I was raised, metaphorically speaking, by two giants. My parents’ legacy includes building a well-known and respected business; significant leadership in influencing their industry; being integral to the foundation and growth of a major agriculture museum; and countless hours donating time and resources to a large number of organizations. In fact, I watched my father receive a prestigious agriculture award this week. They say that perhaps their proudest accomplishment was raising three children with college degrees who work in the agriculture industry. And, of course, they love to dote on their four grandchildren. In addition to recognizing these successes, I appreciate the examples and values they passed along to us and others.
So, with that to follow, pondering my own professional legacy is sobering. As you know, I own part of a service-based business (Ag Progress). We care about our clients and hope part of our legacy is helping your families and businesses. But the recognition for that is not often direct. There won’t be a big farm to sell or bequeath to someone at the end, or a lot of awards for leadership in a specific sector. There probably won’t be a sign on a building with my name on it. I often ask myself what really matters for my legacy. On the personal side, it’s contributing to a loving family and raising children who make this world a better place in their own way. But on the professional side, is knowing I gave my all to everything, with few tangible signs like my parents had, enough for me?
Some of you may be clear on your legacy, or some may question it like me. I find it helpful to reflect on three main aspects of legacy:
• How will I be remembered? What characteristics or accomplishments will be noted?
• What, or who, will I leave behind? This includes hard assets and soft assets like relationships and impact on others and my community.
• What are my hopes and expectations for the future? I hope to embed some values and goals that influence my children, business associates, and others through time. Yet my opinions are not guaranteed to carry weight indefinitely. My challenge is to influence by persuasion and example, without an expectation of dictating from the grave.
And with that reflection comes the reckoning: are my actions and behaviors resulting in the answers I hope for each of those questions? Some yes, some no. I see I have quite a bit more legacy building to do…