Leaving Behind A Legacy For The World To Remember

Legacy

by Peer Lawther (Flickr)

If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.
~Bruce Barton

When Steve Jobs spoke about putting a dent in the universe, he wanted to inspire people to do something great. To do things that would change the world around them. And, there are two kinds of people who want such a change. Those who want the world to be better for themselves; and those who want the world to be better for everybody. But, most of the people lie towards the center of this scale. Balancing the selfishness with the selflessness within ourselves. And, in maintaining that balance, we have a choice. To be significant or to contribute beyond ourselves.

Striving to be worthy

It is a natural for people to seek significance. Even though we live in complex social settings (or perhaps, because we do) the need to be seen as unique, as an individual, is present in all of us. It is the reason why everybody wants to be rich or famous, or both. And, it is not individuality unless it is acknowledged by others. This need for recognition manifests itself in our everyday behavior  Have you ever had the experience of someone correcting you when you were speaking in a group, or perhaps done it yourself? In conversations, we always put an emphasis on voicing our opinion and experience. And, the failure to be noticed or acknowledged by others always leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The feeling that we matter less than others does not sit well with us. So, we strive to be worthy.

On the other hand, there are people like Steve Jobs and Seth Godin. When they talk, people listen. When a new Eminem or Shakira video is uploaded to YouTube,  it gets millions of views. When George RR Martin and JK Rowling launch books, people line up outside bookstores to buy them. These people are icons in our society, shining examples of success. We are drawn to them and their uniqueness. They are significance personified. And, I believe there’s a reason for this. These people place an emphasis on contribution over significance. They choose to share and serve. In return, they are acknowledged by others for their contribution. Like us, they started out as regular people. But, unlike us, they chose to fulfill their need for significance by contributing to the world.

Giving your gift to the world

It is a choice that is open to us as well. It might be a simple choice, but it is a tough decision. The simplicity is that all you have to do is be and express yourself. Whether it is through the conventional creative medium of art, music, or poetry. Whether it is through the application of your creativity as an entrepreneur to find and resolve problems that people have. Whether it is by being creative to form superb relationships with different kinds of people, bringing them together, and working as team in an organization. Creativity is an expression of your true self. What you are beneath all the layers of social dogma. It is what your souls is, the one that wants to do good. To contribute, you must make the decision to set your soul free.

A decision though, that is not easy to live with. Freedom is not gained as easily as flicking a switch. Contribution is not easily acknowledged. It is a path full of disappointment, failures, and rejections. Loneliness and fear are constant companions. To seek freedom you will have to defy social norms, put on your wings of wax and fly close to the sun. You will get beaten down, but you have to get back up every time if you want to let your soul fly free. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Expressing your true self, helping others, making their lives better, and doing it because it is its own reward. That is what contribution is. You can choose to be significant in a world full of people trying to do the same. Or, you can choose to make the lives of others significant. The journey begins by wanting to make a dent in the universe. But, it is paved by making a difference one small step at a time. Help someone today by listening to their problems. or surprise someone by sketching their portrait. Give of yourself, as a gift. Do it again tomorrow. And again, the day after that. A few years down the line, when you look back, you will find that you have left behind a legacy. Isn’t that what you truly desire? To leave behind a legacy, of having changed the world for better.
What is the legacy you dream of leaving behind?

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The ‘How to be Unique’, for entrepreneurs and freelancers

A temple in Kyoto dedicated to the God of Sake (Japanese liquor). Visitors can officially enjoy drinking within the premises. How unique is that!

A temple in Kyoto dedicated to the God of Sake (Japanese liquor). Visitors can officially enjoy drinking within the premises. How unique is that!

You are not a beautiful, unique snowflake…This is your life, and it is ending one minute at a time.

~Chuck Palahniuk

When you are trying to get out a message to the world the biggest problem you might have is being unique. Every expert out there advises this as part of their course, blog, or video. It is something that every entrepreneur or freelancer struggles with, and I am no exception. It’s so easy to say, “Be unique and people will come to you!“. In my experience however, it is easier said than done.

