Legacy is one of my personal pivotal needs (PPNs). This is something I picked up in the Master Key Experience. There are seven, and two stand out for each of us. The others naturally follow, most of the time, but when our actions align with our two primary PPNs, we feel happiest and most fulfilled.
The other six are spiritual growth, autonomy, liberty, helping others, true health and recognition for creative expression.
For what it’s worth, helping others is my second.
Since the birth of our (first) child, I’ve been thinking more and more about the legacy I want to leave. She — Marlena — is certainly part of that legacy; hopefully I can instill in her some sense of wanting to change the world for the better, and give her the tools to start on that journey. But also I want to leave the world a little better than I found it.
A legacy is anything handed down from the past. It could be money or property, or historical lessons, for instance. We get the word in this form in the mid-15th century; before that it referred to a group of people sent on a mission. Maybe those aren’t that different.
When Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26., I immediately started thinking about legacy, particularly in our current climate of what some call “cancel culture.”
Bryant, of course, is best known as a star for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. He played 20 seasons, with two of his final three severely shortened thanks to knee injuries. Over that time, he averaged 25 points per game and helped the Lakers win five championships.
He famously feuded with Shaquille O’Neal, whom the Lakers eventually traded, and, at one point, found himself embroiled in a sexual assault allegation in Colorado. That charge was dropped and a civil settlement reached with the accuser. That accusation led him to lose several endorsement deals.
Today, the Shaq feud would have branded Bryant a locker room problem and the sexual assault allegation would have forced the league and the team to consider suspending or releasing him, despite the charges being dropped. Instead, he went on to continue being a star, a father to four daughters (the youngest of whom is under a year old as of this writing and the eldest of whom was headed toward a pro basketball career before she perished in the helicopter crash with her dad), an author and a businessman. Oh yeah, and an Oscar winner, too.
He could have been the guy who threw a potentially great career away, but he left a different legacy. His life is a good reminder that we are not defined by only our past actions. We can change course. It reminds me the film A Knight’s Tale, in which a boy who grew up in poverty goes on to “change his stars,” becoming a knight first in action, then in name.
Let’s talk legacy, then.
What would you like yours to be? What do you need to make that happen? What do you need to get rid of?
You may well be aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the bottom of the pyramid you’ll find the things people need — food, air, clean water — and at the top, you’ll find self-actualization: stuff like spiritual fulfillment and legacy and all the things that make us feel good about being us.
You probably aren’t going to try to defeat malaria, or get malaria a bunch of times trying to bring clean water to the Ubuntu pygmy people of the Congo.
But you are going to die someday. So far, being human has a 100 percent mortality rate. How will you be remembered? That’s what legacy is. If “husband” and “father” aren’t on the list of how I’m remembered, I’ll have missed some opportunities. But if I’m honest, there are a few other things I want on that list. I’m not guaranteed tomorrow, though, so it’s time to get crackin’. You, too, then. Onward.