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The Real Meaning Of Legacy

The Real Meaning Of Legacy

By Richard Weijo  

The use of the word legacy is prevalent in popular culture, but what does this word really mean?

I have seen it used most often in the context of grading the performance of an athlete or other well-known celebrity (i.e., “His legacy as the quarterback for the Denver Broncos will be remembered forever”).  Achieving great success and fame is the mark of this type legacy.

Legacy has another meaning as well.

It is the gifts one generation gives to future generations.  For many, the focus of legacy is often on the physical or financial assets remaining in someone’s estate – such as a home or farm, land, or investments passed on to their heirs in wills or trusts.  This narrow view diminishes the value of a legacy.  Most individuals just don’t have that much wealth to pass on to their heirs.

But legacy encompasses much more. 

It also includes the other possessions, the one’s shared from the heart: the emotions & memories captured long ago in a diary, the personal note sent by a grandmother to her grandchild, the funny or dramatic stories shared about an ancestor, and the family heirlooms like rings or clothes or art.

More important, each of us can add to family legacy by writing down our own personal history to influence future generations. Another approach, originating in biblical times, is writing a legacy letter (or ethical will).  Often handwritten and only a few pages in length,  this letter shares the values, beliefs, and lessons learned by the writer, with an expression of love and gratitude to the recipients.

We want future generations to succeed; we want them to have opportunities.

Creating a legacy is not just about benefiting the next generation, but also sustaining it for the third and fourth and fifth generations.

But there is an even bigger idea raised.  We can all appreciate the benefits a thoughtful legacy will have for our family and friends. But what if we step back and envision the potential benefits created from the legacies of all of us baby boomers? There are seventy-six million baby boomers in the United States and almost ten million in Canada.  Just think of the immense power of legacy if we all share our wisdom with the next generation and beyond.

Legacy is the only thing that remains once you are gone. Will you join me and share your legacy with future generations?

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Richard O. Weijo, PhD, received an undergraduate degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and went on to receive his MBA and PhD degrees from the University of Minnesota. He was an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Richard was also a Senior Analyst at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and his most recent corporate position was as a Manager of market research and Director of customer channels at Portland General Electric. Currently, he is a consultant and a writer. He adores his young granddaughter Elsie, whose birth inspired his book, Our Dreams For Our Children: Creating Legacies That Inspire Each New Generation To Achieve A Brighter Future.

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