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Questioning the value of legacies

Ray Lewis recently announced his retirement from the NFL, and the pundits immediately began talking about his legacy. They all started asking whether he was the best defensive player ever or if it was Lawrence Taylor or someone else.

I believe people make much ado about nothing when they talk about legacy. Maybe it’s my belief that so little is learned from history. Ray’s greatness was in the context of time and place. I just consider myself lucky to have lived in the time of both Ray and Lawrence. Not unlike the heroes of the Iliad, Hector & Achilles, their names will live on, but they will have little effect on the future.

Business executives are no different. Almost every building at Cornell (my alma mater) has the name of some great individual on it. What were their legacies? I have no idea, and I went to school there. The fact is, greatness is about being in the moment and performing under pressure. Legacy has no place in that equation. As soon as you start thinking about your legacy, you are done. So if you want to be an impact player, worry about the present and leave “legacy” to the talking heads who probably never saw the field past high school.

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