Who wants to think about legacy when there is so much life to live right now? You don’t have to see some of the crazy things that people do to land themselves in an emergency room to see the lack of vision in that naive question. Turn on your local news tonight or any night and see how real-life decisions result in people’s death. Walk through the death of a loved one or friend and the idea of mortality stares back at you like the cartoon picture of bright eyes in a dark room.
Do I have your attention? Thinking about someone you know or love who recently passed away?
What did they leave you with? I am not talking about stuff. I mean, what did they leave you with that you want to pass on to the next generation?
The first time this idea of legacy hit me was when my mother passed away. I thought about what she left me and what I in turn wanted to pass on to my children. A few years, later I was once again confronted with this idea of legacy when my son was born. It really smacked me in the face when he was two and he mimicked everything I did. What an awakening that was.
I think about my own legacy all the time now. The house we live in; how we celebrate birthdays and holidays; how we emphasize the importance of church involvement, morals, values; and even “The Talk.” All will be a part of the legacy I leave my children.
The truth is that we get to choose our legacy. We choose our legacy, not by the big decisions that we make, but rather the small decisions we make every day.
We get to be the generation that births the new healthcare delivery system. Others will take it from us and mature it, but we have the responsibility of birthing it. It is comprised of clinical technology and information technology. It is challenged by security, regulation, and being birthed at a time where over 7,000 people a day are entering a period of their life where they will consume a majority of the healthcare provided in this nation.
Are we too late? Can the last of “The Greatest Generation” and the massive baby boomer generation grasp what we are trying to deliver? Time will tell. A legacy is in the making.
I want to provide two key thoughts as we progress through this birthing process. Both are related to the importance of the decisions we make.
You never know the depth and breadth of any individual decision you make.
In business, we make decisions all the time. With intention, we try to estimate the depth and breadth of those decisions. Let me give you a few pointed examples of what that bolded statement above is trying to speak to.
I have read numerous stories of people who called in sick instead of reporting to work at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. If they just toughed it out that day, they might no longer be with us. What a small decision — call in sick, people do it all the time. But what depth and breadth that decision had that day.
You set off to work five minutes late and pass an accident that, had you left on time, you might have been in. Make that one last sales call of the day, maybe even the 100th call that day, and make a sale. There are literally hundreds of examples if you think about it even for a few minutes.
If our decisions have the potential for such dramatic depth and breadth, and compounded over time create our legacy, why do most of us make them with such ambivalence?
As opposed to business decisions, we cannot predict which daily decision will result in depth and breadth. This leads us to the next statement, which will demonstrate and provide you with a different way to think about daily decisions. It comes from the book The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, which by the way I strongly recommend you go purchase today. The quote is really a formula.
Small Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Change
I cannot begin to express to you the profound impact this has had on my life over the last few years. Profound doesn’t cut it. Life-changing better defines the impact.
Every decision counts.The book provides several illustrations of how this works, so I don’t want to give it away. However, I will offer one example from my life.
I recently had a conversation with someone at work who told me that my focus on personal and professional growth and development has had a significant impact on his life. For me, there is no greater goal than to positively impact someone’s life. I asked him what I did or said that made him feel this way.
He could not articulate a specific phrase or behavior. He just said that I had consistently displayed my desire for improvement, and at some point, this consistency caused him to look inside. He realized he wanted this for himself and started to focus on it. There it is — legacy, impact, a passing on of ideas and actions that over time provided radical change.
One final thought about legacy. There is no separation of character from legacy. We do not have to look far in the history books for this one. Penn State Coach Joe Paterno. Whatever his involvement was in what happened in those locker rooms was so significant that all of the work completed in his profession was wiped out. His legacy will be forever remembered more by how it ended than by anything he accomplished during his time as coach.
I do not want to minimize the victims, but the point is overwhelmingly clear. You may accomplish great things in your career, but they will be overshadowed by character flaws and poor choices consistently made over time. Will we make poor choices from time to time? Yes, we all will. But how you respond to those poor choices and the choices you make right after those poor choices will impact your legacy in a significant way.
Over time, people forget. But what will be remembered? Read some history books and find out.
This article has flown at various heights. This was intentional. We started out talking about something very personal, then flew to something healthcare related. If your personal legacy does not include your work, then you will have ended up wasting a large majority of your life spending fruitless time at work. MAKE IT ALL COUNT!
The title of this article is Legacy.?! I will end with an explanation of that.
Yes, he was here.
Is he here now or gone?
He was here and had such a significant positive impact that we will never forget him.
In healthcare, this generation is the “he” in those statements. Legacy! That is where I want to be and what I want to leave.
It does not matter what you have done in the past. Today you have an opportunity to make some small smart decisions that, compounded over time, will leave a lasting legacy.
Bill Rieger is chief information officer at Flagler Hospital of St. Augustine, FL.