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Why Leaving a Legacy Is a Myth

Trevor O'Hara
2 min read
Why Leaving a Legacy Is a Myth
Photo by Jeremy Bishop

I've struggled with the notion of leaving a legacy when I die.

Many of us have this grand vision of what will be written on our tombstone and what people will say about us after we're gone.

Every time we get stuck in our lives, there's always somebody close by to ask us the following questions to get us back on track:

  • What's your North Star?
  • What is your purpose/mission in life?
  • What's the one thing that you want people to say about you?

These questions made sense in a more predictable, linear world when life expectations were much shorter. But today, it's misleading and here's why:

You can leave many legacies!

Arnold Scharzenegger started out as a competitive bodybuilder before becoming an actor and then governor of California.

Pope Francis started out as a bouncer in a night club in Buenos Aires.

Whoopi Goldberg started out doing dead people's hair and makeup in funeral homes.

It's a big mistake to think that we should be pursuing a life-defining career after which we will live happily ever after. It's setting us us for failed expectations further down the line.

Let's stop asking our kids WHAT they want to be when they grow up!

Abandon any notion that there's one career, one life, one single life purpose, one north star. Life's no longer linear or predictable.

Instead, tell yourself that at some point you WILL reinvent yourself - not once, not twice, but several times. Here are some actionable tips to help you stop living this myth:

Tip #1: Pursue a portfolio career: Today, many people are developing multiple income streams alongside their main career. A portfolio career means you never have to reinvent yourself.

Tip #2: Think of your life as a series of projects, not plans: I ditched the term "career plan" a long time ago, because life always turns out differently. Thinking of my life as a set of projects gives me a greater sense of achievement.

Tip #3: Live in the moment: We're all living longer, so worrying about what may happen 60 years from now is futile. So many things will change before then. Besides, you'll be dead, so you won't know what people will or will not think. I'd rather the pleasure of making an impact on people around me when I'm living.

Of course, you have the option of writing on your tombstone, "I was a CEO!"

But I want to look back at my life as a colourful eiderdown quilt, full of experiences, stories, memories, all stitched together, and say, "I LIVED!"