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How to Create a Legacy
Recently, one of my favorite undergraduate professors passed away. I thought about all of the things that I learned from him, how I was encouraged and mentored by him, and, of course, the legacy he left behind. The epilogue written about him by the Tampa Bay Times, described him as "passionate" and "popular"; even his office became part of his legacy - "a fire hazard."
Mike was more than just my psychology professor; he was my mentor, sometimes my therapist, and, after my graduation, my friend. Consider it a small miracle for him to be able to get me to appreciate classical music by introducing me to Canon in D by Pachelbel. While I was president of the honor society, I would use the tune for all induction ceremonies and, again, more than a decade later, during my wedding ceremony. It became my favorite classical piece.
I like to think that Mike left a piece of his legacy with each one of his students, including me.
Pachelbel's Canon in D
Leave a legacy of friendship.
What is a legacy?
There was no way I could get around thinking about the legacy Mike Sadusky left behind; more importantly, I couldn't help thinking about what legacy I would leave in the future. It wasn't that I never considered what my legacy would be or what I would want it to be. I think it's safe to say that I often consider my actions with others and the work that I do in a way that takes into account whether or not I make a positive difference in the world around me.
I think most of us think about what things we want to leave behind. Interestingly enough, legacy can mean different things to different people.
- Lawyers think about legacies with regard to property or financial inheritances and last wills and testaments.
- Scientists consider their research or discoveries as their legacy.
- Parents consider their children as their legacy.
- Celebrities can think about legacies with regard to fame or face recognition.
- Philanthropists consider charitable works and gifts as important legacies.
- Colleges sometimes include "legacies" during their consideration of admitting students (when the parent of the student applicant is an alum of the institution).
- Artists think about legacies as the creative body of work that remains long after they leave this earth.
- On a greater and broader scale, we can say that the ancient Greeks and Romans left a legacy of democracy and republicanism, respectively, as a legacy for America to follow.
Who is right? They are all correct interpretations of what a legacy is. The truth is that whatever survives from the past (tangible or intangible) from anyone or anything is a legacy.
If you are wondering whether you will leave a legacy, the answer is most assuredly, yes. The question then remains: "what kind of legacy will I leave?" Here is the good news: it is your choice. You get to decide what kind of legacy you will leave behind.
noun leg·a·cy \ˈle-gə-sē\
1: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property : bequest
2: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past <the legacy of the ancient philosophers>
I long to accomplish a great and noble task but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.— Helen Keller
The Most Significant People in History*
The Most Powerful Women of the Past Century **
10 Health Advances that Changed the World ***
1. Jane Addams
2. Corazon Aquino
2. Surgical Anesthetic and Antisepsis
3. Rachel Carson
3. Clean Water and Improved Sanitation
4. William Shakespeare
4. Coco Chanel
4. Antibiotics and Antivirals
5. Abraham Lincoln
5. Julia Child
5. The Birth Control Pill
6. George Washington
6. Hillary Clinton
6. Improvements in Heart Surgery and Cardiac Care
7. Adolf Hitler
7. Marie Curie
7. Randomized Controlled Trials
8. Aretha Franklin
8. Radiologic Imaging
9. Alexander the Great
9. Indira Gandhi
9. Advancements in Childbirth
10. Thomas Jefferson
10. Estee' Lauder
10. Organ Transplantation
"4 Smart Ways To Leave A Legacy"
1. Provide a family history; 2. Give to charity; 3. Write a legacy letter; 4. Prepare an ethical will.
Consider using photography to leave a legacy.
How to Create a Legacy
Now that we know that a legacy is just about anything that survives the past, we can start to think about how to create a legacy. If legacies are infinite in number, then there are an infinite number of ways to create a legacy.
The consciousness of creating a legacy is something that is uniquely human. It can be said that leaving a legacy is the ultimate in human autonomy. Who one is, what one believes, the information one shares, the gifts one gives, the talents one cultivates, and the way one person treats others is uniquely attributed to each human individual.
We need to understand that every day and every action of our life is a component of the legacy we leave behind. With that at the forefront of our consciousness, we can easily create the legacy we want. Consider how you want to be remembered by those who know you and those who never had the chance to meet you.
- How do you speak to others?
- How do you make others feel?
- What can you offer to other people?
- What information can you share?
- What value do you give to the contributions of others?
- What do you want to study or learn?
- What do you want to teach your children?
George Mason University offers advice on creating one's own legacy:
- Think about your legacy
- Record it
- Share it with others
- Review it on a regular basis
- Revise it as necessary
Vision boards, thesis statements, hypotheses, journal entries, photographs, sketches and drawings, goal setting, et cetera, are various ways of thinking about your legacy, recording it, and sharing it with others.
Although life is full of twists and turns that take us on many unforeseeable journeys, much of it can be controlled by our perspective. For everything there is a reason, a season, a purpose. Those who have suffered the most are often the greatest testimonies for the indomitable spirit of man, if for no other reason, to demonstrate the legacies of hope, courage, and love.
This hub is dedicated to the memory of Michael J. Sadusky. "Professor Mike, thanks for teaching me by word and by deed that excellence is a habit."
Special thanks to Leslie F. for inspiring this hub.
Share your view
How important is it for you to leave a valuable legacy?
Astor, Bart. "4 Smart Ways to Leave a Legacy." Forbes. Aug. 1, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/08/01/4-smart-ways-to-leave-a-legacy/. Access date: February 20, 2015.
Childs, Dan and Susan Kansagra, M.D. "10 Health Advances that Changed the World." ABC News. Sept. 20, 2007. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/TenWays/story?id=3605442&page=1. Access date: February 20, 2015.
Dragani, Rachelle. "The 25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century." Time. Nov. 18, 2010. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2029774_2029776,00.html. Access date: February 20, 2015.
George Mason University. "Legacy of Life, Creating Healthy Futures: Creating Your Legacy." http://www.caph.gmu.edu/Legacy/1legacy.html. Access date: February 20, 2015.
Meachem, Andrew. "Epilogue: Michael Sadusky was passionate, popular Pasco-Hernando Community College professor." Dec. 11, 2014. Tampa Bay Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/obituaries/popular-pasco-hernando-state-college-professor-michael-sadusky-dies-at-69/2209948. Access date: February 19, 2015.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. "Full Definition of Legacy." http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legacy. Access date: February 20, 2015.
Skiena, Steven and Charles B. Ward. "Who's Biggest? The 100 Most Significant Figures in History. Time. Dec. 10, 2013. http://ideas.time.com/2013/12/10/whos-biggest-the-100-most-significant-figures-in-history/. Access date: February 20, 2015.
By Liza Lugo, J.D.
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