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Make A Legacy. . .Whether You Want To Or Not

February 21, 2020

Conan O’Brien, the talk show host, will someday be forgotten. That was the point of an article I recently read. And since he’s going to be forgotten anyway, he shouldn’t worry about leaving a legacy. In fact, Conan himself has suggested he won’t have a “grand finale” show when his time is done. Again, no lasting legacy, so no point.

With all due respect to the funnyman, he’s wrong.

It’s true that very few of us will have an impact that will be remembered beyond our own lives. There were hundreds of musicians in the 18th century. A quick view of wikipedia shows dozens from multiple countries. And yet, how many do you know?

Mozart? Sure. Beethovan? Of course. Vivaldi? Yes. Salieri? Ah. . .he was in that movie, right? Anyone else? Umm. . .

We could do the same thing with painters, or sculptors, or storytellers. Do you think Homer was the only writer in ancient Greece? Or that Shakespeare and Ben Johnson were the only playwrights in 16th century England?

Each of these men (and, of course, there were famous women through history) left a legacy. They created art that will last through the ages. And the same continues today. American presidents will be remembered as long as there is an America.

The Beatles will be remembered as long as there is music.

So, we should each attempt to rise to the level of Beatles, or Mozart or Van Gogh or Shakespeare? No.

(Yes, I know Van Gogh was never famous during his lifetime. That’s the point.)

Van Gogh wasn’t worried about a legacy. Neither were the Beatles. In fact, one of the issues that John Lennon had with Paul McCartney, was Lennon’s feeling that the Beatle’s music was not transcendental of other genres.

But, each of these artists was trying to create their very best work. They were not focused on legacy, they were focused on their art.

What does that have to do with you? After all, you may not be a painter, or a writer, or a musician. You might not think you have any artistic ability. And you don’t need to.

But, you are a father, or a brother, or a project manager, or a bus driver or a fisherman, or a talk show host. You can attempt to do your best in whatever role you choose.

Many years ago, I worked for WordPerfect corporation, I needed some dentist work done. I needed a lot of dental work done. I decided to wear a suit to the dentist. There was no specific reason. I just wanted to make my dentist appointments unique.

It was unusual to wear a suit to work at WordPerfect. Typicaly you only did it when you had a job interview. No matter how much I insisted to people that I only had a dentist appointment, they were convinced that I was interviewing for another job.

Years later, I was working for a non-profit in Utah. One of our coworkers showed up in a suit one day. Again, it was not a place that many wore suits. Another coworker said, “So, got a dentist appointment?”

They had no idea where the phrase came from. And they had no idea that I was the origin of that story. In fact, they didn’t even know there was a story at all. Just the reference to a dentist appointment.

I was not attempting to leave a legacy when I was dressing up for those dentist appointments.

I will admit that this was a somewhat silly and very inconsequential legacy. And it is by no means the only legacy I hope I leave.

Do you know if you had relatives living in the 18th century? Or the 15th?

It’s a silly question. Of course you had relatives who lived througout every century. Will you be forgotten years from now? Most likely. Will your works live on? Absolutely. The Internet is forever. A story you write will remain. A stupid youtube video you create will remain.

And if you are fortunate enough to have children, they, and their children and their children will always have you to look back on. Not on the life you try to make for eternity, but on the life you make today.

So, I don’t think we should be obsessed wiht our legacy. But, we should certainly understand that we are making one. We make it everyday by the choices we make, the things we do and the places we go. . .even if it’s just to the dentist.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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