Recent months have seen the passing of many public figures who have shaped our collective experience, developed our understanding, brought joy and hope, and informed the way we view current events. David Bowie is perhaps the most recent, as I write this. Their passing leaves a hole, but also an enormous legacy. They made a mark and our lives are simply not the same having known them.
Privately, we have lost people who may not have held such high public office, or had such an international presence. They went about their business, making a difference each day, pursuing goals that touched the lives of those around them.
CEO Discover Story Centre, Stratford East
No passing is ever irrelevant, and every person lost leaves a void. But some people leave a residue; an indelible mark that has lasting power.
My friend, Sally Goldsworthy, who was the CEO at the Discover Story Centre in Stratford East, was such a person. You will all have your own special people who refuse to leave your consciousness.
My eldest brother had (and probably still has) a t-shirt that accompanied him wherever he went for decades. Every rip and tear, every loose stitch, every stretch and every stain helped to tell the story of his life: where he’d been, what he’d done. With every wash, the t-shirt deteriorated just a little bit more, offering a further glimpse into its history. Like an archaeological artefact, it reflected his life. Every experience left a mark. I have no doubt he will leave it to someone in his will! It will be his legacy to us.
Most of us are less obvious about our achievement, aspirations and experiences. We’ve become highly skilled at hiding them. Passing any stranger in the street, we are oblivious to the richness of their life story, and we accept that. That’s why they are a stranger to us. It’s sadder when we can say the same about our friends, associates and colleagues until they have left us.
Everyone makes a contribution; and everyone has a life that is rich, meaningful, challenging, important. How great would it be if we acknowledged this daily, rather than waiting to mourn their loss and discover what they meant after their passing.
My friend, Sally Goldsworthy, did leave a mark and an enormous legacy. But she also made a mark every day of her life. Every encounter with her was impactful. Every decision she took meant something. Her purpose was clear and her execution of it was robust. The pain we feel knowing she is no longer with us is partially appeased by the knowledge that what she has left behind is so valuable and lasting, and how she made us feel when we were with her.
So perhaps we should shift our focus from leaving a mark to finding the mark we want to make each day. Make every interaction count. Do the things each day that transform and enrich lives. Pursue causes that deliver positive change. Be the best you can be in every situation. Be prepared to fail as you seek success. Learn from every experience.
Today is what you own: your legacy will take care of itself.