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Gini Dietrich

Your Legacy: How Do You Want to be Remembered?

By: Gini Dietrich | April 7, 2014 | 
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Your Legacy: How Do You Want to be Remembered?By Gini Dietrich

Just a few days after graduating from Yale, Marina Keegan and her boyfriend were on their way to Cape Cod to celebrate her dad’s 55th birthday.

Her boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel and, because Marina’s seat was reclined, her seat belt didn’t work the way it should have.

Marina was killed. Her boyfriend walked away unscathed. She was 22.

A promising young writer, Marina had already secured a job at The New Yorker and had already written a collection of poems and stories that are to be published tomorrow in The Opposite of Loneliness.

Her legacy was built before she truly began her life.

Stuck in Love

A fictionalized story, Stuck in Love, is a movie about a famous author who encourages his kids to write from a very young age.

The moment they learned to write, he had them keep journals (something I wish I’d kept up on past the eighth grade, but nosy brothers…) and refer back to them as their writing matured.

He encourages them to live life, to go out and get experience, even to “get laid and do drugs,” so they had something to write about.

The story ends happily and both kids end up being published (I haven’t ruined anything, if you haven’t yet seen it) at the ripe old ages of 16 and 19.

Begin Your Legacy Now

The biggest criticism my creative writing professor gave me all through college was I wasn’t writing about the hard stuff…the stuff that hurt me so deeply, I refused to acknowledge it.

That might still be true today, though my fiction has never seen the light of day.

I’ve been focused, instead, on a legacy of building Arment Dietrich into a global force to be reckoned with and to change the perception of the PR industry forever through the work we do on Spin Sucks (both the blog and the book!).

But the true legacy I want to leave is one of storytelling through fiction.

If something were to happen to me today or tomorrow or next week, the two companies I’m building would live on (hopefully Mr. D would sell them both to my team), but the fiction you’d find on my laptop would only be half-baked…maybe only a quarter baked.

Mr. D wouldn’t have anything to take to any publishers and that part of the legacy I wanted to leave would never come to life.

Reading the story about Marina and seeing Stuck in Love this past weekend, reminded me we don’t know how long we are to be on this earth.

Suddenly my college professor’s words popped back into my head and I felt an urgency to put those experiences onto paper.

What are you doing today to build your legacy for tomorrow?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

47 comments
jonmikelbailey
jonmikelbailey

This is what I think about every time a band I'm in begins the recording process. It makes me feel that the process is complete once it has been recorded. I want my daughter to be able to go back and play Dad's crazy music for her friends who will then proceed to make fun of her and me.

Kristinesimpson
Kristinesimpson

I hope I can be remembered for being a communicator who used her communications skills to bring about change and help my community, like the work I do for the Impaired Speed Skating Association of Canada. 

Randy Milanovic
Randy Milanovic

Deep. 


Thank you for bringing forward this important topic Gini. As a stage IV cancer survivor myself, who has won the ultimate staring contest with death himself, I can attest that the desire to leave a legacy burns bright. 


If I may share... 

Sept 1, 2009 - upon returning home from a summer holiday I cannot remember, I was rushed to hospital in excruciating pain. An advanced cancer in my bone marrow caused the sensation of breaking bones - all over my body.

6 days in emergency and 60 lbs lighter, the pain medications began to lessen the 'breaking' to an occasional bout. My doctors handed me papers... asked about my next of kin, if I had a will. There was little or no expectation I'd survive the ordeal. 

And then David (a client) walked in. My room was dark - a windowless utility room - for which I was grateful, as even the light hurt. David sat at my bedside and laid his hand upon my shoulder. Immediately I felt heat. A lot of heat. 

David sat there, hand on my shoulder for about 6 hours. While he did so, I floated. Downward. I continued that journey downward for about half the time David's hand rested on my shoulder. At the halfway point the pain went away. Like the silent snap of a finger. Gone. 

A voice in my head boomed loudly (my own), "I haven't accomplished enough yet." The clarity and authority of that voice within my mind was something I shall never forget. 

Then, as suddenly as the pain left, it returned. I felt myself begin to rise back up and into the fight for my life. As I reached full consciousness, David abruptly lifted his hand, stated that he was done, and left the room with a casual comment that he'd better get back to helping his wife with the basement renos.

My discussions with David since are worthy of a story on their own, but for now I prefer to close out this comment with a reminder that everyone has a story, everyone desires a legacy and everyone has motivation for these things that are purely personal. 

Whether you believe in prayers or energy, the meaning is the same. Whatever your motivation - what makes you tick - I encourage you to pursue it with passion. 

I've chosen to focus that "desire for accomplishment" on my business dealings, where I do my best to improve the situations of the businesses I work with and the people I encounter.

Good luck to you all. May you find motivation for an honourable legacy.

dinasultan
dinasultan

I have to say this post was really touching,....  it spoke to me... I've always said that i need to write about my experiences but i think its hard to write about the deep stuff. 


