4 Things to Take Seriously

Life is serious. For many, insert my own raised hand, the legacy we leave behind is just as serious. To leave this world a little better than you found it is a noble goal.

Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Dale Carnegie stated in How to Win Friends and Influence People, that there is nothing sweeter than hearing the sound of your own name.

To have your name attached to that improvement in perpetuity is icing on the cake. Didn’t someone once say, you are only truly dead when you are forgotten?

Maybe it is possible to hear your own name beyond the grave. If not, then why does it really matter?

How many remember The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun”? If you are over 40, there is a good chance you do and can even sing the main line and hum the few bars that follow. The song is over 50 years old. Yet a good portion of the world’s population remembers it. Surviving this long is an amazing feat. How long will it last before it is completely forgotten? Now, think about Marion Harris’s song, “After You’ve Gone.” Do you remember it? This chart-topping song came out 50 years before Here Comes the Sun.

What was popular then has faded away. And what is popular today will eventually share the same fate.

Things will get lost in time. Languages, cultures, and civilizations will crumble and turn to dust.

We take our legacy seriously. We want to say our lives have meaning and the measuring stick is how long we will be remembered after our bodies are no more. But even the greatest names of humanity’s ancient past will drift off into obscurity.

Where does that leave us?

The first king of Israel was Saul. He was a tall, good-looking man, and the leader of God’s chosen people. One could say that he had at all. Yet, he had a problem. As Fr. Mike Schmitz explains it on The Bible in a Year podcast, Saul suffered from the sin of vanity. And what is vanity? He was overly preoccupied with what people thought of him. Two kings later,  Solomon would in Ecclesiastes 1:2 say, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” I’ve often wondered about this saying. But it wasn’t until I understood Saul,  that I could understand Solomon’s words. It was then that I could see my own problems and how my life has been one of vanity even from my earliest age.

Does it mean I should stop chasing my legacy?  Well, if I want to remove vanity from my life, then yes,  I should leave it behind. Can I do that and still have a positive impact on the world? The answer again is yes. My focus shouldn’t be on the results but rather on what I am doing today.

Here are four things I should take seriously rather than worrying about my legacy.

#1 A just mind

If you want to be righteous, you need two things: right thoughts and right actions. The first component of that is right thoughts. Our mind is a sacred enclosure, and no thoughts can enter into it without our permission. This begins with what we consume.  If I litter my mind with garbage, then it won’t be long before that garbage permeates into my thinking.  And that  in time will affect my actions. To have a just mind, I must begin to permeate it with good material which in turn will lead to good thoughts.

#2 Socially useful actions.

These actions are not a green light to be a member of The Social Media Thought Police. Instead, it is how I can make my little place in the universe better. Modern technology has given us the ability to have a global outreach, but are we reaching out in our community as well? Setting up a nonprofit in a remote place on the other side of the world is wonderful. Also wonderful is helping your neighbor in need, picking up a piece of trash on the sidewalk, and opening the door for the lady walking behind you. Small things done daily to make your community better will have a lasting impact over time.

#3 Speech that never lies.

We could imagine a world filled with nothing but truth. Politics, media, big corporations, the used car dealer down the street. Sadly, we are surrounded by corrupt people whose objective is to deceive for their own personal gain. Not everybody is like this, but there are enough bad apples causing us to question the whole bunch.

 We cannot force others to the truth. After all, they are doing what is right in their own eyes. The only speech we can control is the ones that come from our own mouths. We can be the bearers of truth. We can assure that our words are trustworthy.

#4 Welcome everything that happens as necessary.

As much as we like, we cannot control outside events. What we can control is our own response to it. Why did the universe put this unfortunate event in our lap? Who knows? Fortune gives and also takes away. Can this event make me a better person? Of course. That is part of our response to the event. By itself, the event cannot make us a worse person. Our response to the event, however, can make us a better person.

In any case, what is it to be remembered forever? Nothing but vanity. So what should one take seriously? Only the following: a just mind, socially useful actions, speech that only ever tells the truth, and the ability to welcome everything that happens as necessary, as comprehensible by reason, and as flowing from an equally rational original source.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.33

Vanity of vanities, how can I remove vanity from my life? I can move my focus from the future and put it in the present where it belongs. I can take these four things from Marcus Aurelius seriously and work on them daily. Doing this will make me a better person and cement the legacy I imagine.

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What is value?

It is what something is worth. When we pay for an item, we expect the value to match or even exceed the price.

What does it mean to provide value?

I would like to think my words provide value. I do not charge a fee for my services (yet), but I respect the time you invest in visiting my site. Your time is just as valuable if not more valuable than money. Money is something that can be lost and then recovered. Time, once spent, can never be recovered. If I cannot provide value in the time you spend with me, it would be better for you to go somewhere else. Your time is too valuable to waste it on something that offers no return on your investment. Therefore, I write from the heart and to the best of my ability to provide equal value for your time.

