Live Longpath: On the Legacies We Build
When my wife and I take our children out to dinner, we’re often exhausted from work and desperately hoping for a semi-peaceful meal. With three children, this isn’t typically our reality. We sit down to chatter, giggles, sometimes fights. The intuitive way to solve this problem is by giving our children a phone and letting them play Angry Birds. That is an immediate and best case solution. Or is it? It solves today...but at what cost tomorrow?
What I’ve realized is that every decision I make in my interactions with my children, no matter how seemingly small, will ripple forward for generations. It will shape the way my children interact with their children, and their children with the next generation. So pulling an iPhone out and letting them play Angry Birds might seem like a solution for peace and quiet — but deciding to put away the phones and engage in dinner table conversation is a choice that might shape the sort of love, care, and attention that my great-great-grandchildren receive.
From the classic philosophers to today’s self-help section of the bookstore, we are trained to think about decisions and challenges within the timeframe of our own singular lifespan. Today’s wicked problems – from climate change down to the level of personal fulfillment — demand a transgenerational lens. We begin to solve major problems when we see ourselves connected not to just those around us but also to those who have come before us and will come after us. Too often we say that we’ll leave a legacy at the end of our lives, when in reality a legacy is something we build each day, with every action we take.