So things have settled down after several days of social media commiseration over the passing of Steve Jobs. When he stepped down at Apple I knew he wasn’t well, but I didn’t expect him to lose his life this quickly. All in all, however you assess Jobs in hindsight, it is obvious from the outpouring online that he affected many people just being the person he was. As Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, he was living his personal legend...realizing his full potential in his life.
Mourning Jobs’ death reminds me of so many other very public deaths in my lifetime: Unitas, Shakur, John Paul II, Cobain, McAuliffe, Lennon, Piaget, Picasso, De Gaulle, King, RFK, Disney, Churchill, JFK. They come from all walks of life. And no matter the field in which they made their contribution, society stops to mark the moment and take account of a life that made a difference.
For me personally, public deaths are a different animal than our private, personal loss of loved ones. In my personal life, there are people who have affected me and changed me much more than any popular figure ever could. But personal loss lacks the dynamic of global grieving. What both have in common is the legacy left behind.
In each case, the true legacy of the person is how their personal legend impacts our lives moving forward. Kennedy’s vision for civil rights and space exploration. Lennon’s use of language in redefining how we think about ourselves and our values. Piaget’s observation of human cognitive development throughout childhood and its impact on education since. Their impact is felt long after their presence among us is gone.
Legacy is not a passive acceptance of what was…but a carrying on of what still is. It is John Paul IIs humanness in reaching out to people everywhere. It is Picasso’s interpretation of the world in unique, unaniticpated portrayals. It is King’s willingness to accept all the ramifications for speaking out for what is right. And for Jobs it is not accepting the status quo and pushing for innovation even when the technology to do so was not yet readily evident.
Regardless of the example, my point I this: if you want to honor the life, public or private, of someone who has passed on from this world, honor their personal legend by pursuing your own. None of the people who have gone before us were of super strength or magical ability. They were human beings just like us; no more, no less. Thy simply found and fulfilled their personal legend. You have every opportunity to realize yours, and in the process make the world a better place.
This is what makes life precious; the quick passing of time…and with it the diminishing chances for us to leave a mark on this world. In the final analysis, the legacy of each person is our optimal use of the time we have to make a difference. It is the opportunity afforded to us as we awaken every day to fulifll our personal legends.
Want to honor the passing of a great life? Do so by how you choose to live your own. Take risks. Push thinking. Make a difference. Find your own personal legend. Because when you do, the universe will conspire with you to realize your dreams. One day, perhaps sooner than you anticipate, those who know you will take stock of your life…how you have made a difference for others…for the greater good. Don’t cry too long for the loss of others...channel that immediate emotion into renewed conviction to make your own life worth honoring.
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