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Leave a mark that cannot be erased

Updated: Feb 28

“If you're going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can't be erased” - Maya Angelou

Every time we talk about “leaving a legacy”, we always feel like it’s something that’s really grand, something that no one else has ever done before / extremely hard to achieve, and it has to change the entire world.

When my uncle suddenly passed away a few weeks ago, I was reminded of how untrue this belief is, and how we should shift our mindset about what we think of leaving a legacy. 

The definition of LegacyThere are a few meanings according to different dictionaries depending on where you look:

  • something that is a part of your history or that remains from an earlier time

  • something that is a result of events in the past

  • a situation that has developed as a result of past actions and decisions

Whilst they all can be interpreted in a slightly different way, the things in common are: 

  • Something has to have happened

  • The event has to be in the past

  • There is a result

Notice that nowhere in the description does it say “something grand”, “something hard”, “something no one has ever done before”, “something that changed the entire world”. 

Thinking back to when I found out about the death of my uncle, I realised how true this is. My uncle and I were not particularly close - in fact, I last saw him probably about 5-6 years ago, never texted or spoke on the phone. He lives in Hong Kong, I’m in the UK, so our connection was not so deep. However, memories of what a kind hearted man he was, how he always supported my family through difficult situations, and how he always insisted on treating us for lunch/dinner came flooding into my head the moment I heard the news and I felt a huge sense of loss for us all. So how come I feel so much when this man is someone I’ve only met once a year throughout my life? He hasn’t done anything big, he had a successful business/career but wasn’t anyone famous, had zero viral social content - yet I feel he was an amazing example for me to follow and I had huge respect for him.

The clue is in the title of this post - he left a mark that could not be erased…in MY life, MY world. 

So what IS a legacy?

I came to realise that a legacy is the person that we show up as, the actions that we take, and the words we say. You are remembered by how you make someone feel, not by the grandeur of your achievements, how well known you are, how much money you have made. At the end of your life, you are what people remember you for, who people remember you to be, not how much you have achieved. 

Through everything that you do, how do you make the other person feel? Whether it’s someone that you see in person, or whether it’s content you put out on social media - every interaction is an opportunity to impact someone, positively or negatively, which means you are already creating your legacy right in that moment. Don’t forget, changing the world starts with changing the world of one person, one world. 

Looking at your legacy with a new perspective

What most people do, is that they create their purpose and legacy goals based on what they feel like is their idea of changing the world - e.g. creating sustainability products to save the environment, speaking in front of millions to share their knowledge, changing the educational system to teach things that promotes children’s values…without having a clear vision of WHO they need to become in order to fulfil their purpose. 

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this approach, it can be extremely overwhelming and stressful if all you are focused on is creating the new product. The to-do list can be miles long, and it can be so scary and confusing to even know where to start. Why? Because by this definition, it will feel like you have not made any impact until the point where the physical product / event has happened. But if you think about it, this isn’t even true! 

In the process of achieving your purpose, you must spend time and energy gaining new knowledge and upgrading your belief system, which will most likely result in you changing your way of thinking, your actions, and the way you approach/treat others. 

For example, let’s say you want to become a really successful CEO. In order to do this, one of the most important aspects is you must become a successful leader. One of the key aspects of being a leader is to be amazing at relationship building - this may mean that you need to enhance your communication skills, be empathic, become present in conversations, and show appreciation for others. By adopting these traits, your relationships will naturally get stronger and better, which will support you in becoming a better leader. 

In this way, your goals will be achieved as a byproduct of you shifting the way you act. So next time you think about the legacy that you want to leave, don’t just think about the actions and physical elements of what you want to achieve, also think about the impact that you want to have on others. If you feel like it’s not currently the way that you want it to be, you can always change it!

We never know how much time we have on this earth as our current self, so the best legacy and gift we can give to this world, is to always be the person we want to be, and to show up as the best version of ourselves 💖

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others” - Pericles 

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