We just completed a 2,500 mile round trip to Houston to help our daughter Rachel relocate and begin her new career as a marketing assistant for a CPA firm. Angie and I are so proud of Rachel and happy to see her “moving off our payroll” and on to her own. Even so, we can’t help feeling a bit sad and reflective.

What happened to all the time from Rachel’s birth to her sudden launch into adulthood? Is she fully equipped and ready for the next phase? As her dad, have I passed along all the knowledge, skills and wisdom she needs? What is my role now? What legacy have I left to my daughter?

Many of these same feelings and questions are applicable to all aspects of our lives. When we stop to reflect, all of us want our lives to have a positive significance, and for our time as spouses, parents, children, friends and colleagues, to have lasting meaning. We all want to be fondly remembered and missed for the way we shared our lives with others, and for the meaningful knowledge, skills and wisdom we imparted. This is our legacy and what we leave behind.

The same idea holds true for everyone on the planet, including my fellow members of the CPA profession, for whom I have a lifetime of appreciation and fondness. Let’s explore the idea of leaving a legacy as it applies to you.

First, let’s define what we mean by “legacy.” Next, let’s look at our reasons for not leaving the kind of legacy we want to leave. Finally, let’s explore ways in which all of us can leave a positive legacy, starting now.

The truth is: we all will leave a legacy. The question is whether it will be a positive legacy or negative? Without proper commitment, vision, and vulnerability, we will not leave the kind of legacy we want to leave:
Legacy chart3

I can go on, but hopefully this gives you the idea. Notice that a positive legacy does not include technical knowledge, business development, an organized office, or working hard. To build and leave a positive legacy, we must share what we have been given, including our experience, gifts, skills and our time, with the people in our lives.

If leaving a positive legacy is really that important to us, why don’t we focus more on doing that? What stops us or gets in the way? I have three reasons. They are the same three “culprits” that seem to get in the way of consistently doing the positive things we want to do:

  1. All of us are SELFISH by nature and self-focused. Putting others ahead of yourself is really, really hard to do. But think about this: the only place you end up by focusing on yourself is alone and without a positive legacy
  2. All of us are “TOO BUSY” being busy. We value having too much work and “need” to do it all ourselves – rather than teaching, teaming and trusting in others. Don’t be “too busy” with the wrong things; instead “get busy” building and leaving a positive legacy
  3. Finally, there is FEAR. Don’t let the enormity of this challenge keep you from leaving a positive legacy for anyone. Start with one person and let it build from there

As parents, we learn that time is fleeting and precious. We have to encourage and instruct our children while they are young. We can’t give them everything they need to know on the day the leave for college or start their new job. We must start when they are babies and continue building from there until our “job” as parents is complete.

The same sense of urgency holds true as we lead and develop people in our CPA firms. We can’t wait until they’re promoted or we’re retired. Building a positive legacy is a journey that requires a first step today, and we must start NOW!

What can you do TODAY to start building a positive legacy? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Take a staff person along to your next meeting, introduce them to the client, and “show them the ropes”; debrief in the car on the way back to the office
  • Take one item on your list and assign ownership to another person who will benefit from learning to be an effective owner; ensure their success with clear expectations and follow up
  • Take a manager to lunch and find out their career plans. Share your story of how you became a partner and give your advice on their path to partner
  • Lead a training session to teach others something you’re good at like business development
  • Resolve a conflict, ask for and offer forgiveness, and in this way lead by example
  • Ask a staff person to teach you how to use some new technology and give them a chance to begin leaving their own legacy
  • Become a coach, ask more questions, become a better listener

The following quote from business advisor, author and speaker, Jim Rohn, summarizes the importance of building and leaving a positive legacy:

“All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”

We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed at life by building and leaving a positive legacy for future generations. If you have ideas or experiences to share on the process of leaving a positive legacy, please post them so others can benefit.

Best regards,