My husband, Bill, texted me this photo this morning, from Scotland.
He took this photo a couple of days ago, when he was showing me the ruins of the home of Robert the Bruce, AKA Turnberry Castle (I really suggest you click on this link as it’s a really interesting story). This structure was probably built in the 1200s. It’s covered in vegetation, and much of it destroyed, but it’s still there – 800 years later!
I have often marveled at, and envied, Bill because of what he does for a living: he manages the design and construction of some pretty impressive hotels and resorts. Sometimes I can’t help but think about the fact that the fruits of his labor are so tangible, and barring a natural disaster or something equally extreme, these structures will be around for a pretty long time. Much of my life the last 14 years, when I drill it down to how I spend my daily moments, do not lead to results as tangible and quantifiable as, say, building a 150-room room hotel. Every time I visit one of Bill’s completed projects, and recall how it looked before he worked his magic, along with his team and contractors, I am amazed at what can be accomplished when you have vision, cooperation, resources, and grit.
While in Scotland, we toured several castles and a cathedral.
Stirling Castle, built around 1100s
Edinburgh Castle, around 1100s
St. Andrew's Cathedral (built in 1158)
Whether it’s European castles, or Aztec pyramids, it’s truly amazing to think of what led to the construction, how it was carried out, how it withstood the elements and history, and the foresight of the people who championed their restoration and/or preservation. In today’s day and age, where everything is about instant gratification, with houses popping up in a week and snapchat being popular in part because, as my daughter pointed out, “texting and email take too long” – I find it refreshing and necessary to visit and learn about where we all came from and who lived before us and what they did. It certainly adds perspective and, I think, is a good reminder of how brief our time on this earth is.
While I was running this morning, I was thinking about all of this and it occurred to me that while we may not all build castles and hotels and houses and other buildings, we are all building something that is going to live beyond our time here. If we are parents, we are building a home – the important part of any house – and we are building adults that will carry out and build upon the foundations and roots we are nurturing. If we are working, whether as a teacher, a medical professional, a plumber, a retail clerk, really any profession – we are building a network. Whether our work is tangible and measurable or not, the lives we are touching every day, no matter how brief our interaction with that person, are part of something that we may not think of as as significant as a castle, but as far as we know, could make all the difference further down the line.
“My mother always told me that as you go through life, no matter what you do, or how you do it, you leave a little footprint, and that’s your legacy.” - Jan Brewer
On my flights to Scotland and back, I watched 3 very good movies: Still Alice (about a woman who is afflicted by early onset Alzheimer’s), American Sniper (about a legendary U.S. sniper who survived 4 tours in Iraq only to be killed, in the U.S., by a soldier he was trying to help with PTSD), and Wild (about a young woman who embarked on a 1,000 mile hike to face and conquer her inner demons). Movies are a powerful way to communicate a story and touch viewers by allowing them a glimpse into someone else’s reality. The people who made these films have built something very important as while watching them, we viewers gain insight into and thus build compassion for, life and struggles associated with Alzheimer’s, combat and PTSD, grief, addiction.
We may not consider ourselves legacy builders. Maybe we think of the meals we cook, the laundry we do, the transactions we complete, as being inconsequential and fleeting. Or maybe we are in a job where we feel overlooked, unappreciated, or our talents are underused. Maybe we are in a phase in our lives, such as adolescence, or young parenting, or injured, or ill, or elderly, where we feel as if we have lost our selves, our identity, our sense of control. The thing is, it might not feel like it right now, but every day we are building something. I went through a crappy time in my life as a parent of young kids, and I remember often thinking, “I got my Masters for THIS??!!” as I surveyed the disastrous kitchen, the screaming toddler, and the other kid I thought didn’t deserve such a useless mother who was riddled by grief over her mom’s premature death and was trying to keep it together in spite of zero local friends and a mostly absent husband. Meanwhile, Bill was building some spectacular hotels (and meeting people like Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Cindy Crawford). Now I look back on that and in hindsight see how the struggles during those years were not only impermanent, but also helped to build my compassion and gratitude. Plus, I got confirmation from Bill that Brad Pitt really IS that hot in person.
What do you want to build today? Long-term? We are all building something, in every Facebook status, the way we choose to spend our time, how we vacation, how we spend our money, what we read, what we eat, what we teach our children to prioritize. The most important part of any building is the foundation, the roots, and in life these roots are the values that are most important to us. So when thinking about what we want to build, what we would like people to remember us by long after we’re gone, let’s start with that. And remember that even the most luxurious resort had a lot of necessary menial drudgework and re-designing and conflict, but when we stick to our priorities, the final result can be amazing.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.