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18
Jun

1
Under A Shadow

Is Leaving a Legacy a Lost Art These Days?

I was asked the other day if I thought I had left a legacy at my last job or frankly in a broader context, throughout my entire career. My quick answer was yes, no and maybe. Legacy is one of those funny words that has morphed over time. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.  Today, we tend to think of a legacy as the way in which we impacted those around us and the ways we inspired others.

I do believe that I did some things that had a positive impact on the businesses I supported from an HR perspective and with certain people that I frequently interacted with. Is that a legacy? No, not really if I was completely honest.  That doesn’t diminish what I brought to the table every day or the things that my team and I accomplished but I question if I changed lives or perhaps inspired lots of people at some point during my career.

My views on leaving a legacy changed the day my husband died.  I had always believed that he was an amazing person who was thought highly of by those who came in to contact with him, but I truly had no clue at the magnitude of the impact he had on people.  From the moment the news started to get out about his passing, I was inundated with calls, texts and emails from people around the country who were friends, colleagues or clients of Sandy’s.  The comments were similar and centered around the kind of person he was and the way that he changed people’s lives. He was admired, respected and loved by such a diverse group of people, including some of this country’s top executives, sports figures and politicians, but also the people who interacted with him on a daily basis whether at work, at our neighborhood dry cleaners, our favorite restaurant, the hair salon, gym or the local Peet’s coffee shop.

What I learned during those hectic first few weeks was that my husband touched so many people in a positive way. He didn’t save lives, defend the innocent or make a million dollars a year. What he did do was to be the voice of reason and the peacemaker who others looked up to. He was a source of inspiration to others. He made others look good every day, both literally and figuratively. And most importantly, he was a friend to countless number of people.  Now that’s how you leave a legacy.

In today’s cutthroat business environment, my husband was an outlier. He wasn’t outwardly aggressive and competitive. He had an inner drive that I, and others close to him, knew about and admired but he didn’t throw it in people’s faces.  Perhaps it’s something we can all learn from, that the loudest person in the room isn’t always the most important one. Sometimes silence truly is golden.

As I go forward in my life as an author, speaker, daughter, sister and friend, I can only hope to leave a legacy as powerful as my husbands. Steady, calm and humble trumps frantic, crazy and egotistical any day.

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Comment (1)

  • Jacqueline Wales

    Ruth, I am deeply touched by your deep heart-felt honesty. Thank you for sharing this with your world. Leaving a legacy is not for us to say. If we make an impression that sticks and makes a difference, that’s a gift to both parties. When we die, we hope people will speak well of us, and for Sandy, that is indeed the case. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but from what you have said, he is exactly the kind of person I would suspect has left a legacy of kindness, compassion and understanding because people remember him that way. Thank you.