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Why Legacy Looks Forward, Not Back

My friend David Jack is one of the most inspiring people I know. He is a fitness professional whose work is deeply tied to his commitment to seeing people thrive spiritually and physically. He is huge—6–4 and lots of muscle—yet completely approachable. Kids love him. Adults love him. Katie Couric LOVES him.

Most of all, Dave is curious—about the people he meets, about Faith, about the world around him.

So last night it wasn’t surprising to see Dave on Facebook, asking a simple question:

What does ‘Legacy’ mean to you, and how will you leave one?

My response:

For me, Dave, legacy used to feel like looking backward and judging what I had done or not done. Now I see legacy ahead of me. It’s living into the truth that “revelation” is unsealed, that the final word in my story, in your story, in our collective stories remains alive and unknown, and that it’s a good story we write together, if only we have the courage to trust in our hopes and faith and see each other clearly. Legacy is not a ship’s wake but sound waves compressing and releasing forward as a plane hits the speed of sound. Does that make sense? Thanks for the call to think about this.

A ship’s wake. When I think about legacy like that, and I often do, it leads me to “enough” questions: “What have I been doing with my life?” “Who have I touched?” “Have I done enough?” And “I’ve been here a long time. Why haven’t I done more?”

The short answers to these kinds of questions are “Who knows and why does it matter?” While I don’t want to ignore the lessons in my past, I don’t want to be constrained by an orientation that faces backward, either. I can lose the next moment when I get stuck working and re-working the last one, or one from many years ago. Even knowing this, I do it fairly often—and get in trouble with my wife for not responding to a simple request.

It’s Time to Play

Join me in some seriously joyful creating

This “legacy” question is pertinent to me today. As I entered my 50s, I felt this tug to face backward, to start thinking of my life as if I had already done much of what I was going to do, that I was in some ways “finished.” Maybe you have felt such a thing too—and I don’t think there’s anything magical about your 50s in feeling like this. Professional athletes often say something similar when they retire in their 30s. Some people feel this in their 60s and 70s. I’m not alone. And here’s the thing.

I’m not finished.

I am not done.

I am curious. I am capable. I am connected to and carried along by a great stream of love and life. You’re not done, either.

To resist this “nostalgia of settledness,” I intend to marshall all my gifts on sensing What Comes Next. And next. And next again.

This orientation isn’t easy. Beyond the pull of the past, there is instability and risk in facing the unknown ahead. And there are times when I want to, and do, just turn on the TV and watch basketball.

But I am up for life, and the ripples of love and connection that I send forth—and those that buffet me. These are powerful and affirming. This energy, and its impact on others, this is legacy. And while I believe that legacy is about others, the act of living fully that it requires benefits me too.

Which brings me back to Dave’s question, and you:

What does ‘Legacy’ mean to you, and how will you leave one?

Feel free to respond.