Maybe because once its down in black and white starring back at you ...... there is no where to hide or run.  It happened.


D.

barbsawyers
barbsawyers

In the Seven Habits of Effective People, Steven Covey asks you to imagine what you want people from different parts of your life (family, work, community etc) to say at your funeral. I've done it a few times, to see what values I want to stand for and how I want to be remembered. It works.


biggreenpen
biggreenpen

I knew I would love this post as soon as I saw the title -- this (legacies) has been my topic of much rumination recently. I keep tucking away posts and other pieces of wisdom about living your legacy; the mass of them is beginning to create quite the weight which will push me to big decisions. This weekend, I heard Deborah Norville interviewed about the time she was released from The Today Show (in favor of Katie Couric). She was diplomatic but did say, "it was like being on the edge of a cliff being run down by an army of bayonet wielding soldiers, knowing if you jumped it would be into crocodile infested waters." That's a little bit how I feel lately knowing that a move/choice is imminent but having to steel myself for the crocodiles. // Gini, I know your time is split a hundred different directions but if your fiction has a place in your heart and passions, I really hope you'll find a way to pursue it! // Here's a good piece about all this: http://sophiaschildren.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/the-question-holds-the-lantern/ (my fave line: "When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life."). // Lastly, I think I've shared this before but my sister in law died at age 30 in her sleep, leaving behind three children under six. If ever there has been a direct and powerful reminder to make the most of every day, that was it, a hundred times

Todd Lyden
Todd Lyden

Gert... the oxymoron for me is I always thought that my kids were my legacy... and while that is roughly still true. I, like so many parents before me, had to realize as they grow older that what I wanted for them might not be the legacy I want to stand for (I still think it can be, but not necessarily) For example: I am raising tolerant, well adjusted kids who seem like they will be normal, adjusted adults who will be gainfully employed. Yet, life may turn them into something from a reality TV show. 

So the older they get... the more I realize that "my legacy" needs to be MY legacy...

they COULD be part of it... but it just because they are my kids doesn't mean that they HAVE to be...

JayDolan
JayDolan

Gini - I'm leaving my cats to you as my legacy.

kevinanselmo
kevinanselmo

Personally, I use my work to support my spiritual legacy tied to my Christian faith. I question whether work legacy if working just for myself actually means anything at all.

Case in point:

- Many of us have left jobs where we brought dramatic change. We might have thought at one time: “how will this place actually exist without me?” It is sobering to go back a short time later and notice that the organization is moving along just fine.

- How many of us know the names of our great grandparents? What about our great, great grandparents? Many of us probably can’t answer this. If we barely know our own family’s legacy, how can we expect to be remembered years from now for the results we generated within our profession?

- How many of us can name all the US Presidents and British Prime Ministers from the 19th century? Most of us would probably struggle. If it is difficult to recollect the names – let alone the accomplishments – of the most powerful individuals from just over 100 years ago ( just a drop in the bucket when considering the course of all time), what makes us think we will be so remembered in the future for the accomplishments within our profession? 

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to generate results and impact and work to make the world a better place. Quite the contrary. Part of the reason I am grateful for the Spin Sucks community is that it advocates for change in doing public relations more ethically. I think it is just important to ultimately think through one’s motivations and a higher purpose. 

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

A very interesting post. I echo @belllindsay 's sentiments. My sons are the first thoughts that come to mind. Great food for thought for sure.  Love the advice from your prof about not writing the hard stuff. That is something that holds me back for sure and I am working on it.  Can't wait to one day read fiction from you :)


Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

Writing fiction is a good business exercise for marketers but I am biased because I love to write and I do quite a bit of it.

One of my closest friends died when we were 29, brain cancer. My daughter asked about him recently because if you look at my pictures from age 13 up to 29 he is a constant presence.

And then he isn't/wasn't.

Legacies can be important but sometimes I wonder if we would do better collectively if we all made a point to try to do "one good thing" regardless of whether it was for someone we knew or not.



Latest blog post: Sometimes Heroes Fall

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

I do a lot of things, and I guess some of them will be considered a legacy. But at the end of the day, isn't about the people you've helped and the lives you touched? 


At the end of the day, that's what the mens' group I work with at church is about. How did you lead your family? What kind of neighbor were you? How many people's lives are better because their lives crossed paths with yours?

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RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

Very interesting advice from your creative writing professor—that you weren't writing about "the hard stuff, the stuff that hurts you deeply."

I got very similar feedback from an acting instructor. Okay, he didn't say it directly to me, but I KNOW he was talking about me when he told us that you're only going to have a breakthrough on stage when you're willing to completely open yourself up and be vulnerable. And "some people" (he said) will never get there.

A tough lesson when you find your chief coping mechanism for life is a detriment in the arts!

