What Will Be Your Legacy?

The COVID pandemic has forced me to re think my priorities.  It probably has been a process you have engaged in too, especially re assessing your own work/life balance.  Part of that process is asking the one question we tend to avoid, what will people think of me when I am gone?

Few of us are given the answer in advance.   A 1888 newspaper report read “A man who can not very easily pass for a benefactor of humanity died yesterday in Cannes.  It is Mr. Nobel, inventor of dynamite.“   The next day the same paper printed a correction: it was Alfred Nobel’s brother Ludwig who had died.  It was probably that mistake that encouraged Alfred to found the Nobel Prizes – for Peace, Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature – still awarded today.

Social media platforms such as  Linkedin project our self generated digital business identity as we seek connections and new opportunities for commercial success.  It records the highs, less often the lows of our careers.

In that career, what we wanted most was time – to think, to plan, to do – time which is often – some would say, always – in short supply.  The pace of life has changed.  The demands on our time increased.  24/7 used to be a unique selling point – open all hours: now it is the norm.  Today new technologies which have collapsed time and distance impose a business rhythm which is both seductive and addictive.  In the race to keep up we will always be behind.

 But there is another demand on our time which is equally important, and  frequently left behind in the pursuit of business success – our down time, time for family, friends, colleagues and leisure.  Everyone on this planet deserves to be acknowledged and respected, deserves a moment at least of someone else’s time.  Unfortunately that moment does not always come to pass.  Looking at myself and the people around me, I often wonder, why not?  Can I make the time to listen, to engage, to share?   The answer is yes, because despite all the demands on my time there is still time. 

 I believe that anyone who has had the benefit of a formal education, a secure job and home environment should consider giving an hour or so in their life to someone else.  In particular to passing on their knowledge and experience.   The demand is there in developing countries where access to, and opportunities for learning are limited – in particular access to the extra curricular input of mentoring, foreign expertise and international conferences.  

Returning to my original, often unasked question.  Will my legacy only be material or purely financial?  Sometimes looking at people, I think what a waste.  When they die their skills, knowledge and accumulated experience will die with them. They could have I planted a seed by giving someone the benefit of my knowledge and experience, someone who has not had my advantages in life.  The opportunity to contribute to their realising the potential their intelligence and willingness to apply themselves deserves. 

I look at other people who, just as I have, have had their lives transformed by seeking out, adapting and adopting the lessons of their trials and tribulations.  In my life I have had the opportunity to meet in person many people of different professions, positions and ambitions.  I thank them for helping me forge important links in the chain of my life.

Thanks to technology these one-to-one contacts between people physically distant have been made easier.  The potential of the internet to bring people together virtually will never replace important life altering, face-to-face interactions.  Artificial intelligence may be able to replicate, even outperform humans in some tasks but not in the human touch with all its foibles, faults and failures.   But the new technology does offer an opportunity to connect – to share knowledge, engage in a dialogue, pass on the sometimes hard-earned lessons of experience.

That could be your legacy.  Addressing the demand in developing countries for access to educatiion, to your knowledge and experience.  The WICMI community is committed to this simple win-win proposition: whoever gives, also receives.