a good attitude when things go wrong?” I’ve chosen the following examples from personal experience to help answer the question.

It was a cold, moon-lit February night in 1970, north of Seattle, Washington. GettingDSCN3918DSCN2635B off work at the Boeing Aircraft Company just after midnight, I was heading home looking forward to the chocolate cream pie my wife had made. No one else was in sight on the road. I was driving carefully because it had snowed earlier that day, and now a gentle, slushy rain was falling. The temperature was around 30 degrees.

Driving over a small hill, I saw a car stopped beside the road about a quarter mile away. I activated my 4-way emergency flashers and began slowing down. Pulling up alongside the stopped car I noticed a partially frozen stream flowing beside the road. I leaned over, rolled down the passenger window and asked the man standing there, “Can I help you?”

The man said, “No, everything is under control.” Suddenly he looked up. His eyes widened in panic and he yelled “WATCH OUT!!” as he jumped, and tumbled downPICT0027 the embankment into the freezing water. Within seconds, a Ford going about 45 miles per hour slammed into the back of my Toyota. But at that moment another man, who had also stopped to help, walked unseen in front of me. The impact hurled my car and me about seventy feet down the slick road; but my car hit the unseen helper. He was flung around like a rag doll, and wound up under the car we had stopped to help.

My immediate thoughts were: What should I do? How should I respond?

Believe it or not, my only injury was a sprained neck which still gives me mild frustration today. As other cars arrived, I asked the first driver to go call for help (no common cell phones in 1970). I directed traffic until the police arrived. The police at first didn’t believe that the driver of my crunched car could walk away – let along direct traffic. But I did. We didn’t discover the man under the other car for another ten minutes.

 [Note: The police report verified that the driver of the Ford was careless. His insurance company paid for everything; and yes, the fifty-seven year old man under the car survived. However, he had a massive heart attack, spent four months in the hospital, endured additional years of physical therapy, and was crippled for life.]

After giving my report to the police and undergoing three visits from other lawyers for depositions, my lawyer asked, “What would you like out of this?” That puzzled me. Again, how should I respond?

The lawyer could not believe it when I said, “I do not want to sue anyone; I just want my car repaired. If I honor the Lord, He will meet all my needs.” My car was repaired. Five months later Boeing had a massive layoff, so we moved to New Mexico.

DSCN8505BI thought the ordeal was over, but about a year later I was summoned back to Seattle. The crippled man was suing (rightfully so) and a more detailed deposition was required from me. This time I underwent something like an FBI interrogation, and the interrogators’ questions were leading me to spin the 1970 incident in favor of the crippled man. Desiring to support the injured man but maintain total honesty, once again how should I respond?

Asking for my original deposition to refresh my memory, I answered the questions openly and truthfully, and added other details that came to mind. I didn’t bad-mouth the driver of the Ford, but I did remind them the driver was neither alert to what was going on around him nor aware of road conditions. My desire was to be totally open with information and honest in detail. The man won his lawsuit.

In every situation in life we can spin things to our favor, but that would dishonor God and ultimately dishonor ourselves. So to answer the my friend’s initial question (How should we respond?), I determine to be honest and helpful in every situation, regardless of the outcome; and I ask God to help me to make right decisions. That enables me to maintain an accurate memory, a clear conscience, and a good attitude.