You determine your own legacy.
Books about performance training or leadership often discuss goals. Often, the acronym SMART is used to categorize the goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. While SMART goals are a great way to create accountability, they are really focused on two types of goals: to-do goals and to-have goals. These types of goals can get you quickly motivated to accomplish something but they rarely sustain any passion.
Contrast these types of goals with those of people who are dying. People on their deathbeds who are asked what they wished they could have accomplished never say they wish they could have made more money, driven fancier cars, or lived in a mansion. Instead, they usually speak of deeper, more meaningful topics: they wish they had been kinder, more loving, more patient. These stories, though somewhat more anecdotal than the business-book approach, talk about goals that are much more powerful and meaningful than the common to-do or to-have goals. They are, instead, "to-be" goals.
When I think of an example of someone who has demonstrated and lived "to-be" goals, it would have to be Andre Agassi. Although 21 years ago he burst on to the professional tennis scene as a flashy, somewhat shallow, "image is everything" kid, what he grew into truly demonstrates the power of having "to be" goals. Recently, at his final match at this year’s US Open, he received a 20-minute tear filled standing ovation for the way he had touched the New York fans over his 21 appearances and his championship-filled career. Then he proceeded to give a heart wrenching thank you address to the fans for the support they have given him in his toughest moments both professionally and personally. He spoke about how they had helped him learn that tennis was not an end but a means to giving something back to the world. With tears pouring down his face he shared his appreciation for being given the opportunity to entertain the great fans from all over the world by playing his heart out for them. Without saying so per se, he thanked them for their support in helping him reach some of his "to be" goals - to be humble, appreciative, reflective, enthusiastic, statesmanlike, and professional.
The he went into the locker room, where he received another standing ovation from all the other players. What a touching moment—to be adored, accepted, and now honored by your peers in a sport where teamwork is non-existent and beating your opponent is on the top of every players "to do" goal list. Player after player talked about how Andre had not only changed the way tennis was played but changed the difference that tennis players could make in the world. They talked about what a great champion he was both on and off the court. Again with tears in his eyes, Andre thanked them for helping him achieve some of his "to be" goals - to be your best, to be a gracious winner and a classy loser, to be a role model, to be a diplomat, to be a gentleman.
Finally, Andre went to his final press conference at the US Open where he shared some of his most intimate memories and stories of his illustrious career for over 30 minutes. He didn’t just share his highs he just as openly and honestly shared some of his lows. He shared his appreciation for the tough times he had to endure and for the way the press had pushed him to accomplish many of his "to be" goals" - to be authentic, to be honest, to be open, to be optimistic, to be articulate, to be studious and most of all to be a champion.
And then, as one member of the press described it, "a first in his lifetime," the entire pressroom gave Andre Agassi a standing ovation. This was not just a standing ovation for being a great tennis player; it was for being a great human being. Few other tennis players have done more for their community, more for underprivileged children, or more for the game of tennis than Andre Agassi. Sure, it would have been enough to have just rested on the laurels of winning eight grand slam tournaments, winning all four grand slams (a feat not accomplished by Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras or even Roger Federer), being in the top 10 for 16 of his 21 years as a professional, or being the number one player in the world. But Agassi had bigger goals. He wanted "to be" something special.
What type of person is it that you want to be? Do you want to be a Sustainable High Performer? How do you want to be remembered? What type of legacy will you leave? Will the world be a better place because you once lived in it?
By Scott Peltin
Founder & Chief Performance Officer