Think Backward, Walk Forward: How to Create a Legacy

watch your horizon reach your legacy

Say what you want about Malcom X, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, John Lennon, or even Donald Trump—but there’s a pretty good chance you know who most (if not all) of them are.

These people are all loved and hated. They’re all from different walks of life, they stand for different things, and they each elicit a different emotion in us. Yes. Every single one has a legacy behind that spans for generations.

Why? They’re purpose driven enough to gain loyalty and they’re pushy enough to capture the attention of the masses.

I’m not saying that you should necessarily strive to be any one of these people but I will say that leaving behind a legacy is one thing that most people can agree that they want.

Legacy Always Comes After 

For starters: you don’t choose your legacy, that’s completely up to the people you effect.

If you’re a pushy asshole, even if you offer a good product or service, you’re still going to be remembered as an asshole. When you die, people will tweet that they’re sad, but they’re not going to go to your funeral and weep.

On the flip side, if you spend all of your time being purpose driven, you’ll have a loyal following and they’ll all show up to your funeral but no one will know who you are.

Creating a legacy that makes a big impact takes both types of person. The pushy asshole got his name out there, and the purpose driven person elicited a strong emotion from her community. A true legacy, one you hear about after ages, has both elements.

The balance between staying personable and being relentless as a thought leader drives people to WANT to follow your vision so that your name is still recognized after generations go by.

This is how legacy works—it happens after the facts.

Aspects of Legacy

Okay, so you don’t choose how you’re remembered, only how you live. That’s why it’s important to truly live the way you want people to remember you.

There’s no “I can do it later” with this one (I see you, procrastinators) because people remember how you make them feel, and that isn’t something easily changed. 

This is where the other aspects of legacy show up—Purpose and Path.


Your purpose is what you strive for, your living legacy if you will. This is what you spend your time working towards. It’s why you wake up in the morning and what drives you to take the next step every day.

The best way to build a legacy is to choose a purpose and never stop walking the path to reach your life’s goal.


Your path is made of the steps it takes to achieve the purpose you set for yourself. It is what you follow with tunnel vision everyday to reach your purpose.

A path is easier to set than it is to follow. Life gets in the way of your early mornings, it distracts you from your promises to yourself, and it will try to divert you into the course of least resistance. Don’t let it. If you want to build a legacy, objectively pay attention to your path.

How to Think About Creating Your Legacy

I know I said you can’t choose how you’re remembered—that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a huge influence over what your legacy will be. It’s your life after all.

Here’s the thing, the way you think about your legacy and the way you build your remembrance empire is fully up to you. That means that you get to pull the strings on what is and isn’t you—but thinking and doing are two completely different things.

Think Backwards

To set off on the right foot, dream up your ideal legacy. How do you want to be remembered and what do you want people to say about you? Dig deep—this is important.

Take that dream vision and connect it to your purpose. What do you live for and stand for? What goal do you want to see achieved in your lifetime?

Now it’s the fun part. Take a good look at where you are now, what your purpose is, and what your dream legacy is. Do you see a trajectory linking them together? Good.

Set milestones for yourself. Write down your goals, and figure out what you need to do to achieve each one in turn and how to walk your path.

Now flip it.

Do Forwards

The reason you think backwards is so that you have a horizon to look at while you’re walking forward on your path. 

When you make your plan from legacy to purpose to path, you’re working on creating a plan that gives your life meaning. It gives you something to focus on to keep yourself from aimlessly traveling through your life.

Once you have that horizon set, you have to work towards it. Nothing you really want in life comes easily—especially if what you want is to leave behind a legacy. 

Make a plan to achieve your goals and follow your path step by step with your purpose in mind.

Don’t falter. When you do, admit it, deal with the consequences, and step back on your path.

Stay on your path for long enough and share it loud enough, and your legacy will come in time.

Legacy Brands

A lot of new brands are looking at a legacy like it’s a goal. That’s just not the right way to go about building a brand into something that people remember.

It’s easy to look at legacy brands like McDonalds or Nike and get discouraged because they’re doing so much and you can’t keep up.

  • But McDonalds started with one little hamburger stand in California.
  • And Nike started as a distributor for other company’s shoes and didn’t even have a location for the first two years! 

The founders were regular people that started their journeys with nothing but purpose. They kept their eyes focused on their horizon with every step along their paths and created companies that changed the world—leaving behind huge legacies.

It is not impossible for you to do this too, but you can’t do it if you’re too focused on being a legacy brand right now. Focus on the purpose of your brand, create a path that aligns with that purpose, and follow it relentlessly—you’ll get there.

Share your dream legacy in the comments below.

Watch Courtney’s Take on the Topic Here:

Photo by Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash 

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