Christmas time is a period of reflection as we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. His birth marked the beginning of the short journey He walked on this earth teaching us how to be godly people. In essence therefore, being a good Christian is to emulate the life of Jesus. Jesus’ life, as narrated in the Bible, is a legacy never to be matched.
This year some of us will celebrate Christmas without people we loved and admired because they have moved on to eternity. Their memories will never fade if they left a legacy. They may be family members or people in society who have done great things that outlived them. Examples are many but the two most recent include Prof. Wangari Maathai, the environmentalist and peace builder whose legacy is felt beyond our borders, and Steve Jobs of Apple Computers whose innovations forever changed the way the world functions.
Our memories of people we love that have moved on remain with us because of the things they did when they lived. This is their legacy. Everyone leaves behind a legacy. The only question is what kind? Pieces of your legacy are created with your every action, your every achievement, and your every victory – everyday of your life. Legacy includes your failures and your recoveries, the evil in you as well as the goodness. This is why we still remember the legendary Al Capone, not because of his good deeds but because of his notoriety – that was his legacy. Even within our families and communities there are people we will never forget, not because of their good actions, but the evil they did while they lived.
As I celebrate Christmas this year, I want to focus on my legacy – what will I be remembered for when I am gone? I also want you to do the same – what legacy will you leave behind? Legacy matters not just to you, but also to all who love you, and all who you love. Legacy matters to those who admire you as a leader in whichever capacity, those who seek to follow you, or your philosophy, or your teachings, or the examples that you have set during your life. And maybe even some who seek to follow in your footsteps, especially your children and workmates.
At some point in your life, legacy must become important to you. Do you want to be remembered for the amount of wealth you accumulated and then left your family fighting over it? Do you want to be remembered for the length of time your body was held in the morgue as your family and ‘strangers’ fought in court to bury a piece of you (put differently, inherit you)? Or do you want to be remembered as the longest serving Member of Parliament who left nothing to show in terms of the impact his leadership had in his community? Or do you want to be remembered for the number of wives and children you left behind (most likely starving)?
Do you want to be remembered for the number of children you helped attain an education, the church you built, the land you endowed to the poor, the endowment fund you created to be used for the good of society in perpetuity, the mentoring you gave to young people, or the godly and honest life you lived, dedicated to mankind? Remember Mother Teresa?
If I were to die today, I am sure of one thing, I have left a legacy of a magazine that has influenced families positively over the last 25 years. I have created a strong brand, a household name that most Kenyans identify with. When I launched this magazine, instinctively I knew if I just kept at it and remained focused I would accomplish my goals. Each year was a milestone with many goals achieved. Each of those accomplishments was made possible because I dedicated myself to my work using skills I learnt in my journalism classes and marketing experience gained working with other organisations.
I am proud to be associated with a magazine that creates employment, mentors and changes people’s lives, and also because with each issue published, another milestone is passed, another notch in my legacy belt created. I know I will also be remembered for my contribution to the good of our country through my voluntary work, which I will remain dedicated to until the last day of my life. My legacy is a work in progress; I have a long way to go and there is so much more I can do for the good of society. In the same way, you can begin to dedicate your actions to something that will lead to a greater good. A legacy.
Legacy is not without bumps on the road. Legacy is not without struggle. Legacy is certainly not without daily challenge. Life happens as you create your legacy. You don’t develop a legacy in a day. You create your own legacy day by day – remember Wangari Maathai fighting for Uhuru Park and later Karura Forest amidst tear gas, beatings and police harassment?
Some legacies are obvious – Wangari Maathai, Steve Jobs, Jomo Kenyatta, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tom Mboya, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Dale Carnegie… Every one of these ‘legacy’ people, and millions more just like them, worked hard until the last minute of their last day. You can be one of those people. You can leave a legacy by doing things that will outlive you, things that are of public good.
If you want a great legacy, you have to start the journey today. It does not matter how old or young you are, it is never too late or too early. Be a great person of integrity, live your philosophy, be happy on the inside, consistently perform at the highest level in whatever you do, give more to society than you take, think about others and not just yourself, endeavor to leave this world a better place than you found it. In order to achieve your deserved legacy, you must have the strength to consistently execute leadership at legacy level at all times.
Legacy is not measured in the size of your actions. It is in the deed and impact it has on the people closest to you, your community, your country and the world at large. There is no great or small legacy – it is legacy when it is for the greater good.