Melissa and Siria discuss the importance of legacy building. We cover emotional and social legacies and how long term thinking can help you live into your values on a daily basis. Siria shares how the book The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric impacted her recently in her thinking of legacy building.
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How Social And Emotional Legacy Building Will Make You A Better Human
Siria, what would you like future generations to say about you?
Hopefully, nice things, and there will be future generations to say nice things about humanity.
The reason why I ask that question is that we are going to be focusing on legacy, legacy building. Talk about how this topic came up for you.
There are a couple of things. The first thing that happened was my therapist told me I was in an existential crisis and was like, “Why don’t you go play in philosophy?” I was like, “Can you recommend a philosopher?” She’s like, “No. Go and read on philosophies. See what interests you.” I was like, “That sounds interesting.” In this world of philosophy, I stumbled on a book that I finished reading, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long-Term in a Short-Term World by Roman Krznaric. He’s a British author and philosopher.
He basically talks about what we need to do now is be thinking about the long-term and that many generations before us were thinking long-term but that there has been something that happened after the Industrial Revolution that caused humanity, its leaders and everybody involved in the process of capitalism to start thinking short-term and only thinking past what’s going to get me elected again.
You often hear too like, “Live in the present.” It almost is like a lot of wellness things are discouraging you from thinking big term because they want you to live in the moment.
It is one of those things where you do want to live in the moment but also be thinking about how your actions are going to impact future generations. I thought that it would be an interesting topic for us to cover because we are both not having children. Is there something there when do I have to think about future generations? It’s like, “Fuck you, guys. I don’t care.”
“Fuck your crotch, goblins.” I’m kidding. Especially for people that don’t have children, you do think about legacy and, “Who will remember me when I’m gone.” Not to say that people with children don’t think about that but the fact that your biological material will continue to live on after you are gone. Legacy, in terms of how we view and talk about it, differs greatly between people that have children and those that don’t. I don’t think one is better than the other but it’s almost like a human contemplation that everybody thinks about at some point in their life.
I would certainly hope so. Part of what was enlightening about this book is that, frankly, it doesn’t matter whether or not our children’s children are. I can think of one of my nieces and think of them as a 90-year-old woman. What kind of world do I want them to have when they are 90 years old? Taking that long-term view of the actions that I’m taking now and how they are going to impact my loved ones. Some of you readers have little babies that I love so much. What kind of world do I want them to be in? I’m a part of that. Just because I’ve chosen not to have children doesn’t mean that I’m not part of that whole cycle of what’s going to be in the future.
What an interesting concept because when I think of legacy, I think about what about me. What about me will I be living on after I’m gone? I haven’t thought about it in the context of, “What world am I leaving behind for my nibblings?” My nieces and nephews are produced by my siblings, in case you are new here. I hadn’t thought about it from that lens before.
That’s what was so nice about this book. He talks about a bunch of different ways to start doing that long-term thinking. One of the things that he thought that he explained, which I didn’t know about before, was that in Native American cultures, leadership is charged with thinking seven generations out. Any decision-making that they are making has to go with, “How is this going to impact seven generations out.”
That’s a long time. That’s future planning. If you think about it, a lot of the infrastructure that we have now, the ancient Roman aqueducts that you saw, all of those systems, all of them have to be long-term planned items that are not necessarily going to be fully executed in your lifetime. That’s the essence of what this book is. What projects or ideas can we come up with and participate in to push forward humanity while also knowing this isn’t going to be done in my lifetime?
It’s weird, though, because it almost sounds like you are living for others but I want to make sure that if I’m living, it’s living for myself. How do you balance living for yourself as well as living for others that will be here after you’re gone?
That’s the balancing act of what it is that you want to be known for. Have you had some time to reflect on what legacy you want to leave? What have you come up with?
We touched on this topic a little bit when we did my infertility episode, where I grappled with what is my identity now and what legacy I will leave behind. I found comfort in the fact that my legacy will be with my nibblings. However, that has evolved since then. I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn trying to propose this job, and he said, “I think you would be a great fit.”
