A friend passed this on to me, and therefore I don’t know where it was posted originally. I liked it a lot, although — as i felt obliged to point out — it’s a little late for some of us!
What Do I Want to be Remembered For?
Peter F. Drucker February 1, 2008
When I was 13, I had an inspiring teacher of religion, who one day went through the class of boys asking each one, “What do you want to be remembered for?” None of us, of course, could give an answer. So, he chuckled and said, “I didn’t expect you to be able to answer it. But if you still can’t by the time you’re 50, you will have wasted your life.”
We eventually had a 60th reunion of that high school class. Most of us had not seen one another since we graduated, so the talk at first was a little stilted. Then one of the fellows asked, “Do you remember Father Pfliegler and that question?” We all remembered it. And each one said it had made all the difference to him, although we hadn’t understood that until we were in our 40s. At 25, some of us had begun trying to answer it and, by and large, answered it foolishly. So did Joseph Schumpeter, the great economist.
At 25, he had said he wanted to be remembered as the best horseman in Europe, the greatest lover in Europe, and as a great economist. By age 60, just before he died, Schumpeter was asked the question again. He no longer talked of horsemanship or of women. He wanted to be remembered as the man who had given an early warning of the dangers of inflation. That is what he is remembered for—and it’s worthwhile being remembered for. Answering that question changed him, even though the answer he gave at 25 was singularly stupid.
I’m always asking that question: What do you want to be remembered for? It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, because it pushes you to see yourself as the person you can become. If you are fortunate, someone with moral authority will ask you that question early enough in your life so that you will continue to ask it as long as you live.
Excellence in Action: Ask yourself, “What do I want to be remembered for?” And continue asking it as long as you live.