What if what you are working on right now is the most important project or assignment of your career? What if you didn’t know it? The truth is what you are going to do today matters because you are building your legacy.
Peter had proven himself to be the best in the business over the course of his career. He had overseen every important project his company had built for as long as anyone could remember.
As Peter and his team put the final touches on another magnificent home, he informed the President of the company that this would be his last project—he was going to retire. While he had hinted of retirement the President knew Peter had been instrumental in the company’s growth and reputations as the best custom homebuilder in the area.
The timing wasn’t great, but there is never a good time to lose a major contributor. The President pleaded with John to lead one more project. Peter really didn’t want to lead the project but out of respect and appreciation agreed to build one last home.
If you worked on a project John was leading you knew the expectations would be high. Anything short of excellence would be unacceptable. But this time the mood and atmosphere around the project was different.
Peter was present, but he was not engaged. For the first time, he wasn’t examining every delivery of material that came to the job site to assure the quality was nothing short of perfect. He no longer reviewed the daily work assignments and infrequently if ever reviewed the progress and coached his team along the way. In the past, no detail was too small or insignificant. The goal of excellence had been replaced with an urgency to finish.
As the project wound down, it was evident to everyone working on the job this home was acceptable but nothing near the quality they had prided themselves in delivering. It was good enough to pass an inspection, but it did not radiate the love and care Peter was known for pouring into a project.
With his eye on the finish line, he was just happy to be done. When he walked into the President’s office he announced, “It’s done. I know you have more projects but please respect this is the last one for me—no more.” He quickly handed his long-time friend and President the keys and turned for the door.
“Not so fast, Peter.” As Peter stopped and turned around, the President tossed him the keys. “Peter, this one is for you. You have been a great friend and the best leader and superintendent in the business. I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate all you have done to help me build this company and its reputation.”
Peter had no idea he was working on his home. He hadn't thought for a moment that he was building his legacy with this last project. Every day he would look around and see the shortcuts that were taken and the lack of attention to detail evident throughout the home.
What are you building?
We are always working on our own home. Building your legacy takes place one day at a time. Every day we choose what type of home we are building and make a contribution to our legacy. No one else may see it is not our best effort even though the work may certainly be acceptable. But you and I will always know that it wasn’t our best effort.
You build your legacy by maintaining a perspective on the finish line. At the end of the day, will you want the keys to what you built? What if the work you do today becomes the single contribution you will most be remembered for? Maybe the only thing you are remembered for? Thinking about building your legacy raises the stakes!
I know that I don’t always feel like I want or have to put in my best effort. We’d most certainly question anyone who said they did. I need to push my thinking from time to time in order to push beyond routine and allowing good to be good enough.
Building your legacy with one question.
Did I do my best? It is a simple question. No external scoreboard for everyone to gaze upon and evaluate. A one-on-one with yourself. Looking at yourself in the mirror and honestly assessing if you gave today your best effort. It’s the only scorecard that counts.
Today is an amazing gift. How you choose to unwrap it, live it and share it is up to you. And if you do your best at whatever you are called or asked to do today, it will be a great day of building and contribution.
A touch of inspiration. One of the most famous of all Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Street Sweeper" speech. Want a dose of inspiration to make today a great day building your legacy? Check it out!