Legacy, Batons And You!
And from that starting point, my thought stream recalled Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”, a 47 minute life-changing presentation that I vividly recall as one of the best lessons learned in life, and remember most, for the last ‘head-fake’ (a smart little redirect of one’s logical thinking to subtly deliver a far greater impact).
Randy said, near the end of his moving talk, that in case his audience was thinking this lecture was meant for them, they were mistaken – it was for his kids!
The children, who at the time were probably too young to fully understand how great a person their father was, now have a magnificent presentation to look at, listen to and read over and over again – and get a clearer glimpse of the kind of person their father really was.
What a fantastic legacy!
In the process, Randy’s “Last Lecture” touched a million other lives, including mine. That’s a ‘fringe benefit’ – yet a nice one.
Realizing that made me wander along with my thoughts into the meaning of our own lives, and how to fit it into the knowledge that – sooner or later – it must end.
After a few meandering conversations that happened within the confines of my skull, some clarity emerged – when I likened Life to a baton… and ourselves to the carriers.
We hold the baton, for a while, before handing it along to someone else. During the time we hold it, we have a priceless opportunity to do with it what we will.
We could light up one end, turn it into a beacon of hope and cheer, use it to brighten the way for others like us, light a thousand new candles… or just hold it aloft to admire before it dims and fades.
We could turn it into a spiked club, and then beat or tear down other people, scare them away, wield it as a symbol of force and power… until the time comes when that too wanes and disappears forever.
We could merely cling on to it for as long as we must, doing little with it – but in spite of that, making a difference… for no other reason than the fact that we are baton holders.
This last is revelational when you first ‘get’ it… like I did many years ago, as a resident in surgery, wondering whether it was “worth” the effort to go all out to try and save some hopeless cases that we had to handle.
The short answer is “Yes”. The short reason is “Because”. The deep reasoning lies in the baton.
Everyone who carries the baton has an impact on everyone else. In a good way. In a bad way. Or just by being there!
We all know (and can point easily) to examples of the good and the bad. History (and our own lives) are full of these kind of people. We know and categorize them easily. We admire or abhor them depending upon our unique preferences.
But not everyone realizes the value of somebody just ‘existing’. Because, in reality, no one “merely exists”.
You may imagine that about someone who is in a vegetative state lying in coma on a hospital bed, or born in a severely brain-damaged condition, or suffering extreme autism. But you’d be wrong!
My good friend, Mary Kathryn, cares for her close family members who are autistic – and has told me on many occasions just how much her own life has been impacted, and made so much more meaningful, because of that.
The popular Hollywood movie, “Rainman” showcased how Dustin Hoffmann, as an autistic man, deeply changes the way his ‘normal’ brother (played by Tom Cruise) feels about the things in his own life.
And a blockbuster from the 1980s was a Tamil film “Anjali” that sympathetically narrated the story of a child with cerebral palsy, showing how an entire community ends up touched by her innocence.
Everyone has impact – on someone. It’s only the magnitude that differs. And even that is a choice.
People with horrific deformities, debilitating disease, and incredible disadvantages have been able to overcome them to inspire and energize millions. And there are also people who were blessed with golden opportunities, enormous advantages and gifted talents, but who then frittered them away to waste.
Even more interesting is how it is possible to carry the baton to different levels of impact in the various facets of one’s life.
As a heart surgeon, I can treat patients and heal hearts. I can also teach and train others to do it along with me – and after me. I can disseminate any experience far and wide by writing a book, or sharing it at a seminar, or telling a few friends.
Then, a day will come when I can no longer operate – and the baton will pass into someone else’s hand.
As a parent, I can discipline my child, teach her, lead by example. I can also share my experiences with other parents, so we all help each other become better at what we do. I can reach many more parents than is possible in person by publishing them on the Internet.
Then, one day our little children will grow up into tomorrow’s adults – and the baton of parenting will pass into their hands.
This cycle plays out in every little facet, in everyone’s life.
Yes, even yours!
Maybe reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography got me started along this line of thinking. I find it intriguing and exciting that the life a man led in the mid-1700’s and documented in a concise, yet incredibly inspirational collection of papers, has the power to reach out across time and touch millions of lives over hundreds of years.
And that a lecture by a man dying of cancer, intended to tell his children all about his own motives, values and principles, has impacted millions of people all over the world who read, listened to or watched Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”.
Those words, their publication, the archival of rich experience and meaningful existences, has set the stage for greater things they could have scarcely imagined.
These people wielded their baton – and when the time came, handed it along for others to bear in their stead.
That will happen to you and me, too.
What matters is how we handle it – while the baton is in our hands.
Will we leave behind a legacy?
What will it be? How will we do it? Where?
One idea might lie in LEGACY BLOGGING.
“Legacy Blogging preserves the treasures of our lives for ourselves, our families and the world at large. Maybe we are too close to our everyday lives to see those treasures all around us. But we know in our hearts and our guts that the most important things we pass on is our values, our life lessons and our stories, values not valuables.”
So… will you join me and become a LEGACY BLOGGER, too?
Watch this space for more 🙂