I came across the story of Le Sagrada Familia twice in the last two months and it has thoroughly fascinated me. You can listen to it in detail here Real Engineering, the world’s oldest construction project, or if the engineering speak goes past you, try the podcast on 99 Percent Invisible.
In a nutshell, La Sagrada Familia is a gothic church in Spain that has been under construction for the last 137 years, probably more at this point. The architect, Antonio Gaudi, died almost 100 hundred years ago, his original designs were destroyed and recreated, the intended materials have run out in the world and been substituted with whatever could be found that was close enough. So many plot twists in this story. The initial architect on the project quit after one year but Gaudi took it on with fervor, going at it so hard that his investment in the project had him neglect his personal care. So much so that he died because he was physically unrecognizable. From the engineering clip, you will see how he actually used some revolutionary thinking in his construction that has inspired architecture as a field. The church has been worked on by generations of his students and surprisingly has even caught up with technology.
Imagine your project in 15 years, then 20. Get as wild as your imagination can take you! Will it outlast you?
Imagine that. Take what you are working on now. Envision it in the next 5 years. I know, COVID has created a distrust of planning but indulge me a little. Imagine your project in 15 years, then 20. Get as wild as your imagination can take you! Will it outlast you? I have been thinking about my legacy of late. I never had an answer to the tombstone question and it made me feel confused about my vision. I doubt Gaudi would have had an answer to it either. He probably did have a design for his tombstone, artists you know.
So if I don’t know what I want to be written on my tombstone, then what am I living for? I do know that I want to be remembered. I want that in every place I have worked, I can go back and find that something I started or an idea I planted made the wheel move smoother or maybe someone worked better or just found new meaning in life. I don’t want to be the best. There is always someone better no matter what you tell yourself. You are only the best at what you can bring to the table.
When it was time to leave, I was moved when she told me that I made it bearable for her. I told her to make sure she does the same for someone else.
In high school, one of my roommates became a prefect and had a hard time dealing with bullying. Yes, in my high school we bullied the prefects, resisting authority and all that. She cried herself to sleep so many nights and some of the bullying came from a few of my roommates. I used to get really annoyed because she was our friend before she became this symbol of the war against teenage rebellion. I purposed to be nice to her because of that friendship. She was a good person, before and even after. There is another peek at my sense of justice. When it was time to leave, I was moved when she told me that I made it bearable for her. I told her to make sure she does the same for someone else. Too many of us get stuck in repaying bad deeds and forget that good deeds neutralize hate. And it makes you feel good too.
Of course, it’s is not that simple in the big bad world. It’s a rat race to finish on top. Of what though? You cross your team, lie, cheat, and steal to get a higher salary, a coveted rank, the most expensive product, and then what. Or you keep your head down and work hard but the shrewd still go farther than you. It’s a tough balance. I believe that it’s not just what you do that builds your legacy but who you are at the core does a bigger job of leaving a lasting impression. If you are the greatest athlete in the world and have no personality, history will forget you sooner. The artist and public figures we follow diligently or inspire to imitate are not great because they did a particular thing well. We love them for what they believed in and made us believe in too, they connect with us despite the fact that they don’t even know we exist. Your legacy, and it ties to impactful leadership, is not about what you did for yourself but indeed what you do for the people around you.
In marketing, we say that these last few years have seen the lowest levels of brand loyalty. No matter how long you have been in the game, if I don’t connect with you, I will not purchase you.
The other day in a webinar, the speaker illustrated the importance of customer relationships. He contrasted Hertz Car rental, the world’s largest car rental company in operation for the last 100 years that just filed for bankruptcy. A 100-year legacy that will be forgotten in the next five years. They played what Simon Sinek calls the finite game- their USP was that they were the best. Versus Uber which is now the biggest ride-hailing app in the world- it’s young, is with the times and makes it all about getting you where you need to go. In marketing, we say that these last few years have seen the lowest levels of brand loyalty. No matter how long you have been in the game, if I don’t connect with you, I will not purchase you.
We seem to want more from the things we consume than we give of ourselves to the causes around us. You don’t have to be the founder of a company to leave a legacy. You don’t have to have a title to make an impact. While we are on that, I’m starting Robin Sharma’s The Leader Who Had No Title again. I abandoned it halfway and it has been on my conscience for a while. The one challenge I picked from it was that every day, I must do something better than I did it the day before. COVID has not made it easier but the will to not be complacent is stronger. So, regardless of where you are sitting right now, ask yourself if you have a legacy to leave behind.