I’ve spoken openly about how I don’t care about the idea of legacy. When pressed, I’ve struggled to describe the reason why I don’t care.
My long-time friend and first business partner Dave Jilk sent me the following Percy Bysshe Shelley poem to help me understand my perspective better.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Look up at the sky and ponder how far the sands actually stretch. Infinity is far away.
Yesterday, I gave a talk and then did two breakout Q&A sessions at EO Alchemy 2015. It was a lot of fun and many of the questions were thought provoking to me, which I enjoy greatly.
One of them caused me to pause and answer extra deliberately. Near the end of the second breakout session, I was asked “What Do You Want Your Legacy To Be?”
I don’t think I’ve answered this question before publicly and I realize I never think about it, so I took a few seconds to roll the question around in my mind and make sure I agreed with what was about to come out of my mouth.
“I don’t care about what my legacy is.”
My original thought was “I don’t give a shit about legacy”, but it came out a little cleaner and crisper. I riffed for a little while on why I didn’t care and gave evidence of me not caring. Two big things are (a) Amy and I don’t have any kids and (b) we plan to give away all of our money while we are alive. But there were some others, especially around intrinsic motivation (which I’m driven by) vs. extrinsic motivation (which I’m not).
When I got home last night, Amy and I talked about our respective day over dinner. I mentioned this question to her and asked her what she thought. Her immediate response was “You and I don’t care about legacy.” She then when on to explain this in detail, which mirrored most of what I had said earlier in the day.
I was clear in my answer that this wasn’t a judgement. Some people care deeply about legacy. That’s great. But others, like me and Amy, don’t. The more interesting thing to me is how one’s view around legacy drives behavior. The question stimulated a lot of thought by me over the last 18 hours – I hope it does with you also.