Beyond taking care of your family, you also want to know when you pass on, you have made a difference in the world. That you have left a legacy. Some describe this as a form of immortality. As long as you are remembered for your contribution. Or even if you are forgotten as a person, but your contributions continue to serve humanity in some way, in a very real sense, you remain present and active in the world. The human desire for a longer and healthier life can be characterized as movement towards immorality, and even without breakthroughs in technology to expand the biological human lifespan, we have the ability to leave an imprint that can last thousands of years or longer. I believe this drive for significance is not about ego an self-importance, but a reflection of the miracle of the phenomenon of life itself, that since we are blessed with this miracle we call life, we want to contribute the most we can, which has to mean leaving a legacy that transcends our lifespan. We are also beneficiaries of people from the past driven by this motivation, left us inventions, institutions, customs, literature, and many other things too numerous to name, which allow us to experience life as we experience it, and they could only dream could be possible some day. By continuing this tradition, we honor our ancestors, and bless our descendants. Another beautiful symmetry.
When we leave a legacy like this, we experience not just a form of immortality, but also an immense sense of meaning. Imagine what Nikola Tesla felt at the end of his life, inventing essentially the entire infrastructure around the modern electrical grid. He did not live to see what this has made possible, but no doubt he experienced a deep sense of meaning in having made this contribution, and the very long-term imprint this made on human history. As human beings we crave meaning for the things we do. We come up with stories to make even the mundane or repetitive things seem meaningful. It drives us crazy to think we are just going around in circles doing meaningless tasks. If you doubt this, try spending a day digging a hole in the ground, then promptly put the dirt back into the hole. We want our labors to be beneficial, have some impact, some meaning. The meaning leaving a legacy for the world gives, can enrich our lives in ways beyond what we imagine right now. And that is something worth looking forward to experiencing more and more.
Leaving a legacy is also about contribution. Beyond taking care of basic necessities and even the desire for luxuries, for ourselves and our children, we want to make a difference in the life experience of humanity as a whole. The vacuum out there that can be filled by contribution is immense. It is not impossible for someone to come along and single-handedly elevate people out of extreme poverty by out-producing the lack. Yet, with all the brilliant innovators and philantropists, they have barely made a dent, when we look at how much more there is to do. Contribution does not have to be financial, but it does not hurt to have wealth to contribute something to make being born onto this planet a more pleasant, safer experience for the average baby looking ahead to what lies ahead for its lifetime.
Do you love your life? Do you wake up excited about the adventures the day will reveal, as every day is a unique blessing and opportunity for something new? We have a lot of freedom in how we look at our daily experiences. We put stories and meanings on things that can make us blissfully happy, or miserable. Unfortunately, most of us have been trained to make ourselves miserably by endlessly judging ourselves and others for failures and lack, which demotivates us, and makes what could have been a temporary condition into a more permanent one. It is never too late to turn things around, and pass the joyous feelings onto others, to share the joy, by merely being joyous. Making others happy may be more about making ourselves happy by managing our internal story, and thereby be an example for others to follow.
In being an example of living a happy life, you can truly inspire others in was you never imagined. Happier, joyous people find it easier to find success and associate with other happy, joyous, successful people. Since we can choose to put meaning on things freely, we can take a meager situation, and find happiness in it, just as easily as we can take a relatively abundant situation and find misery in it. Any excuses about putting off feeling happy until there is more material wealth, is putting the cart before the horse. We gain success by choosing to be happy, and getting into the habit of staying in this high performance state. Not by feeling miserable and saving joy for another day. We can perhaps see this more clearly in others, than ourselves. But if we do not model living life joyously for others, they certainly will not smile in response to our unhappy face because we did not choose to reframe a situation that upset us. This is a daily effort and ritual with great rewards – reframing every negative into a positive, and finding joy regardless of anything – and thereby inspire others to do the same – and attract more people into our circle who do the same.
And the effort is continual but gets easier. As we reframe and generate joy from any situation more and more, it becomes easier and easier. It never becomes completely automatic, but it becomes easier, much like learning to walk. And also like learning to walk, when we start down this path, we should expect and be patient with ourselves for stumbling until we figure out how to crawl, then walk. Remember that you may be up against overcoming a lifetime of misery habits, so give yourself a break and allow this process to unfold slowly. It is worth it. This will add to your ability to manage the business as it grows more and more effective and profitable. It is joy that will bring business success, not the other way around.
In life as in sports, you want to experience challenges. We may imagine we want everything to go easy and best possible outcome handed to us. But when we receive things without effort, we often take them for granted. When was the last time you truly felt and acknowledged gratitude for the air you are breathing? It is part of our nature that we thrive on challenge, and difficulties, that serve as a kind of obstacle course to challenge us as we go after the things we want. We can frame this miserably, as if we are the victim of some cosmic conspiracy to keep us from what we want. Or we can frame this joyously, as in we have been granted many blessings effortlessly (like the air we breathe), and other blessings we are granted the opportunity to experience challenge, so we can experience the joy of celebrating overcoming each obstacle, and add more depth to those things we get that did require overcoming challenges, and how this is a blessing as well in adding richness to the experience of life. And remind ourselves to see it that way even when we don’t feel like it, until it becomes second nature.
Beyond joy, we also experience excitement, as we get close to overcoming difficult challenges, and actually overcoming them. If you look back at your own life experience, you will realize you may have paid big money to experience excitement. Maybe you took your family to a vacation that included going to an amusement park with roller coaster rides. Or a trip overseas to experience something completely new and different. This kind of experience of excitement is available to us on a daily basis, by developing the skill of reframing daily challenges. Imagine how much farther you can take your business if you can experience excitement and joy, every time some seemingly horrible challenge made an appearance. Instead of sighing and feeling like a victim and wallowing in it (not looking at you now, it’s other people who do that, but not you), if every challenge can be reframed as a fun game, just imagine the impact on the results and on the people around us.