Someday, I hope my services will increase in value. My goal is to give more to the world than I ever take. This is the legacy I wish to leave my family and those within my community (my community being as large or small as I choose it to be). My legacy is not for me. I cannot reap the rewards of future generations that may be inspired by the remnants of my words and deeds. They receive the benefits of my legacy, not me.

In a conversation one evening with my son, we spoke about success. He told me if he ever made it big, he was going to buy me a beach complete with a house and a shed for all my stuff. I told him this was a very kind gesture and how much I would love that. But I also told him that I would never want it if it came at the cost of his happiness. If he did not love what he was doing, then he would not be successful. There is no amount of money or possessions that could give him happiness. I then asked him where we could find our happiness. He said, “Love.” Yes! I told him he was right. The happiness we desire in this life comes from loving ourselves and others.

Loving Ourselves

This is a must. If we do not love who we are, we can change it. We can become better. We can aspire to greater things and work on making those aspirations a reality. If we hate what we do and only do it to “make a living,” then we are not loving ourselves. If this is our current situation, we can either resign ourselves to our fate or take the steps to make a change.

Loving Others

In Matthew 22:39*, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I love myself so much that I am willing to do everything I can to become the best version of myself. But that is not the commandment Jesus gave us to love others. Therefore, I will become the best version of myself to better serve you. And I love you so much that I will do my best to help you become the best version of you. This is my love for you, not to give you the fish but to teach you how to fish.

Great lives never go out; they go on.

Benjamin Harrison

This is legacy. All of us will die. Many of us will be no more than an afterthought upon expiring. Some of us will go. That is, the great ones among us will go on and even the grave will not have the power to stop it. The only way we can go on is to provide lasting value to the world. This is done through love, love for ourselves and love for others.

*Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40

The Skeleton Keys #3: Give to the World

Charity 11/27/2019

I doubt it began with the Egyptian pharaohs, but they are a good starting point. They amassed huge fortunes when they were alive. And when they died, they took their wealth with them to their burial chambers. Why? Maybe they thought they could it would help them in the next life. Better safe than sorry, right? And today, what’s the legacy left for the world? A few monuments and recovered artifacts.

Now, think of the old man. The one you know or the one you have heard about. His goal in life was to accumulate wealth. He was that crabby old guy that living only for himself. He was a hoarder of gold without a charitable bone in his body. When he dies, he will probably do everything in his power to take his loot with him into the next world. And what of his legacy? For a short time, he will be remembered as an old rich guy that died alone. And then as the decades go by, he too will be forgotten.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13

The greatest sacrifice you make in this world is dying for another. We don’t hear of these feats too often. But when we do, we never forget this ultimate sacrifice. The soldier doesn’t think of the consequences when he crosses that barrier between life and death. He is only thinking that he will cross instead of those around him.

I have always attributed these words in John 15:13, as the end-all be-all for a show of love. And it is, but is there a second best show of love? What could we do now in this world while we are still alive?

A small deviation about responsibility and employment…

When I was younger, I only lived for myself. It was childish. When I got married and had a child. I had to put away childish things and start living for the good of two other people. This is far better than living for just myself. Being responsible for three raises the stakes. It adds a little positive pressure in my life to do the right things.  I hold a certain value in my family’s life. They need me. Oh yes if I was to go away, they would move on. They would find a way to survive. In a sense, it is kind of similar to an employer/employee relationship.

An employer needs an employee. Terminate the relationship and both will find a way to move on and survive. Until then, their relationship is based on a contract. The greater the perceived value of the employee, the greater the compensation the employer will be willing to pay.

Back to the second best show of love…

There is a great joy in being able to help others. The more I help others, the greater the joy and drive to help even more. It brings value to my life and to the lives I touch. I may not have the opportunity to make the ultimate show of love, but I can do the next best thing: I can give my “living” life to my family, to my friends, and to those around me. I can give it to the world in an attempt to make it a better place.

Why the comparison to employment? If you live only for yourself and your contract ends between you and the world, the world will move on. It will forget about you like you forgot about your co-worker who was terminated last year. But if you live for the good of the world, the world will take notice and compensate* you based on your perceived value. Your legacy will be determined by how long you can stay in the memory of those you reached. For example, imagine Shakespeare whose writings will probably be with us in some form until the world is no more.

The first skeleton key to success is to combine your faith with your works. The second is to hope in your own self. The third skeleton key to success is to give it to the world. This is success that goes beyond the grave. It goes beyond our actual time on this planet. Of the billions of people throughout the ages, we have the opportunity to leave our mark by creating a legacy the world will remember.


To do more for the world than the world does for you –that is success. –Henry Ford


*This could be in other forms of compensation, not just financial.