“What will I be remembered for?”
You may have heard it before, but have you ever posed this question to yourself? When was the last time you sat down to create something you really felt strongly about?
A couple weeks ago, I awoke to a quiet and sunny morning. I sat in the silence, and I wondered. I wondered what, of that which I’ve created, will live beyond me. I wondered what my lasting impact would be on the Earth.
As I sat there contemplating this, I realized that much of what anyone does will be forgotten in time. The meals they made, the possessions they owned, the places they lived in. None of these things would be relevant in even a hundred years time. I continued contemplating, and I asked myself, “What does the world need, right now? Where does it stand, and how can I help it?”
Have you ever asked yourself such questions?
In contemplating what the world needs, I thought about the different theories regarding climate change, impending prophecies, and the rapidly changing times that we are now all living through.
I realized that my actions already showed part of my answer to that question. I believe people need to continually push themselves into new experiences and stretch their boundaries, travel being one of the best examples of this.
I soon came to the conclusion that there was no way to be sure of what my final impact might be on a larger scale. No way at all, really. And I realized that this fact is one of the mysterious aspects to being a creator: you never know precisely what you’ll be remembered for. Do you think Benjamin Franklin would have chosen to be remembered primarily for his kite-flying lightning experiment? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly he had far more influential enterprises in his life. But of those other pursuits, none had the iconic imagery that the key on the kite provides us, so that is what he is most remembered for.
How are you serving your era?
If I had to say right now, I’d guess that perhaps three bits of my work will be remembered: a piece of travel poetry, a destination-focused article, and one or two of photographs in the Byteful Gallery. And if they are, it’ll most likely be because they’ll have documented a moment in the early twenty-first century that is interesting or important to future historians. Then again, I could also be dead wrong.
But how’s that for a thought? Every time you take a photo and put it on the web, it has the potential to be part of a historical archive, perhaps well into the twenty-second century. Since, year after year, storage space continues to increase in dramatic leaps and bounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire web as it exists today (in 2011) will be someday preserved on a crystal that you could hold in the palm of your hand. (And hopefully by then we’ll have decent 3D interfaces so we can more efficiently sift through these vast archives of history.) In fact, it’s pretty likely that something you do today will be accessible for generations to come.
The Currency of Expertise
The point is, you never know what bits of your work are going to be relevant in the future until the future arrives. But even if something you’ve made is preserved… will it be remembered? Will it be notable? Will you have had a true impact? In order to do that, you have to create something of value in the first place.
In my experience, the greatest value we ever create is when we work towards something we actually care about. You can tell when someone’s heart and soul has gone into their work, can’t you? I know I can. Think about the affect that kind of work can have on people. Don’t you want to have the same affect? Sure, the first time you try to do something, it will probably suck, but it’s the trying that makes you better. The number of mistakes made is all that separates a classical pianist from someone who stopped after learning a few chords. The price you pay for expertise is experience. Or, put another way, Experience is the currency of expertise.
The Highest Expression of Who You Are
When was the last time you sat down to create something you really felt strongly about? If it’s been more than 3 months, then what are you waiting for?
Too often, when I talk to people, they tell me how busy their lives are and that they see themselves not having the time to create anything. Perhaps they’re exhausted after a long day at their job, or perhaps they already have too many other commitments. But what if they’d made an even higher commitment than a job contract? What if they committed to become the highest expression of who they could be? How do you think their life might change when they whole-heartedly followed that commitment?
Apply it to yourself. What if you made a commitment to be the highest expression of your true self, and followed it wholeheartedly? How would your life change?
Now, I completely understand that when you’re starting out, things can be on a bumpy road for a while. But what if you’re in your 30s or 40s (or beyond) and you still haven’t made anything you’re proud of? How do you feel about that?
Let’s get to the Nutshell
Let’s get to the nut of the nut. At what point is going to a job, cranking the crank, coming home, watching TV, and hitting “repeat”, not enough?
If you need a reason to do more than the 4 things I listed above, consider this: Your fellow humans need you. Only you are able to create what only you are able to create. You have a unique light, and no one is going to shine it for you. You’ve probably heard this before, but did you really internalize it? Remember, everyone has unique gifts, abilities, and propensities that they were born with. And they exist of a reason.
Even if you’re not entirely sure what your unique gifts are yet, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. If you keep trying different things, you will discover one of your gifts. In my case, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was in college, but somewhere along the way, I realized my love for travel, writing, and design, among other things. Some take longer than others to discover their passions, but all can (and do) in time.
And when you use these gifts, you shine your light. And this is very powerful.
But this can only come out of making a conscious choice. That can be a daily choice of deciding to create just one thing or to do “your thing”, whatever it may be, on a regular basis. Whether it be through photography, dance, song, poetry, prose, drawing, or anything — express yourself. Perhaps 10 minutes a day, or even one hour a week. Whatever works best for you. Just remember, you won’t feel fully alive until you do.
So, what will You be remembered for?
When was the last time you asked yourself, “What will I be remembered for?”
If you skip the opportunity to create your life, you slip into the habit of simply watching life go by. And, what’s worse, you deprive us of your voice and do the entire world a huge disservice.
Yet if you have the courage to create from the deepest places in your heart (and have the courage to share) the world will respond to it like a birdsong on the wind. And in time, it will enchant us and make the world seem that much more alive. Why?
Because you gave yourself fully to it.
In that moment, you will learn more about yourself and feel more connected to the planet than you ever have before.
And there are few things more beautiful than that.