Now, I completely agree with the fact that the message you are trying to spread or the business you are trying to build has to be unique. No matter how good your intentions are or how helpful your services will be, it amounts to nothing if people will not buy it or use it. It is like subscribing to a magazine. You don’t go buying every subscription  that comes your way. It’d be pointless to do so. You only buy into whatever interests or benefits you the most. And that’s part of the problem. The world is so vast that there are bound to be other people who are doing the same thing you are, and all of them can be accessed easily by using the internet. So, unless you can offer something really valuable, that no one else is offering, people aren’t going to be interested.

The problem gets compounded when it comes to the self-help or personal development blogs, products, & services. If you are in the industry, you know that there are a few basic principles that are the key to most of the problems people have. Like ‘managing your time’ or ‘taking action‘. Most people may not be practicing it, but, everyone knows it. It’s like solving an algebra equation. No matter how you approach the problem, you are going to end up with the same answer. If you do it differently, just for the sake of it, you end up with the wrong answer. So, how can you be unique when everyone else is doing the same thing?

Like I said earlier, everyone knows this (hence called common sense). I’ll use ‘story’ as a metaphor because I love stories. The metaphor can stand for product, service, business etc., whatever clicks for you. I have found the following characteristics will go a long way in becoming unique.

Be Genuinely Authentic

Just like no two people in the world have the same fingerprint, no two people have the same lives. Even brothers who grew up in the same house & went to the same school end up having different life experiences. When you are being authentic, you tell the story from your point of view. When the fox called the grapes sour was he in France or in Czechoslovakia? Was its fur dark and red, or shiny and orange? Were the grapes black or green? Had the fox turned vegan that he wanted to eat grapes? The essence of the story remains the same. It is up to you to add your unique touch to the story and the message still gets passed along.

Be Courageously Vulnerable

The other part of telling the story to make it unique is being vulnerable. Just like your friendships are strongest with the people who have been through life’s highs & lows with you, your connection with the people will be better if they see you as one of them. If people think you are a know-it-all, preachy sort of person there isn’t going to be much trust. It takes courage to be vulnerable. To have a chance to experience happiness from within, but, also with a chance to get seriously hurt. To give of yourself without any expectation, even when your need in life is great. You expose your true self to the people and let them see you as you truly are. You give them the power to reject you and cause you pain, but you do it nonetheless. You open yourself to a chance to experience true connection with people who relate to your story. It takes courage to be vulnerable, it is the only way people will believe your story.

Be Ruthlessly Specific

So, you can tell the story in your own way, but it still is ‘your‘ point of view. People are only interested in their own point of view. Do you think a guy chugging  pints of Guinness every weekend would be interested in whether the grapes were Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon (OT: I think Aesop was extremely lucky that people were willing to accept that animals showed human behavior). When you genuinely want to help people it is very tempting to be excited at the prospect of helping everybody. But, by doing that you will help no one, including yourself. You have to frame your story in such a way that it makes sense to people. This is where the large mass of humanity, that seems to be a road block in being unique, can work to your advantage. You don’t have to be unique in the whole world, you only have to be unique to a hundred or even ten people to make a difference. TIME magazine has 25 million readers worldwide;  just 0.35 percent of the total population of the world, i.e., only 1 in every 300 people read the most popular magazine on the planet. And, that gets them only $30 per year from one person. How much value will you have by being unique to the tune of one in thousands or millions (I’ll do a separate post on the numbers game)? Remember, a 100 people raving about your story is worth more than a 1000 people who have ‘seen something about it on Facebook’. People will take notice only when your story makes an impact in their lives. The way to make sure that you have an impact is to zero in on a few people who can really understand and benefit from your story.

Be Consistently Persistent

It takes hard work to walk the path we have chosen. It takes determination to stick to it when the going gets tough. And, most of all it takes persistence to go through the process again and again – without the expectation of immediate results. Your ‘story‘ becomes ‘your story‘ only when people start associating the story with you. It takes time to build a reputation. It takes time to be heard and seen. You have to be consistent with your message. You become the best by repeating the same motions time and again, until you are the one who has repeated it most number of times. And, you continue doing it, regardless of having become the best.

Easier said than done, right? I find these traits are better guide to being unique because they define a process to follow. A ‘be unique’ advice is vague and has often makes me feel ‘what the hell does the mean?’ We are all here to to contribute to the social well being, to do good in the world. It is the only way to live, and you know this. Being unique is the key to be heard and make your dent in this world and I hope this post will help you do that. Believe in yourself, seek to help your fellow human beings, and together we will change the world for good.