I want to preface this, it paid very well but I learned a little bit more about the company, and the values didn’t align with who I was. I realized at that moment that money wasn’t going to do it for me. It was the fact that I wanted to work for a company that valued people and amplified the voices of marginalized communities. That’s where I feel like I am operating within my purpose. That’s when I’m most alive.
I’m thinking, “This is something that I would like to do in the future,” but even the company that I’m currently working for, the Center for Appreciative Inquiry, is all about using this methodology that helps invite voices, brings different voices to the table to help amplify them. I’m like, “I’m already living into my purpose,” and I’m hoping that through that this legacy of building community, building inclusivity, that to me is the legacy I want to leave behind. That legacy will help future generations down the road. What about you?
Before we moved on to me, I loved what you were saying there with that building and the fact that you are doing it now. Even though it’s something you are saying, “I want to be in the present,” you are in the present but you are also thinking about that long-term impact. That’s part of why you do the training that you do and why your company is reaching out to other people. Every single quarter, there’s a scholarship that’s given to a person from a marginalized community to become a facilitator and be able to teach these things. All of that is in alignment with those goals, which is awesome. I wanted to reflect that back to you.
That’s a result of you, suggesting this topic, and it had me reflect. Thank you for that. What about you?
For me, it has been with this idea of seven-generation thinking but these long-term projects and getting out of, “I want to accomplish this one little item. I want to do this in the next six months.” Those projects are nice but I’m thinking about what I can get involved in that has a long-term impact. Part of the freedom that gives you is knowing this isn’t going to be done in my lifetime. It requires groups. It requires more people to be involved, and then that also gives you permission to do your part of It.
You brought up a great point because a lot of the things and ideals that we hold valuable to us will not be lived out in our lifetime. I will talk with my grandmother about women’s rights, and she’s like, “The things that I marched for, I know that I’m not going to see in my lifetime but I do hope that it will come to fruition in your lifetime.” Knowing that it’s not going to be maybe realized in your lifetime, how do you stay motivated? Isn’t that deflating a little bit?
It could be. Part of what it is is that you are tapping into identity. I don’t want to say identity politics because that’s not the right term but it’s finding a cause that is part of your identity because when you adopt it, it makes it easy for you to continue to do it. That’s the best motivation that you have. We’ve talked about habits and form forming these different types of habits. An identity habit is going to be to your core.
If you are finding a cause that is aligned with and is part of your identity, it’s going to be very easy for you to do the things that are in alignment with that. We are talking about causes and different projects that you can be involved in. It is a large world. There are lots of different things that are out there. I think one of the risks of this topic is overwhelming. Feeling like there are so many things like, “How do I pick one thing? How do I do all the things that I want to do?”
I want to work on women’s issues. I want to empower them and educate them but I also want to fight the abortion stuff that’s going on. At the same time, I want to eat healthily and reduce my carbon footprint but I want to travel. It’s so much that people get overwhelmed. My main suggestion is to pick a cause. Start somewhere for yourself. For me, it’s easy and simple. I don’t like using plastic straws. It’s a simple item where I want to reduce those amounts because I want to help the sea turtles. It’s totally my little altruistic thing.
Once I got behind it, I no longer cared about being embarrassed, like, “Let me pull out my reusable straw when I’m at a restaurant. I don’t care. This is part of me living into that value of having it.” If I don’t have a straw, I generally don’t ask for it. That’s a very small act but it’s a small, consistent act that I can do because it aligns with who I want to be. It also has a long-term impact because I’m helping the environment. Am I picking up trash at the beach? No. If I lived at the beach, maybe I would. I don’t know. I’m finding things that are in alignment with how I want to live and be better about how I’m using things in my environment.
Legacy, when you are looking at it through that lens, it helps you to focus on the big picture. Looking at these like micro-actions that you are doing, it’s like, “Will this action or this decision I’m making, does it impact or influence my overall goal? Does this align with the legacy that I want to leave behind?” It’s funny because when I talked about this job opportunity, I had friends that were like, “Do it. Sell out. It doesn’t matter. Look at how much money you are going to be making.”
There was something that I couldn’t identify as to why I was so hesitant to even submit my application for this position, and it was because I wasn’t living into my values. That alone, once I came to that realization, I was like, “That is the legacy. The legacy I want to leave behind is empowering marginalized communities through meaningful dialogue. I’m already living that.”
