“Are we being good ancestors?” ― Jonas Salk

It’s never to early to think about one’s legacy.

What people think about someone after they’re gone is, no doubt, the last thing on the mind of anyone under 50, but in our uncertain world – we should talk about it.

Jonas Salk, the 1955 inventor of the polio vaccine, asked the simple question, “Are we being good ancestors?”

As you can see, whatever legacy I create will impact a lot of people. As it will for you.

Getting that answer right shapes my legacy. If each choice I make reflects a desire to be viewed as a good ancestor then the choices should all be good. The choices won’t be only for today, but choices that will reverberate forever through time, into my children’s children’s lives and beyond.

If the children smile and are happy, it will have been a good choice. If they frown and are sad, well … that choice was not as good.

It will be actions, not words, that build my legacy.

Here are three thoughts that help as I think about shaping my legacy so I can be a good ancestor.

First, as much as possible, be remembered as kind and a good steward of the environment. Don’t let grandchildren ask, “If he knew all this, why didn’t he care? Why didn’t he do something?”

Second, don’t be a burden in life or death to your family or society. Be remembered for cleaning out the attic, labeling old photographs, and having the bills marked, “Paid.”

Third, leave some stories for the children and grandchildren so they can remember their ancestors. Stories in writing are better because oral traditions, along with campfires, are only a memory.

Three simple steps towards a legacy of being a good ancestor.

What do you think, do you know your ancestor’s stories? How did you learn them?

Can you share examples of ways your actions speak louder than your words in shaping your legacy?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran


Spend a moment with Wayburn Dean and think about your legacy.