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Rethink Legacy

What if your work is not the thing that outlives you?

Going to school in Los Angeles at a prominent film and art school, most students were trying to become famous in one way or another. The theatre school would pave the way to Broadway, the film school to Hollywood, the engineering school to Silicon Valley, the music school to Carnegie Hall.

The constant name-dropping of alumni practically made it seem like all we had to do was show up and we’d be discovered. It also made it clear that our legacies lie in our work. That just like the actors and directors, entrepreneurs, artists, astronauts, and musicians, we will be remembered for the work we put out in the world.

This deeply-ingrained belief bled into the work habits of my friends and me. Weekends were filled with side projects and directing short films. Everyone was working on two or three things outside of school to build a portfolio that would not only get them in the door but make them famous. Legacy was tied to work. Long after we are gone, we can have an impact on the world by creating a great piece of art or starting a company.

That is the American Dream.
It’s just not an (American) reality for nearly all of us.

In the last three years, I’ve been to several funerals of people that didn’t have a memorable or impactful career. They had a job. It paid their bills and helped them retire. It was not meaningful to them in any significant way nor did it define their identity.

What I’m noticing is that legacy is not about what we will create. It’s instead about what we have been creating over time. It’s consistency of action and displays of character over time. It’s what we choose and how we spend our time. It’s how we treat people and how we manifest our values every day.

We make an impact on the people we interact with every day and every month. We are working on our legacy right now as we read this, looking for ways towards self-improvement.

Instead of thinking about legacy as the next project or the next job or the next company– always chasing the thing that will launch our careers and fame and ultimately legacy– we are building our legacies today in how we make people feel and the way we make them think.

Famous or not, our legacy is held in other people and how they will remember us.

Caveday is a company aimed at improving your relationship to work. We write regular posts on Medium and send out monthly newsletters with productivity tips, life hacks, and recommendations. Sign up for the mailing list here.

Jake Kahana is a cofounder of Caveday. Sign up for his personal emails, called “The Email Refrigerator” here.



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