Legacy and liability

I was born and raised thinking about legacy. Most of us are. We don’t intend to, but we become versions of our parents. We choose equivalent jobs, we pick similar spouses, we tend to often remain in the same geographical area.

What is all this, if not entertaining the idea of a legacy? The strength of history, of roots to your tree?

I am the first reporter in my family – but as a keynote speaker, I am more than anything a teacher. Just like mom and dad, and many other people in my extended family past and present. And I like that. I like the sense of belonging to an idea, a context, a sort of saga: This is who we are, and this is what we do.

Of course, these thoughts limit us tremendously, too.

I came to think of that as I heard a quote from a young Swedish business tycoon – a guy who is going to be running a big family business, after fathers and mothers before him have done the same for more than a century. His magical words?

Legacy is a liability.

I immediately loved and hated that.

I do believe in a sense of purpose that can be drawn from a long history or a solid intellectual idea. But I also believe that the limits we set – for ourselves, for others – are stifling. For the young business leader I mentioned, legacy is likely to be holding him back. I can only imagine how sick and tired he must be of old school ideas of what the family business ”should” be – when all he wants to do is to reinvent.

And I suspect these same mechanisms may apply on an individual level as well.

Letting other people do what they want to do, and be who they want to be, is a good start for any enlightened human being. But how about yourself? Are you letting yourself do what you want to do? Be who you want to be?

Perhaps today could be a good day to reflect. What in your legacy is an asset, and what in your legacy is a liability?

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