Having taken this position, it would’ve gone against it. There are little things that you can do. There are different jobs I’ve taken or not taken because they aren’t in alignment. That also impacts my relationships. Am I being the friend, the sister, the daughter that I want to be? Am I inviting those conversations in and everything like that? I look at little things like that to see if I’m in alignment. Having a legacy, it’s that broader stroke and then doing things to make sure that you are living it out.
It’s funny because you are saying it’s a little thing. Having meaningful conversations but how many people are starved for a meaningful conversation? You don’t even know what impact that conversation is going to have on somebody’s long-term planning or how they see themselves and view themselves. I don’t think they are minor things but it is something that you can do that feels manageable.
You have control over whether or not you are having a meaningful conversation with people in marginalized communities. If you are amplifying those voices, those are things that you can do. As opposed to, “I have to have this big audacious goal of impacting 10 million people and raising up 10 million people’s voices.” Those things feel big and overwhelming, and there are certainly people out there who I know have the ability to do that.
We’ve had a couple of those guests on the show. That’s big, and that feels like a lot of pressure. What I’m inviting our audience to do is think about the smaller things that you can incorporate in your life that you can get behind that aren’t going to feel like, “I have to take on the whole world,” because you don’t. Prior generations who built the roads for us and interconnected all of the interstate highways for us, was a gift that they gave us. The gift of us being able to freely move between states. It is a huge ass country. They gave us that. What are the types of gifts that we have going forward? I can tell you that for our politicians, and if we have any local politicians reading this, I want to know what your long-term plan is.Think about the smaller things you can actually incorporate in your life that you can get behind. Click To Tweet
I want to know what your long-term plan is beyond your reelection or beyond you not being able to run for that seat anymore. What is the bigger impact? Some people talk about like the 2030 agenda, and Anna, if you are reading this, I’m thinking of you now. I Love you. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, though. I don’t think the 2030 agenda of getting people onboard with resources or other things are necessarily bad.
It’s something that is that long-term planning that we are getting closer and closer to seeing the closer we get to that year. I do think that at the end of the day, we have to come together not only as US citizens but as citizens of the world and as citizens of humanity in how we are moving forward to be able to give gifts to our future race.At the end of the day, we have to come together, not only as US citizens but as citizens of the world, in how we are moving forward to really be able to give gifts to our future race. Click To Tweet
As you were talking, what surfaced for me when you were talking about short-term versus long-term planning, and again, I’m going to stick with your politics because that was the example you gave but when we are looking at short-term, it’s legislation that I feel is almost reactive. It’s to put a Band-Aid on something that’s currently surfacing. What I like about what you are saying is like, “You are doing stuff that basically puts Band-Aids on these wounds but what is the long-term vision?” Not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t be passing quick legislation now, but what is your vision for the future, and how might you maybe start to help build legislation community around these ideas that you would like to see, like you said, for future generations?
While we are in politics, we both love hiking and going out to these national parks. Those were gifts from prior generations and presidents who said, “We are going to carve out these parts of this beautiful country and protect them.” All of the encroachments onto these lands are taking away from that gift. We want to make sure that people have a chance to see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone and that they have the opportunity to experience what it is to be human.
For me, that’s why I’m a little bit more focused on the environmental in my personal life. Being human means that we are part of nature. We have removed ourselves from nature in a lot of ways. We’ve set up structures, and we have protections but we spend eight hours in an office. We spend time driving. We don’t spend time in and of nature, which is part of what makes it hard sometimes for us to connect and realize that we are part of an ecosystem, not that we are above it all.
What we have been speaking about so far is the social legacy. I also spend a lot of time thinking about the emotional legacy I want to leave behind. When people hear my name or they recall stories of me, what emotions are evoked? That’s also very important to me. Not to say that social issues aren’t like women’s rights and environmental issues.
Before we even recorded this, we had a lengthy conversation about natural resources and the depletion and all this stuff. Different topic, different day. I want to be remembered. I wanted to feel or leave this life like I’d meant something to someone. We don’t have kids, so I almost feel like that’s amplified for me. I don’t know if you’ve ever given any thought to the emotional legacy you wanted to leave behind.