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Thoughtful post, miss. For me, it's much like @belllindsay - whatever mistakes I make in life, I would hope that I get raising my kids right. Both Jacki and I are very focused on making sure they understand values, without keeping them restricted by them. And letting them learn at their own pace, as opposed to forcing our pace onto them.

BillSmith3
BillSmith3

A powerful post Gini, I think my legacy is my photography. I got into it 15 years ago seriously as a hobby and it got me through my dad's passing nine years ago and a change in career direction. Along the way I founded a camera club here in Oakville that now has over 160 members since it's inception seven years ago. If for whatever reason my time is up, there are binders full of sleeved film negatives that will give the future a snapshot of what the early 21st century looked like because who knows if Jpegs will even be accessible even ten years from now. 

bdorman264
bdorman264

Live every day like there will be no tomorrow. That's my philosophy on eating BTW....


There are no guarantees in life so don't be stuck w/ the woulda, coulda, shoulda's. Some people would like to have a profound legacy, building named after you type legacy. If I didn't show up tomorrow, I would be ok w/ whatever legacy I have 'earned' at this point. 


My bucket list already has some pretty cool stuff on it, but maybe the writing, something that is tangible you can pass on to future generations would be worthwhile. 


Get busy living, or get busy dying. Andy Dufresne 

belllindsay
belllindsay

I suppose my legacy is my son, Beckett, who has matured into a rather amazing young man. Otherwise, I'm not so sure. Interesting post, much food for thought. 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/20/sports/hockey-girl-13-dies-after-being-hit-by-puck.html

the same weekend this happened i fell asleep at the wheel on the 405 freeway and walked away unscathed. when i saw this tragedy of Brittanie Cecil i was determined to do something to give back because i was 34 and in my  21 years past 13 had done so much i actually told my mom i would switch places with her. So that was what gave me impetus to spend 3 years in LA doing street outreach helping homeless street out reach with http://www.standupforkids.org


i feel volunteer work is one of the best ways to have a legacy. but there are big problems with this work. my time working for a client in drowning prevention i learned every time a tragedy strikes a foundation is created. problem is each has overhead. but combine the resources and there is less overhead and more impact. that is why buffet gave his money to gates btw..

Also made me firmly not believe in God who would let me live and Brittanie not. Because if God exists that makes him either soulless or powerless and thus he can't be God in the traditional judeo-christian-muslim sense.


So when is your 80 shades of orange being published @ginidietrich ?!

Latest blog post: The 7 Deadly Sins of Twitter

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

This has been on my mind (and heart) a lot these past few weeks. I'll figure it out soon enough.  

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

I think about this question a lot. And am constantly redefining it for myself. As I have grown and evolved, so has my perspective on the legacy I want to leave behind. In fact it is something interesting to track throughout the years because it says a lot about my basic evolution as a human. But it is something I bring into every day with me and has shaped many of the decisions I've made in life (for better or worse). I really love this reminder. 



And I can't wait to read your fiction!!!!!

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

I remember Marina's story so well being from Cape Cod. It was heartbreaking as I read her last essay... "We're so young. We're so young. We're 22 years old. We have so much time". Your wise message on legacy is for us all to heed. 

Digital_DRK
Digital_DRK

Very sobering words (as I take my daily bus ride to work). I use to write my brother  and I as characters into the BattleStar Galactica TV show of the 70's. He enjoyed me reading those extended SI-FY stories of our fictional characters joining our heroes as they searched for a new home among the stars.  A very good piece as I reach the end of this bus ride.

Eleanor Pierce
Eleanor Pierce

GINI. Forget book club. It sounds like you and I need to do a fiction-writing challenge! I have one story done that I've started sending out to a few journals and another that's only half-baked ... 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@annelizhannan  I was flipping through Zite yesterday afternoon and happened upon her story. So, so sad. I also really appreciate that her parents didn't press charges against her boyfriend. Can you imagine having to live with that for the rest of your life?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Eleanor Pierce  I am totally down for that. I did NaNoWriMo two years ago, but was writing Spin Sucks this past year so didn't participate. We should totally do this!

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

@ginidietrich Yes, they are remarkable people who were able to bless her legacy with their forgiveness. Like many other are saying here, it may not be that we possess the creative arts of photography or writing, however it may very well be in the good memories of others of how we have treated and helped our community, friends and family. That type of legacy is just fine with me, but I am leaving all my shoes just in case;)

Eleanor Pierce
Eleanor Pierce

@ginidietrich I did NaNoWriMo once - and the result was so terrible I couldn't even read it. But still. I can say I wrote a novel once!

And this is exciting - I've tried to get other people on board with such a challenge, but few have the discipline to make it happen. You, on the other hand, clearly have it in you.  

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Eleanor Pierce I am totally in for it. As soon as I figure out how to narrow down my list of fictional heroes for Clay.