What Story Does Your Hyphen Tell?

I got to thinking about legacy the other day. What am I going to be remembered for? The end of a human’s physical existence on earth is often wrought with grief as friends and family pay their respects and come to grips with life without the departed. But, if you think two or more generations down the road, how will your great grandchildren remember you (or know anything about you for that matter)?

It’s unfortunate that one’s life is simply represented by a hyphen on the headstone marking a burial site. Most headstones will have a picture, the person’s name, their birth date, and the date of their passing. The part of the headstone that woefully under represents what the person meant to the world is the hyphen. You may be saying we all have our memories, we have pictures, or a personal journal chronicling important moments in time. Sure, these are valid vehicles to remember someone, but they’re not a proactive means to create a legacy, they’re reactive methods to capture moments in time. People are missing out on opportunities to cement their legend.

Do me a favor. Read the rest of this post and then take a few minutes to close your eyes and envision the remaining years of your life. You might see travel to foreign lands or your daughter graduating college. You probably see health and prosperity. Keeping your eyes closed, visualize the people attending your funeral. How many people are in the room? What are they saying to each other? Are they crying tears…of joy…or of sadness? How are they celebrating your existence? Are they simply saying that you were a good person? Or, are they giving specific examples of how you impacted their lives in a memorable way? Are they talking about how you gave of your time, talent, and treasure? The more vivid and specific their examples are, the better job you did in living your life full of meaning and community.

Your life is going to be an enormous collection of experiences. Your job is to make those experiences as impactful as possible for those in your circle of influence. How many hours did you donate to your favorite local charity? How many students furthered their education from the scholarship given out by the endowment fund you organized? How many of your clients were so enamored with your excellent customer service that they referred you new business multiple times? The questions are innumerable, but important.

As you close your eyes and envision your future, ask yourself questions like the above to establish a sequence of proactive activities that will create your desired legacy. Life comes at you fast, don’t let indecision get in the way of being the change you wish to see in the world. Dream big and act bigger.

My advice, begin with the end in mind. Proactively make your hyphen an unforgettable story that will pass from generation to generation. People won’t simply want to remember you, look at a picture, or read your journal entries. Your story will be so compelling that they’ll emulate you and create meaningful legacies of their own.

Although tiny on the headstone, act now to ensure that your hyphen is a memorable legacy.