Vusi Thembekwayo‘s father was an avid reader, he also wrote a lot and when Vusi asked him why he wrote so much, he said to him: “A man leaves only two things behind him. One, is what he writes and the other, is what he builds.”
Known as The Rockstar of Public Speaking, he was chatting with Allon Raiz on The Big Small Business Show about his journey to becoming a global speaker and business man.
Now, think about the things you write almost daily and if you are lucky (I am being facetious), the things you build. They’re going to possibly outlive you and offer a certain representation of the person that you are or were.
No doubt this is the glorious age of us being able to freely — and often, callously — express ourselves by publishing our thoughts and finding outlets for our raging emotions in the bottomless pit of the internet. But just as we do, we need to consider more the timelessness of what we say.
I would even venture to say that it is urgent and of utmost importance we consider what we say to other people.
Words, even without publishing, linger. They have impact. They can easily shatter as much as they’re able to help blossom someone’s spirit anew.
This extends to what we not only say, but do and physically construct.
So, listen to this . . .
After one satisfying football training session the other day, I stood with a glassful of water, ready to quench my thirst. Midway through my second glass, my hand atop the kitchen sink held by a four-legged wooden structure, I had a striking thought.
My father built that sink! He did it simply —as he did too the metal support structure of the cooking stove we’ve been using for the past 18 years somewhat.
I whirled around the house and through the things he made, I saw my late father — such a special and eccentric guy — as I gulped water in the kitchen. Even in something as simple as a sink, he extended himself. He built an instrument that lives without his presence.
And the thought grew larger, I looked further at the house he left us. He built that beautiful shelter. I looked at myself, as proudly and confidently as I have ever done, and smiled at the fact that he helped guide the growth of the beautiful, intelligent, caring and stubborn person that I have become.
When I enlarge my perspective and see beyond everything else, I notice with sharpness the beauty my Dad created.
Which is, to be honest, a long-winded way of saying to the world, to you reading this message (also, thank you!) :
Be conscious and discerning of the things you write and say; look with wisdom at the things you spend your life on and make with your time and abilities.
In the way of leaving a legacy, you and I can learn a truckload from how what simply began with an email to a few friends at work announcing the start of a weekly digest discussing five stimulating topics to learn about every week has become a defining part of Maria Popova‘s life and by extension, her legacy. Her Brain Pickings blog, on which she writes with fervent passion and love. She calls the project her one-woman labour of love. The blog presents an array of subjects — from a breakthrough in neuroscience to a timeless piece of poetry.
Long after she’s gone, her writings; her mentally and emotionally stimulating work will remain.
Your legacy (and I am aware how the term insinuates something grandiose) might be how you make other people feel better when you speak to them. It just might be the podcasts or videos you publish on the web talking about a subject you feel strongly about and feel other people need to immerse themselves in. What you’ll leave behind might be your poems, wooden artifacts, memories, music, the way you played football or danced; lessons and perspective, books, or your blog.
Whatever allows you to express yourself.
My father expressed and extended himself through many things. Some of which include his strong and unnerving opinions, car tyres (he ran a car repair and sales business for a substantial part of his illustrious life), offering mind-shifting lessons and wisdom; his love for powerful cars, the work he did with wood, the many houses he built and owned.
So, with that said . . .
What are YOU building, making, with the time you are granted to live?
What is your ART?