Legacy Oriented Work

Lifestyle By Feb 29, 2024 2 Comments

When work evolves into something more than a task or a job and starts to transform one’s way of life, it becomes oriented towards building a legacy. This legacy is the trail charted out through the continuous exploration and extension of limits and strengths. It’s an effortful struggle through which we repeatedly surpass the version of the person we currently are and unlock the next version. In a recent conversation with my good friend Oana, we explored this subject and here are some key takeaways that stayed with me.

Approaching work with this attitude facilitates the cultivation of excellence and pushes you to go beyond who you currently are. The work becomes a practice. You start to appreciate the places where the work aligns with your values and beliefs. This then drives you to choose the type of work you want always to be doing because now you know how to apply your skills and abilities in an optimum way. It’s a privilege that we earn. It becomes a skill cultivation practice where we give our gifts and receive the gift of continuous improvement. This improvement starts to change who we are.

As we start to change, those around us will see it. Our family and friends start to notice how we carry ourselves. The legacy starts to show in the mundane and impacts those around us. This also impacts our time management and, consequently, our day. Life happens in the mundane, and the day is our place of action. All of our work has to happen within the day. So, we find that we have to clean up the day and fit in all the aspects of our work that we want to be there.

This curation of the day requires us to pay attention and exercise intentionality. One of the reasons why attention has to be “paid” is because it’s an effortful activity, another kind of work. We have to make a choice and be intentional about it. Choice-making usually boils down to consequence selection. There are no consequence-free choices. The consequences we choose then inform us of what to expect as we participate in doing this kind of work. However, juggling all the details can be overwhelming at times.

To manage this “overwhelm-ment” side-effect, we must remember that we have the power and choice to handle it. Of course, there will be challenges, but we can overcome these challenges. Intentionality clarifies what the priorities are and guides us to manage wastage. We must look closely at the available options and identify the opportunities before us. However, we have to make sacrifices with every opportunity because we cannot have it all.

It is always a big challenge dealing with the fact of finitude. We are finite entities, and this means that our finitude gives us the limits of our capability. However, our dynamic nature allows for us to change what we are, into what we want to become. The challenge we face is that we must apply this change while still being who we are. To navigate this, we have to be aware of our strengths, weaknesses and the limits of our capacities. Through this work, we experience our own transformation, something we wish for everyone around us. So, we are inspired to continue along that path, and all the while, it feels as though we are possessed by the spirit of transformation that wants us to spread it. And when we do that through our work, we start to build out that legacy.

The legacy we build has a theme to it. It’s a way of being that we embody while doing this work. As we participate in it, we learn to gift that way of being to others. We all have our gifts. When we cultivate the way that allows us to gift our selves to others, that way becomes our legacy. A good example is Jesus of Nazareth. When he started his mission, he went to the communities of people cast out of the city. These outcasts at the time failed to meet the “normal” requirement expected of citizens. Jesus’ approach was to go and commune with them. He lived with them and, in the process, applied his way of doing life to their current life context at the time. In so doing, he was able to demonstrate different approaches that they had never considered before. And when they tried those approaches, their life worked better and improved. Though giving the gift of himself (his person, the person he was), Jesus built this legacy that eventually turned into a religious movement still alive today. The same tactics can be applied by us if we can identify our gifts and share them.

Our gifts are to be identified in our capabilities. They are in those things that we do excellently every day. We must take what we have and develop it to a high standard through daily practice. This requires us to create that space of practice and protect it. We had touched on this earlier as managing the day. If we do this, we allow ourselves to explore the horizons of these capabilities. It’s at those horizons that we can transform them. Research in epigenetics shows that every time we transform our own capabilities, we also transform our biology. The way our body decodes our DNA changes. New neuropathways are built, and new genes get switched on. So, we literally change ourselves as we do this. However, it is still a daunting task, and there will be fear. The trick is to find a way to use the fear to drive you towards your objective.

The fear doesn’t go away; we learn to work with it. Fear indicates that you care about what you are doing and that there’s a real risk and a cost to you if you are unsuccessful. It’s not visible from the outside, but on the inside, all that could go wrong is alive for you, and mistakes have a meaningful impact. By leaning on our “language of experience” and knowing how to read the mystery unfolding right before us in action, we can tell what belongs to the work at hand and what doesn’t belong.

One of the things we get afraid of is failure. However, failure is also the best teacher and is always part of the journey towards success. Finding the courage to continue doing the work and learning from the mistakes is in itself a triumph. Failure shows us where the limits of our capabilities are and the strengths we need to cultivate. As we face these fears and work through them, we develop more strengths and become resilient. This all adds to our way and legacy and influences our future success.

At the end of the day, our work is in everything we do. Through our work, we give of ourselves. The way we show up while doing this work is representative of our legacy. We have the ability to cultivate and shape that legacy by showing up authentically and giving our best selves every time we show up. We all have the strength to overcome obstacles if we apply intentionality and respect our strengths and weaknesses.

Watch the conversation that inspired the post

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Phillip Shinn

Wonderful interview and article! Love the emphasis on transformation, change, and courage. Indeed, we have the power to face and potentially overcome certain obstacles while maintaining an appreciation for obstacles as such. Fear as an indication of care, care as an indication of being human, maybe? Either way, best of luck with your legacy!

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