"Your bravery, your struggle, and your commitment to excellence is your legacy."
Many years ago, I was asked to give a speech in Charleston, South Carolina, to an audience of extremely wealthy men who were nearing early retirement. At that point in my life, I had already spoken on behalf of dozens of great corporations, albeit mostly about setting and achieving big goals and the perseverance necessary to complete said goals. I wasn’t a beginner when it came to addressing large audiences.
However, I was still a little nervous. This group was different. They had already set and completed what James Collins and Jerry Porras refer to as “big hairy audacious goals” (BHAGs) in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. In fact, most of my impending audience had not just completed but slayed those goals. I was intimidated and felt, well, speechless. What could I possibly say to move this audience?
I ultimately decided to speak about leaving a legacy. The conventional definition of legacy is the act of leaving a gift of money or property, and I think most people believe that to leave one, it is necessary to have amassed a fortune. I vehemently disagree. This was my topic, and my ultimate call to action in that speech was to start now. No matter where you are in your journey or your current level of success (or lack of it), you have what it takes to start building a legacy. In this case, my father was the perfect topic for my speech.
A little bit of background on my father: My dad dropped out of high school. He raced cars, recklessly rode motorcycles, and had some wild years as a young adult. He eventually grew up a little and opened a small, two-bay garage. He has worked there as an auto mechanic for more than 30 years. There is no air conditioner in the summer. Heat is scarce in the winter. The only sick days he has ever taken were for his two major heart attacks and a recent hip surgery. He will not have a financial fortune or huge estate to leave me.
Nevertheless, his legacy is far more powerful and valuable than any amount of money he could hand me:
Dad taught me that you don’t quit because things are hard or not going your way, even if you are thinking you’ve reached the perfect time to quit.
If you love something you keep going, as long as it is what you still love.
He taught me to act rather than wait on others.
When I decided to start racing, I did not sit around hoping NASCAR legends and team owners Richard Childress or Jack Roush would call and offer me a ride with their teams. Instead I started my own team. Now those men walk by me in the NASCAR garage area and nod with recognition and a smile of encouragement. If you want something done, be prepared to do it yourself.
Dad taught me to stand up for myself and what’s right.
He taught me to push back twice as hard when I’m pushed around. The first time that worked was the most empowering moment of my life. I decided that day I’d rather be known as “crazy” than someone who could be pushed around. It’s my understanding that message was received.
Don’t worry about what others think of you. Focus on what you think of yourself.
He taught me life is good, but not fair.
Early on, Dad told me to prepare to race twice as hard as everyone else every single race simply because of who I am: a female driver. Just about every driver I beat will go back home to their race shops and get teased incessantly for having been “beaten by a girl.” That’s going to fuel their fire, so it needs to also fuel mine.
Accept that sometimes you will simply have to work harder than the rest of the field to get what you want. Make that hard truth your motivation, not your emotional baggage.
Dad taught me about being happy in relationships, treating people right in business even when they wrong you, and countless other lessons.
At the end of the day, be sure you can look yourself in the eye. If you can, then you’re doing your business (and building your legacy) right.
After that Charleston speech, one of the audience members approached me. He said hearing about my father and I had really opened his eyes to the kind of relationship he wanted to develop with his daughter. Both of us walked away with a smile.
My father’s lessons and his example are his legacy to me. Right now, I’d like to adjust that formal definition of legacy: Legacy is something valuable, monetary or otherwise, that makes a lasting, positive impression.
Am I discounting financial inheritance? Absolutely not! It is indisputably admirable and aspirational to have a lot of money to bestow upon your family members, hospitals, educational institutions, and communities for their betterment. I hope that I can leave a mark in that way before I depart this earth.
No matter how much money you possess, you have gifts, talents, and resources to build your legacy. Do not wait one more minute to start. For many reading this, real estate investing will hold the key to your legacy. Just as you do not need massive wealth to get started investing in real estate, you do not need silver and gold to get started creating your legacy. All you need is creativity, a drive to leave something good behind you, and the willingness to take action.
What Defines Legacy?
- What you teach others is your legacy.
- The impression you leave is your legacy.
- Your bravery, your struggle, and your commitment to excellence is your legacy.