Who Will Cry When You Die?

by Robin Sharma

59. Write a Legacy Statement

Someone once said to me that the first fifty years of life are dedicated to building one’s legitimacy while the last fifty are devoted to building one’s legacy. How true. So many of us spend the first half of our lives striving for achievement and struggling to gain respect. Once we have this legitimacy, whether it comes in the form of prestige or material possessions, we soon realize that something is missing. We then spend the remaining years of our lives trying to do what we should have done from the beginning: create a legacy.

One day, my father posted a poem on the door of our fridge. It had been translated from Sanskrit and it read simply, “Spring has past, summer has gone and winter is here. And the song that I meant to sing remains unsung. I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument.” These words were written by a man whose heart was filled with regret over a life half lived. Rather than singing the great song he was destined to sing, he spent his days preparing and waiting until things were just right before he acted—“stringing and unstringing his instrument,” in his words. Sadly, that time never came.

The time to start building your legacy is today, not ten years from today when you “have more time,” because we both know that time will never arrive. Reflect on what it is you want to create in your life and, more importantly, what gift you wish to leave the world when you are no longer here. Greatness comes from beginning something that does not end with you. To help me see my own life’s legacy more clearly, I have written a personal legacy statement. While many of the corporate executives I work with have personal mission statements, few have considered scripting individual legacy statements. While the former defines your vision of what you want to create while you live, the latter expresses what you aim to leave when you die. There is a distinction between the two. If you think about it, it will help you avoid feeling regret, sadness and disappointment about what could have been when you reach the end of your life.