If the 21st century is teaching us one thing, it’s that ‘it’s complicated’.
We often meet people who have ‘the answer’ to their big challenge. “If only we…” or “The answer is to…” they say and somehow it will all be fixed. We wish that were true. It may be a start, an essential and vital part of the solution, but it’s rarely if ever the whole thing. “At the heart of every complex problem is a simple solution – and it’s wrong”, said Andy Hogsbawm at Green Unplugged, in London in June 2010.
So the flip side is that it can all feel too big and hopeless. And that’s wrong too. Together we can do incredible things. We can always make a difference. And perhaps in ways bigger than we can imagine…
So what is the answer? In researching the legacies that people’s work and actions have left to the world throughout history and in the modern world, it becomes increasingly clear that as each of us creates a legacy it inspires and enables others to create theirs. And so it accumulates.
As neatly phrased by James Kerr, ‘Legacies begat legacies’.
Whenever we think beyond ourselves, and do something we care about, we make an impact. We leave a legacy. Whether it’s sharing a quiet, thoughtful word at just the right time, or bringing to life a major project, it makes a difference. And what we do, how we do it, or what we demonstrate by actually getting on and doing it, inspires others. After all, if it had no lasting effect, it wouldn’t be a legacy.
Take a moment now. Think about what has shaped you, inspired your life choices and given spark to the work you do. Whose legacy, for good or bad, did that for you?
By mindfully choosing to do something good, your good work builds your legacy and that will inspire others to do something good (See this inspiring and powerful TED talk on countries doing good). That’s the way it works. We don’t have the whole answer but we each have part of the puzzle. As Martin Bell said “Good things happen because we make them happen, bad things happen because we allow them to”.
So let’s get the conversation going. Let’s talk about the legacies we wish to leave. Let’s sing them into life. And in doing so we give space and permission for others to find and realise theirs, to make their contribution, to add their bit that does something we can’t or would never have thought of. It all adds up. You’ll feel good. Others benefit. Your organisation attracts a reputation money can’t buy. Good things begin. This is your moment. Let’s get going. As we each do our bit, it becomes easier for us each to do our bit. And the answers emerge.