What Legacy Will You Leave?

I was watching TV the other day and came across a movie from my youth, Roadhouse. It’s a Patrick Swayze film about a bouncer who cleans up a bar. Basically it’s testosterone gone wild with pretty girls- just the kind of film that appeals to a 16 year old boy, which is what I was when it came out in 1989. Re-watching it now is pretty funny; it’s not really a good movie at all, but nostalgia wants what nostalgia wants.

About half way through I started to get a little bored to be honest and so I went on IMBD (internet movie database for the uninitiated) and looked up the film. I tend to do this a lot with older movies to see the trivia or check up ad see what the minor characters went on to do with their careers. What I found was a bit shocking.

Half the cast had died. And two of them, Swayze and Jeff Healy died fairly young. Swazye in his 50’s, Healy at only 41. Philosophers often talk of memento mori- reminders of death and mortality. They say it is useful to remember we all end up the same and that our time is short. This IMDB page certainly had that affect on me. In my mind the actors were all still in their 20’s and 30’s, not passed on.

This got me thinking about the idea of legacy. What will be left when I’m gone. My children certainly, but when thinking about my career and what I spend most of my days doing, is their any lasting value there. I think this is probably something healthy that we should all do from time to time. Just sit back and evaluate where we have been, where do we see ourselves going, and what, if any, lasting value it has.

Fortunately most careers have an element of service in them and if we are looking at our jobs as more than simply gateways to buying a nicer house or car we can see that. Here are 3 things I did that got me thinking about my own legacy.

–I made a quick list of people that I have helped along the way
–Counted how many times I’ve let someone have the lion’s share of credit for a group project
–How many problems have I solved for people?

I’ll admit some answers were better than others, but I suppose that’s the purpose of doing this sort of exercise. It puts into stark relief the things I should be doing more of. So I guess I have Roadhouse to thank for the philosophical wake up call. Who knew?