What does it mean to leave a legacy, what do you have to do? I never gave this much thought when I decided to become an Entrepreneur and Professional Speaker. I wanted to make a difference, and I think most people want to know their life mattered. But what does it truly mean to leave a legacy? Leaving a legacy doesn’t have to be that grand unless you want it to be, and it can happen unintentionally.
Legacies can be left in many different ways, your name on a building, ok that’s cool but is that really rewarding? How does that impact others? How about a scholarship in your name? Is that a great way to leave your mark? How about leaving money to a charity, or perhaps sharing your journey and life lessons in a book? A legacy can simply be how we impact the lives of those whom we cross paths with every day. It can be a smile, a good deed, and definitely your words.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” To me, a legacy also contributes to the present lives of those you touch and it can live on in their words, deeds, and passed to their children.
I decided to share my story, my big idea, through a TEDx talk “Healing Sexual Abuse Can Start with One Word.” I didn’t think about “legacy” at the time. I never understood what leaving a legacy meant, I simply thought it had to be some big grandiose event or to leave a substantial amount of money to benefit an organization. I just wanted to share my story and idea and hoped it would inspire others.
I gave my talk in November 2017. There was a lot of preparation, research, writing, and editing. I am a Speaking Coach but so glad that I hired a TEDx coach. Finally, twenty-one drafts later it was time to practice. Three days before the event I was losing my voice and I found myself walking into a medical clinic with a fever, congestion, and sore throat. I begged them to do whatever they could to help save my voice and make me feel better. I was handed a prescription of antibiotics and the day of the event with a fever slightly higher than 100 degrees, my voice not fully recovered but I kept going.
I was being propelled forward by a force I couldn’t put a name too; it was almost robotic, something was driving me, I couldn’t give up, as they say, “the show must go on”. I worked too hard to give this talk, it was my life’s story, and deep down I hoped it would help someone. I couldn’t let a fever stop me. I wasn’t intentionally thinking of leaving a legacy or the impact it might have, but that all changed when I started receiving “Thank You” notes from survivors. Men and Women from all over the world sent notes, and the notes are still coming in weekly through Twitter, Facebook, my own website and on YouTube.
Just a few of the thank you notes; “thank you, you spoke for all of us,” “thank you, you made me feel that I have a chance,” ‘thank you, it’s good to know I’m not alone.” The latest note said, “thank you for paving the way to my healing, your TEDx talk was the main reason I made the decision to begin my journey.”
These messages have fueled my courage to continue speaking out as an advocate for survivors. The #Metoo movement that gained momentum in 2018 with the Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and the Ford – Kavanaugh hearings, moved me to create the hashtag #maketellingsafe.
I suppose that is my unintentional legacy, and I am humbled and grateful that it is. Not long ago I spoke at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center for their annual fund-raising luncheon. I was deeply touched by their gratitude of thanks; Your speech “Yes You Can Be a Hero” is exactly what we wanted, to date the most donations we have ever received, and the feedback is that it was “the best luncheon many had ever attended.” I am glad that my words made a difference. The attendees’ may not be fully aware that their donations are part of their legacy by helping victims heal from their trauma. That’s a great legacy to leave, helping others heal so that they can live a happy, healthy, productive life.
We can leave our name on a building or we can anonymously or not leave our mark with our money, words, companies or deeds. You get to decide! If you really want to make a difference perhaps, we should be more intentional in how we leave our legacy, because you just never know how you can and will impact others.
Rena Romano is an Author, Member of the National Speakers Association, a veteran of the TEDx stage, and was a featured guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”
To View TEDx Talk on YouTube: bit.ly/RenaTEDx