What will they say when you’re gone?

As family conversations sometimes go, out of the blue someone mentioned Aunt Dolly’s noodles. You could tell by the lull in the conversation and the smiles on faces that people were remembering how soul-satisfyingly delicious her noodles were.

I’ll never forget the eulogy delivered by the pastor at her funeral. He spoke for nearly ten minutes about her greatest virtue:  her selfless devotion to preparing home-made noodles for parishioners who were ill, had fallen on hard times, or had lost a loved one. He said people liked seeing her at their front door, handing over a large covered dish full of her tasty noodles. The pastor said he believed there was no one in the congregation who wouldn’t miss her noodles. He didn’t mention missing Dolly, just her noodles.

A true legacy is established over a lifetime and relates to what a human being does for others, not for himself. ~Bill Courtney

This train of thought then took me to Manfried. He was a senior leadership team colleague for a blessedly short ten months, yet he remained a topic of conversation for years. People described him as despicable, selfish, and mean-spirited. One evening over cocktails, a colleague challenged us to say something good about Manfried. The long silence was finally broken by someone saying his starched white dress shirts were always perfectly ironed.

We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become. ~David R. Hawkins

Sadly, I’ve always been a better learner after having been whacked by a cosmic two-by-four. A recent health scare prompted me to think about legacy:  what kind of gifts am I giving away now that people will remember and talk about after I’ve moved on.

By asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we plant the seeds for living our lives as if we matter. ~Kouzes & Posner

As character-based leaders, it’s a good practice to occasionally hit our “pause button” and reflect on the impact, significance, and enduring qualities that we’ve offered up over a job tenure, career, or life. A legacy of noodles or ironed white shirts isn’t enough.

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