Years ago I was on holiday in New Orleans. My husband and I went to a local joint for dinner and libations and the couple that ran the bar/restaurant burned an indelible imprint on my brain. I don’t know if they would have left as strong of an impression on others, but I have a feeling they probably did. Just for me, a life-long entrepreneur, I was struck by the effervescent joy, authentic happiness, with which they ran their business. They were having fun – not just fun – the times of their lives.
It was obvious as they danced up to tables to deliver food and (this is the one that plays in my head like a Mama Mia movie moment) their luxuriously slow slide-down-the-arm high five as they grooved past each other on the way to serve and pick up the next order. The pure authentic happiness they felt trickled out to all their patrons and the place buzzed with a very light and breezy elation.
I’m convinced these days that the thing that people remember most about you is how you make them feel. It is your strongest legacy. The grandmother that I remember with fondest memories is the one that always greeted me with love and joy in her eyes. She’d always stand in the door as we drove up (as she obviously watched for us coming down the old dirt road) and she’d holler in a sweet southern accent “Ya’ll get out and come in this house. Ewwhee, it’s hot out here.” She was excited to see us. She’d stand in the screened-door with light blue eyes gleaming, a big soft grandma hug for each of us, and the smells of lovingly prepared smothered chicken and biscuits wafting out of the kitchen. The joy she took in life and in us was contagious, and the way she made me feel is the memory of her I will take to my grave.
When I think of my legacy in this way, I do have regrets. In the early days of my PR firm, I was pretty austere with my employees. I had a policy that we would keep the socializing and breaks to a minimum. I had good reason for this (in my naïve little mind). Many agencies are known for burning out their employees by making them work long hours. I told everyone, “Let’s just hit it while we’re here, so we can leave by 5:00 or 5:30 and have a life.” It sounded good. Everyone seemed to like the idea of working an eight hour day. But, it wasn’t fun. Without a good amount of camaraderie, the work sometimes seemed like soul-draining drudgery. I missed out on getting to know them (and them me). I missed out on life-long friendships that could have been. And, let’s face it, the idea of ‘let’s get the work done so we can go and have a life’ is flawed. That’s a huge part of our lives and should be fun. Yes, I have huge regrets with how I handled my legacy with those folks. No doubt, you can get the job done and have a great time doing it, and I live that now. So, that’s what we do, right – live, make mistakes, and learn?
Knowing that our legacy on this earth will be how we’ve made people feel can be a positive motivator. When we go through our days consciously aware, we can approach each person with which we connect with the thought of ‘how can I bring my best energy’. We can ask ourselves “How can I make this person feel good? How can I make this moment in their day better?” It feels good to us – really good. It creates healthy relationships and a better life experience. And hey, as a really fantastic side benefit for entrepreneurs– it pays dividends. That New Orleans joint I mentioned above was a virtual cash register with lines out the gate waiting to get in. People will always go where they feel good. Employees will always perform better when they feel great and are having fun. So what’s your legacy? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below! Blessings!
Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet” & personal coach