At what age do we start asking the legacy questions: Why am I here? What will I be remembered for? Have I made a difference in the world? Did I do what I was supposed to do?

I sat in my living room tonight after watching the news and looked over at a beautiful, fawn colored suede chair. A departed friend of mine sat in that chair at a business meeting, and accidentally stained it with his black ink pen. He was horrified – so embarrassed, he wouldn’t come back to my house for another meeting. Now I look at the ink stain and I remember him with love – his humility, his talent, his big heart, his willingness to help others. That little ink stain keeps him alive for me.

I’m quite sure that he wouldn’t want to be remembered by that stain. But, we don’t always get to choose do we? And, that’s exactly why we have to live our lives like we want to be remembered.

I want to be remembered for the great kids I raised, for the best sellers I wrote and for the movies I made that changed the world. Alas, I didn’t have children of my own, and my best selling books and movies have yet to be made.

Where does that leave me on the memory scale?

Well, I’ve been helping young people in their careers since I became successful in TV production at the age of 23. I’ve been the best- I-could-be-step grandma and great grandma to my husband’s family. I’ve written books that change lives – one at a time and I’ve devoted myself to being the best wife possible to my husband of 25 years and counting. Is that my legacy?

Maybe part of it; maybe not.

So, what is it? What really stays behind when we pass over to the great beyond?

I’m beginning to think it can be summed up in just one word – CONNECTION.

The irony is that the things you’ll be remembered for are the ones that happened while you were so focused on your passion and probably on someone else that you had no time to think about yourself or your legacy.

And, the things you think are insignificant or unimportant about yourself, well, those will probably trigger people’s memories of you: The time your dress was hiked up in the back when you were giving a fantastic speech and the audience pretended not to notice; the crinkle on the side of your nose, the snort you make when you laugh hard, the tears that come when someone else cries or during hokey Hallmark commercials, the fanaticism that takes over when you’re looking for just the right gift for someone.

We connect in the reality of our lives, not the fantasy. We connect when a little, homeless child raises her arms up in the air for you to pick her up and hugs you so hard you can feel her heart beat. We connect when we teach something to someone and see the light go on behind their eyes. We connect with touches and hugs and smiles and tears that non-verbally say, “I get it.”

We connect when we share our stories and moments in life that are therefore not quite so scary, sorrowful or sad when another has been there, too. We connect when our hearts touch another’s. We connect when we stretch to better ourselves, to help others, to make someone’s day and find someone stretching to meet us.

Here’s a way to explore the proof that you were here.


  1. List your 5 closest friends/family and ask them what they find most memorable about you.
  2. Then write down what you find memorable about them.
  3. Get together and compare lists. Write down the surprises.


  1. Make a list of all the people, places, things, ideas and activities to which you feel connected.
  2. Make a list of all the connections you would like to make.
  3. Choose one new connection a week and take action to make it happen.

A few years ago I was having dinner with several speaking friends of mine. We were going around the table telling stories and laughing our hearts out. Walking back to the hotel, one of my buddies asked me, “Are the stories you just told in your speech?”

I answered, “Of course not, they are too personal.”

He smiled knowingly and said, “That’s just what your audiences want – a glimpse of the “real” you because everything you have to teach is based upon who you are.”

Needless to say, the stories are in my speech now.

I encourage you to gather your stories. Share them generously. Study them to get a glimpse of the proof that you were here.

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  1. Cindy Baker Gilbert says:

    Simply beautiful. Encourages me to be more courageous. I find it confusing on where to draw the line. My personality comes out when I communicate with friends but my business cover letters, perhaps more appropriately, feel flat. Maybe that’s a clue I am trying to go in the wrong direction? Thank you!

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