As fathers, one of our deepest-rooted desires is for our children to receive our legacy and continue on through life building on what we’ve earned and, more importantly, what we’ve learned. We love to see them exhibit the values that we’ve instilled in them. We watch as they go forward in life using those values to honor themselves and those who came before them while carrying on family businesses, tradition or whatever you consider your legacy. For those that consider this a priority, it is difficult to know how to encourage your kids to take up that mantle. After all, the pace of modern life is always accelerating and the way new generations prioritize their lives is constantly changing. Is it possible to make your children carry on that responsibility?
The answer is no. You can’t make your children believe in the power and beauty of your dream. That doesn’t mean that they won’t. It just means that you can’t predict how your children will view your vision of what you’ve built. Many parents have dreamed that their children would take up their life’s work, only to be devastated when it didn’t happen. Be realistic. There is no guarantee that anyone in your family will step up. This also doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. The question you should ask is, “Why should my children carry on my legacy?”
What is your legacy?
Until you can describe what your legacy is, you can’t show your children what it is that you want them to carry on. Often, a legacy can be described as the results of a life’s work combined with the values that underpinned that effort. For example, a legacy could be a powerful business and its core values. However, not everyone can physically touch their legacy. A life spent in the service of a great cause as a worker rather than a leader can is only seen through the lives that that service touched. Know what your legacy is, and you can show why you believe that it is so important.
And that is why someone would carry on your legacy. They see your passion and accept that, yes, it is important to carry this on for future generations. To infuse your kids with a love for the work you’ve done, they have to repeatedly see how much you believe in what you are doing. You must show them your passion for what you consider your legacy. Maybe you’ve built a world-class business from humble beginnings. Perhaps you practice philanthropy as a vocation while working at something else during the day. No matter what it is, if your children believe in such a thing as a legacy, you will need to be the best example you possibly can if you hope to have one or more of them take up the task.
During your kids’ teen years, it is entirely possible that you will get the cold shoulder. This is not the time to get your feelings hurt. This is an opportunity to show by example how you handle adversity. You need to demonstrate the values that underpin that work early and often. It’s the way a person carries themselves that ultimately engenders respect and it is that respect that can sow the seed that grows into the desire to carry your work forward.
But what if your children decide that they have their own story to write. Does that mean that all hope is lost that your work will be carried on? Not at all. We are all familiar with accounts of great traditions being passed down to younger disciples or colleagues. If you are firm in your conviction to pass your legacy to one who understands how important your work is, don’t limit yourself. By far the most important qualification for receiving the fruits of your labor is understanding and empathy to what you hold important and an enthusiasm to receive your gift. If you’ve led a life that makes you proud, your family will have reaped the benefits even if they don’t decide to carry your legacy forward.