At the end of every BetterLife podcast Brandon Turner asks the same question to all his guests:
“What do you want your legacy to be”
If you don’t know this, I am the producer of this very famous show and I get the privilege to sit in and hear this question asked each week to a wide variety of interesting and successful individuals. Obviously this makes me think deeply about what my answer would be. I assume everyone would think about what their answer would be.
Listening to people answer this question has provided me with some interesting observations. I’ve realized that most of us compulsively answer any and all questions when we are asked even if we really haven’t thought an answer through. I’m regularly a guest on many podcasts and I can confidently say I’m guilty of this as well, humans are not well known for their ability to say “I don’t know”, and dead air doesn’t make for good podcasts either.. We love to provide something as an answer, but something isn’t a great response when it’s as important a question as “what do you want your legacy to be”.
I don’t know you, so maybe you do have a perfectly concise and well thought out answer to this question, but assuming you’re like most of our show guests and like me you would give one of the two most common response I hear: Either listing their children as a legacy or a desire to help people that makes them sound like a good person. This is what everyone says and it makes sense because most people are good people, and they especially want to sound and look like good people
This question plagued me though, because I don’t have children, and I don’t believe in the afterlife, so my instinct until now has been to simply say “I don’t care about legacy”. Which I find to be reasonable enough of an answer when I die almost no one will know or care so why should I spend a lot of time on it. I don’t really care
“Almost no one will know or care when I die” is not the same as “no one will care”
Some people will care when I leave, and what will they think about me? What will my legacy be to them? Well what do people think about me now? How do I treat people now? Not only am I’m less concerned about what I want people to think about me the answer will be the same as what people actually think of me now based on how I treat them today. So how do I treat people?
I can’t know what is said about me in rooms when I’m not there, but my guess is that zero human beings on earth would describe me as “nice”. I’m pretty rough around the edges most of the time, I’m an avid shit talker, I’m not a laid back or casual conversationalist, I love to argue for fun, I don’t accept people’s excuses or lies, I call them out on bullshit early and often.
On the other hand one of my key principles of life is: never do malice and I live by this rule. I have nothing but deep love for people and many people who know me feel this and love me in return.
I wrestled with all of this for a long time, how can I love being a hostile entity with and still want what’s best for them? (BTW this is why I love writing, you can tackle these ideas in your head and not come up with an answer and just move on, but writing forces you to be concise with explanations).
After 9 months, a lot of reflection, and 4 drafts, this is what I want my legacy to be
I want people to be as tough as they can possibly be and I want them to be a tougher after having met me
Tough means having the ability to endure harsh situations, and life is chock full of harsh conditions. Toughness doesn’t come from affirmations, motivation, or good intentions, it comes from trial.
Emotionally, physically, and intellectually – is what I consider to be the most valuable trait a person can possess and it comes in many forms. None of these are easy and all of them are important. Toughness doesn’t come from affirmations, motivation, or good intentions, it comes from trial.
Physically, we get calluses when we are demanding of our skin and it needs to toughen up, we get scars where we are wounded, our immune system gets tough not when we drink vitamin C but when we create antibodies from getting an actual sickness.
Emotionally we get tough after heartache, loss, or disappointment
And Intellectually we get tough when we learn new things that challenge our world view
Tough is the most valuable trait of all because it makes us resilient to new challenges and it’s an expression of our life experience. Consider how in awe we are to see someone with a deep scar.
How does this relate back to me and my legacy?
I’m known to say things like “I am a little rough around the edges….I’m also rough in the middle”. I’m pretty aggressive with my language, I’m direct, I swear a lot, and I tell people exactly what I think…things they don’t always want to hear”. I actively seek out and engage with conflict conversations, in fact it’s the only conversations I like to have. I do all of this out of love, because I want people to engage with the things they are afraid to say or talk about, I want them to get a little social scarring so they can develop calluses. I want them to be tough and if it means some people won’t like me because of it, I’m more than happy to sacrifice our potential of friendship for this greater good.
In the first few days of boot camp the drill sergeant said “The Army is easy, all you have to do is show up on time, at the right place, in the right uniform, and have a good attitude, if you do this you will succeed…..however, while you are doing this, we are going to apply a constant pressure to you. It’s not a lot of pressure, but it will never stop”. This message has carried with me my entire life, if a person can deal with a constant barrage of pressure, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, they will get tough without a doubt.
If I can give this gift to other people, this is a legacy I would be proud to own