I always know it’s very important how you make people feel. If you make people feel like shit, you are probably an awful person but being concerned about that impact for me, I know there will be people at my funeral. I hope there are. One of the things is that because you never know what you say, how it’s going to impact someone, I’m going to err on the side of positivity. I’m going to err on the side of giving you a compliment. I’m going to err on the side of trying to make your day.
Before I got here, we were going to a baby shower for one of our friends, and I was at the Dollar Store, and the cashier was hustling. He was hustling and calling for backup. Nobody is showing up and doing anything. I thought to myself, “What could I do now that would be a moment of kindness?” I looked at him for a little bit, and he had on this beautiful blue necklace with the Eye of Ra on it. I complimented him on it. I was like, “I love your necklace.” He’s like, “Thank you so much. My daughter just bought it for me.”
His energy shifted from this anxiety. I could feel him slow down a little bit and be excited to be noticed. The next cashiers hadn’t come over or anything else. I want to do more of those things in my every day because you don’t know how far that can go. That’s more of I’m thinking of the emotional legacy. I want that to be every day where I’m trying to find the good, and it’s very easy to find the bad.
It is so easy to find the bad. We have our negativity biases. We are wired for that because, again, we are animals who experience that fight or flight. We have to be on the lookout. When you see something scattering across your yard, you are like, “Is that one of Melissa’s outside pets or resident mice?” You are like, “It’s a little lizard.” We are constantly aware because that’s how we are. That’s the easy stuff. Intentionally being nice even when you are in a bad mood or trying to find something good, I feel like those are the harder things, and that’s where I want to lean into in terms of my emotional impact on others.
I do that. When I’m at grocery stores or anywhere where a person is providing a service to me, and I see their name on their name tag, I always try to address them by their first name. I feel like that’s often overlooked or not done. I also look at my family. I don’t know if it’s technology or something that’s permeated but I feel like even the nibblings aren’t as close as I was with my cousins and stuff like that.
I am very close with my family. I do want to give the gift of time. I want to jot down family stories or recipes. As we get older, the value of stories or the narrative behind who we are as people, where did I come from, how was your relationship with your aunt, whatever it was, I feel like those become more important. Even sitting down and having those conversations are important to me. By doing stuff like that, it feels that an emotional thing for me, that emotional legacy.
I could see that. What I love about that is that you are talking about this maturity level. At some point, we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about how we would like those recipes or to know some of these stories. I would love to know more about my dad’s side of the family. I have been toying around with the idea of possibly going to Nicaragua out of this curiosity. It’s something that every person at some point goes through or has the potential to do.
It’s definitely something that has been talked about a lot in the philosophy that I have been reading of. Who are we? Where do we fit into the universe? Where do we fit into this grand scheme of whatever it is? I don’t know. This idea of getting to know yourself through the lens of your family, what has happened, and all of those stories is so important. You are right. It is a way of building a legacy. Now we also have the ability to preserve all of this stuff. When I am sad, old, and alone because everybody’s gone, I will be able to read this. I will be able to listen to Melissa’s voice. I will be able to pull up a voicemail.
Why do you assume that I’m going to die before you do?
I’m saying I’m going to be alone and sad. All of us are going to have that ability to see videos, to see fun things and to know that those things are also a part of our legacy.When your physical life ends, how do you want to be remembered, and what do you hope people will say about you? Click To Tweet
For our readers, that might feel overwhelming. You are talking about finding your purpose and living into that and this legacy, social legacy, and emotional legacy. I don’t even know where to begin. You know your girl came with some reflective questions for you to consider. Journal about that. Touch on both the social and the emotional legacies. The first two are for emotional legacies. When your physical life ends, how do you want to be remembered, and what do you hope people will say about you?
Let me add on this the emotional one. You can also do this by writing your own eulogy.
We have a friend that did that. When we are talking about the social legacy, what lasting impact do you want to have made on the world? Whether it’s through your work, your accomplishments, your relationships or something else. The second one is, what things are you doing or working towards now that are helping you shape the legacy you want to leave?
- The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long-Term in a Short-Term World
- Infertility episode – Past episode
- Center for Appreciative Inquiry