In his 2005 commencement address to the graduating class at Stanford, Steve Jobs (1955-2011) said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” Truly, what is important to you?
Genesis is one of the earliest chronicles of human history. In Chapter 49, Jacob called his sons together saying, “Gather around that I may tell you what is to happen to you in days to come.” It was an early example of an “ethical will.” Jacob was communicating wisdom, lessons learned, faith, the importance of moral choices, and values.
For eons humans have shared stories, elders sitting around a fire, passing wisdom and life lessons to younger generations. Bob Kanegis, a legacy coach, says, “There is nothing more valuable that you can pass on to future generations than your story—the essence of who you are, what matters to you, what you’ve learned along the way, what you value deeply and your hopes and dreams for the future. In short, the hard earned wisdom you’ve gathered over a lifetime.” (legacycoach.com)
My son has been asking for family photographs. He has begun to digitize and store treasured images. Many of us have boxes of slides, movie film, and color and black and white photos that chronicle our life and family history. Pictures are thrown into boxes with no dates or information on the back. I have photos and portraits of ancestors that I cannot identify. They are part of my past, part of who I am, but who are they? What was their story? How I wish those old pictures could talk!
How I wish I had spent more time with my maternal grandfather and grandmother who raised me until age ten, recording their wisdom and advice. I lived with my mom and stepfather from age ten until I left home at age 18 for college, the military, marriage, and a career. They died too young, my stepfather in an accident before he retired and my mom at age 65 of multiple complications. I never knew my biological father or grandfather. I have a half sister and a half brother that I love dearly. I did not come from an Ozzie and Harriet background, yet there is a history, a chain that I do not fully understand.
My wife, the mother of our children, shares a classic American story of people who came from the Old Country to make their way in the New World. Her people came from Lithuania and Austria and as shopkeepers, workers, and professionals raised sons and daughters, adding to the fabric of America. We know some of their story, but not enough.
My ancestry is English, Scottish, French, and American Indian. My wife comes from Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, and Austrian stock. My grandchildren share ancestry from Germany and Italy, mixed with what went before. We are Americans.
I love my four grandchildren. At some point they will want to know where they came from. So while I can still think and remember, I have started to organize memories and mementoes, to ponder how I will communicate a legacy, lessons learned, values and wisdom that I would like to pass on. That may be more valuable than financial assets and material possessions.
Shelley Lee, creative director and founder of Historia in Stone Mountain, GA, is an expert in creating story-based legacy communications and documentation. “Every family has a story,” she says. “So does every business and foundation. Story is the heart of connection, who we are as people, and the assignment of meaning. Story is the vital link between multi-generations in a family, employees and successors in a business, and beneficiaries of a passionate philanthropist.” www.historia.us.com.
Story is legacy. What is your story?
Lewis Walker is President of Walker Capital Management LLC and Walker Capital Advisory Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor (R.I.A.) Securities and certain advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker and Mike Hostetler are registered representatives of SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with the Walker Capital Companies.