Is it the successes and triumphs versus the losses, measured in a wins-and-losses format? Is it the total distance traveled past the life obstacles one has overcome? Or is it the amount of people one has connected with and inspired to help them maximize themselves and their potential?
To me, it is a combination of all three. A legacy is a type of personal achievement record, like being “on the record.” It is what we each do with the time given us— how we use or abuse that time and the “God given” gifts and talents we are each bestowed. Birth then becomes our starting line. From then on, each of us is granted the same amount of time in a day: 24 hours.
Prioritizing our lives is done on many levels, both conscientious and some sub-consciously. Early in life, I was consumed with the sole mission of earning a full college basketball scholarship and becoming our family’s first college graduate.
At the time, I was doing it for me and my Mom. Yet even then, I knew that as the oldest grandchild, I was creating a “blueprint” for all my younger relatives to follow to their own personal successes.
This prioritization at a young age was more egocentric. It served me well at the time, but it wasn’t until a low point later in life that I came to understand and embrace my true legacy’s calling. One is often tested in life to see just how committed and focused we are.
When we begin to understand our own mortality, we become more “self-aware” of exactly what we will leave behind as a representation that we were here. My awakening came when I returned home to Virginia in 1997, after a championship-level High School and College basketball career. It came after a record-setting career in the broadcast radio and television equipment manufacturers industry.
The simple questions I asked were: “What brings you the most joy and fulfillment in your life? What do you want your mark on the world to be? What things have you been blessed with and how do you pass these blessings on to future generations that they too may find their “most-positive-purposeful way?”
The answers to these questions were separated into two categories. First, what I had to do to earn a living and support myself and, secondly, what can and should I do that will fill me and my soul with the most joy? We all face this quandary.
During our championship season of coaching in 1989 at Chief Sealth High School in Seattle, Washington, I was able to be a part of helping many young men become champions both on and off the court. The same as someone else had done for me years before by my seven role model coaches.
That success opened up an inner door within me that had been sealed in a self-preservation-driven attempt to move past a painful childhood littered with disappoint-mental debris. Those revelations became my writings and spoken word poetry, a kind of “therapy’ that gave me comfort and purpose.
It became my choice in this life to use my voice. To rejoice. Writing for the New Journal & Guide allowed me to reach a mature, thirty-year-old (and above) audience.
My V1ZUAL1ZE youth development coaching work reached the six to twenty year-old-crowd and the spoken word poetry circles reached the twenty to thirty-year old population with overlapped at both ends of the age ranges. My calling: Delivering three different platforms and formats, enabling simultaneous personal observation, reflection, spiritual detection and empowerment information dissemination.
Each of the three platforms had rough beginnings as I strove to change the focus of my aperture from “about Me,” to “about We.” When I was young, I played with games and toys but as I matured, I gave up those childhood games and I toyed no more. I began addressing and redressing matters of importance that affect all of us: racism, sexism, classism and religious persecution. The more I worked towards those ideals, the more complete I became.
In life, crossroads can become self-imposed crosshairs if we are not careful and thoughtful. Self-awareness is not only being aware of one’s self, it is also becoming aware of manifested selflessness, including the true power to help transform the previously unfathomable and inconceivable into their tangible realities. In these manifestations of our highest calling lies our glory. That is the legacy and history of our life’s story.
My story is not unique. It is an old cautionary tale of not being consumed by consumerism or capitalism strictly for personal profitability and gain.
The song, “Satisfied Mind” asks, “How many times have you heard someone say, if I had his money I’d do things my way. How little they know, it’s so hard to find, one rich man in a hundred, with a satisfied mind.” I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind. My joy comes from those to whom I am kind. My personal conclusion is that my most joyful legacy comes from those to whom I’ve been of service to. That is our rarest find and, in the end, promotes the most satisfied mind. Look at Prince’s song lyric: “Did you take more than you gave?” Our legacy then is not really about us; it is about how many others we’ve helped to become the owners and drivers of their own (life) bus.
Sean C. Bowers is a progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the nation’s third oldest black newspaper, The New Journal and Guide of Norfolk, VA for the last nineteen years. His book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing issues is available at V1ZUAL1ZE@aol.com.