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By Maxwell Leadership | September 20, 2012

“There is a choice you make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” ~ John Wooden

A legacy isn’t something over which we have no control, like the shadow that follows us down the sidewalk. Rather, we can choose the way in which our influence will remain once we’re gone. Here are a few suggestions for how you can purposefully pass-on a positive legacy.

1. Integrate a daily focus with a long-term perspective.

Leaders who have an enduring influence keep one eye on the compass and the other eye on the clock. That is, they look ahead without losing sight of what needs to happen each day. They give their best to activities and appointments, or the daily doings of life, while not forgetting their orienting vision and values.

2. Establish a direction that is clearly observable.

When your time on this earth draws to a close, people will describe your life in a single sentence. Pick it now. Be intentional about the sort of influence you want to have on the world around you. I live each day with my legacy statement at the forefront of my mind: “John Maxwell added value to leaders who multiplied value to others.” Being aware of how I want to be remembered gives me perspective on what’s truly important.

3. Develop a network of meaningful relationships.

Leadership is influence, and relationships are the foundation of leadership. Throughout life, I’ve heeded the Law of the Inner Circle: “Those closest to me determine the level of my success.” Perhaps nothing is more predictive of your legacy than the quality of people surrounding you.

4. Commit to a positive learning attitude that guarantees growth.

Personal growth is linked to a teachable disposition. My friend and mentor John Wooden liked to say: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” I credit my growth as a leader to a set of learning attitudes that I developed early in life.

My Learning Attitudes

a) Everyday I will learn something.
b) Everyone will be my teacher.
c) Every experience will be a learning lab.
d) Every opportunity I will ask questions.
e) Every time I will apply what I’ve learned.

5. Continually experience inner renewal.

Since the cares of life easily crowd out space for reflection, it’s essential to schedule time to think. By itself, experience doesn’t teach us anything; it has to be evaluated. Learning to pause allows growth to catch up with you. My motto is that “you cannot travel without until you’ve traveled within.” In other words, you won’t have transformative influence on the world until you’ve been transformed yourself.


Each of us has received thousands of blessings that we did nothing to earn. Being a legacy-minded leader is an intentional way to give back out of gratitude for what we’ve been given.

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