The Fallacy of Legacy

Flower growing through concrete

Five years ago, I was fresh out of a relationship that was long overdue to end.

And I was equipped with clarity that my time in corporate was coming to an end.

It was during a time of upheaval and major change, that I had this exchange.

Me: “I’m going to change one million lives”

Friend: “Why?”

Me: “Because it’s what I want to do and will do.”

Friend: “But why one million?”

Me: “(Getting Frustrated) Because, it’s what I want to do.”

Friend: “You are setting yourself up for disappointment”

Me: “Clearly, you just don’t get it”

In the moment of this conversation I thought it was my friend that was naive and clueless. Little did I realize that clarity of one thing does not mean clarity of another.

I was clear that it was time for change in my life. It was emerging for me how I had been living within a box that I created for myself. It felt safe, and yet, when I’m honest, I was miserable.

I was clear on how I used my Director’s role and engagement as a means to fill perceived holes in my value as a human being.

I was beginning to see how insecure I was as a man, and how fragile of an identity I clung to each day.

I was not clear on how in a split second I could shift from a genuine desire to support, to making it all about me.

I was not clear on how nuanced our experience of ourselves and life can be.

At any given moment we may ‘know’ one thing to be true, and yet, the true motives behind it may be murky, at best.

During this point of my life I had stepped into a new level of being responsible for my thoughts, words, and deeds. This was a moment in time where I decided I would be more responsible for who I was being, as I navigated the world.

Up until this point I had spent the previous 12 years on the journey of the intellect. Learning anything and everything in sight. It was my belief that collecting information was the only way to a well lived life. And yet, my mental and emotional world was a mess.

I was leading a large national team spread across the US, and we were doing well as a program. Yet, I hadn’t learned how to have a conversation with my significant other, where we met each other as humans.

Instead the norm was me oscillating from victim to persecutor. These were my attempts to soothe the pain I felt inside of me.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had a conversation about the topic of legacy with a man that I hold a lot of respect for, Luke Iorio. Part of his work has included being the former President and CEO of iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching).

iPEC is where I received my own professional training as I transitioned out of corporate in 2018. iPEC’s teachings have reached thousands in 40+ countries.

Luke now serves on the Board of Directors and runs his own private practice.

What I learned quickly in my previous interactions with Luke is that he exudes a genuine care for each human being he interacts with. It’s this way of being with people that drew me to having this conversation about legacy with him.

During our conversation I asked Luke what the concept of legacy meant to him. In general fashion, he paused while considering the question, and response. His paraphrased words that followed served as the inspiration for this article.

“I’ve seen legacy take many forms over the years. Often, the conversation is about an illusion that we can have some form of permanence. The theme being that we can have lasting significance that lives beyond death. And thus, we have survived beyond death.”

The moment I heard his words, I saw flashes of moments where I was navigating my mind and days from this intention. My intention being to make a known mark on the world. They were moments of self importance masked as altruistic pursuits.

We pressed further into the conversation. Luke shared a distinction that has provoked further contemplation for me. Manufactured vs organic legacy.

Are we creating our lives and our legacy from a place that is organic and an expression of who we are? Or, are we manufacturing an end point that helps us create an illusion of being someone of importance?

Organic comes from the innate essence of goodness that each of us are. Organic arises in the moment, and can not be planned and calculated.

Manufacturing our legacy is attempting to create an impression on the world, that is only about ourselves. It’s not about being a part of a greater change.

If any of us review history we will find people that have had a reputation of being cruel and dishonest, followed by years of seeming altruism. Many have used wealth and influence to manufacture a new identity. They paste their names on public buildings, in an attempt to change the perception of who they were with others.

It’s important to note, no one is born wanting to rule the world and hurt others. Through varying degrees of conditioning, those motives come to be. In essence, we are each born with innate basic goodness. That’s who we are, before the conditioning.

For the person having their name pasted everywhere, did that person turn over a new leaf? Was there a change of heart? Or, was this manufactured to create the illusion of change?

I have personal experience that we can change. I’ve experienced this in my own life, and seen it with my clients. There are times in my history where my behaviors were far removed from the basic goodness we are each born with.

I’ve watched myself try to make up for past transgressions by means of new behavior. This is manufacturing. This is also where and when I continue to learn and observe nuance.

I observe and look for moments of genuine actions of giving and sharing. Versus actions that appear genuine, serving as a mask of reconciliation for a fragile identity.

Being clear on the reasons we do what we do, can go a long way in our lives. And as we navigate this conversation together, I’m not pointing towards right or wrong. What I am pointing towards is greater honesty about our actions.

In my conversation five years ago, there was a genuine desire to change myself and to be in service to others. But, there was a lot of self importance placed in the mix. There was, unknown to me, a lot of need to be seen a certain way. This was because I was not pleased with who I had been in my life. I held a lot of shame and guilt for past mistakes.

Our capacity to deceive ourselves as humans is amazing, when we stop to consider how well we do it. At this moment, consider the following:

Are you aspiring to support others because of a genuine interest in being a part of a bigger change for society?

Are you aspiring to support others because you want to reconcile a past image of yourself?

Are you aspiring to support others to feed your family, and your interest doesn’t go further than that?

Are you aspiring to balance being in support of the whole of humanity while giving to yourself too?

Great. Own it.

At the time of this writing, it’s the fourth question that I am living with. My aim is to take part in a cycle of giving and receiving that goes beyond any one interaction.

That is my aim. Because I know first hand that if my own life is a struggle, my capacity to give in a meaningful way diminishes.

That is my aim while recognizing that given the right circumstances, I may find myself astray. I may find myself taking actions that are about manufacturing self importance, rather than genuine care. It’s in the awareness of this that new choices emerge. This allows me to come back to where I am at today, given the life I want to create.

What has changed for me since that conversation five years ago, is a perceived need to have my face on anything. I realize that I can feel whole, complete, and at ease in life regardless of another’s opinion of me. The more I feel whole and complete within myself, the easier it becomes to be organic and genuine, versus manufactured.

Five years ago, that didn’t even cross my mind as a possibility, because I had not experienced it. Nor could I have heard it if you told me that. I wasn’t ready.

As I navigate from here, my further aim is to lead my life with an end in mind, while creating it organically in the moment. The balance of end and now, seeming like I am riding a razor’s edge.

As we each press forward, we may find ourselves wanting to change. We may find ourselves wanting to be a part of a bigger conversation that serves the whole of humanity. Be that at a local, regional, or global level.

At any given moment we can pause and ask ourselves…

What is my intention right now?

What are my feelings telling me about my intentions?

What feedback is my environment offering me?

Then notice the answers you receive.

Make a choice from there.

— — — — — — –

A special thanks to Luke Iorio for the reminder of who I want to be and what I want to create. I want to create a legacy that is organic and a part of something bigger than myself.

I will have moments where my ‘desire to help’ will come from a place of manufacturing self importance. In those moments, when I see it, I will come back to the essence of goodness that we each are.

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