Legacies are overrated. Staying relevant is the key.
I realized that a few weeks ago as I stood in line behind a young girl in her soccer uniform. She was the number 23. Now, that number is likely best known for soccer player David Beckham. I’m not much into athletics - but the only team sport I have ever paid any attention to (growing up) was basketball. The team, was the Chicago Bulls; the player you’ve probably guessed is Michael Jordan. Anyone my age at that time would fight for the number 23 - and it would not have mattered for what sport, either. Sure, there were plenty of other important athletes with notable numbers at the time; but if I had asked that girl if that number had any significance, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been because it was Michael Jordan’s number - that's immediately what it meant to me, however.
And yet, Michael Jordan is likely more relevant now to youth not because of the sport he played, but the shoes that bear his name. That’s not at all a bad thing - he’s certainly still relevant (and related) to basketball culture. It’s just that my knowledge of him is based back in a time where as cool as those shoes were - he himself was a legend that I got to watch building a legacy, right before my eyes.
These days, I really don’t believe much in legacies. They either get you revered by a few holding onto some sort of legacy of their own - or they get you disliked because you’re some monument that stands in their way. What legacies (themselves) have never accomplished is meaningful progress. The progress must always precede the legacy.
Disclaimer: Heritage and history are not the legacies I mean to address. If your family built a wing on a hospital or a university - that is far from the "monument" I mean - those are true contributions to society. There are far too many people in the corporate, non profit, and even technology spaces, however that use legacies to push an agenda, or get special treatment. Legacies for polite reverence - yes, always. Legacies, however, for inflated egos and self serving motives - never.
Governments that look back to their days of power are usually in pretty bad states - look at the turmoil in Eastern Europe right now. Many are alluding Putin’s actions to that of a Stalin or even Hitler. Legacies can never stand for (current) efficiency, because efficiency tends to come from new development and forward-thinking. No, legacies typically serve egos.
In our own community, we have to work diligently against legacies that have existed far too long, with little progress, efficiency, or notable contribution in most recent years. I do so every day because I think my team has a better plan for programs to benefit youth. There are many that spend an equal (or greater) amount of energy simply to make sure they stay in the light. We don’t have time for this - our communities need us!
We all have to gear up for a new wave of young people, wearing our numbers, that frankly don’t give a damn about what we’ve previously accomplished - they’re here to accomplish something in the now.
Stay relevant. Don’t live off of legacies.