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What's Your Legacy?

March 18, 2018

 

Last week the world lost a very powerful, influential and inspiring person, Stephen Hawking. Reading about his life, the challenges he went through and overcame made me ask myself lots of questions about my own life.

Just so that we are all on the same page, let me share a short bio about this man Hawking, as shared by one Tonny Robins.

“I always say the only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.... Stephen Hawking wasn’t always confined to a wheelchair, with no voice of his own. Until he was 21, he lived the same life as so many of us do. Then, in his final year at Oxford, his coordination started to deteriorate, he got clumsy, his speech started to slur. At the age of 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative disease where the neurons that communicate between your muscles and your brain stop working. There is no cure. This disease only gets worse, taking everything away from you. He was given two years to live. That was over 55 years ago.

Despite this terrible, unforgiving disease, Stephen Hawking went on to have an extraordinary career in math and physics, all while ALS continued to take away his ability to move, and even speak. It got worse. He came down with pneumonia and doctors urged his wife to take him off life support. She refused, and they performed a tracheotomy, completely removing his ability to speak.

At this point, Stephen Hawking had so many reasons to give up, and most people in his position would have. They’d complain about how unfair life was. They’d accept the story in front of them. But Stephen didn’t. He was bound to a wheelchair, only able to speak through a voice synthesizer. And because of his courage, his persistence and his passion for the universe, Stephen continued to explore the cosmos.

What he accomplished is unbelievable, and he did it despite the many barriers standing in his way. No matter your perceived limitations, there’s probably someone out there with even more of the deck stacked against them, who are making an even bigger impact on the world. Stephen Hawking was a limitless mind in a limited body. Join me in remembering this extraordinary person. May he rest in peace, and, hopefully, every question he asked of the universe has now been answered.”

 

I may not agree with everything he did or said, but I do agree with Hawking in one area; when you realize that time is running out on you, you pour yourself into your life’s purpose and as a result, you end up doing things the world never thought possible.

In his condition, this guy went up to space! He wrote over 12 books! He managed to grace the hall of the scientific wall of fame by being one of its greats, among many unbelievable achievements. Look up his biography on the internet and you will be amazed at the things this man was able to do, even with his physical challenges present.

And so, as I was thinking about all the breakthrough discoveries he made as well as the breakthrough inventions that were made by others because of his condition, I couldn’t help but wonder what will be said of me when I am no longer in this world. What mark will I have left in this world? What will I really be remembered for after I have gone?

Then I got an email from a good friend about a story of an immigration officer in Harare behaving badly. Let me just share the story with you as shared by www.iharare.com on their website.

THE South African government has suspended an immigration official and her three supervisors at the Beitbridge Border Post after a video of her scrolling her smart phone as Zimbabwean travellers waited to be served, went viral.

The video started circulating on social media networks on Tuesday attracting widespread criticism from Zimbabweans who shared their frustrations over delays at the South African entry point.

In the video, the immigration official is seen chatting and viewing pictures on smartphone while processing Zimbabwean travellers’ passports.

So engrossed on her smart phone, the immigration officer stamps one passport, opens another and stamps it before receiving a gate pass. Instead of stamping the gate pass, the absent minded official opens the same passport and stamps it for the second time.

The Beitbridge Border Post is the busiest entry and exit point on the continent with nearly 19 000 people crossing daily during peak periods.

The protests against the immigration official were so widespread that they attracted the attention of South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Mr Malusi Gigaba who also posted the official’s video on his Twitter account.

In the video’s caption, Mr Gigaba said he had instructed the Home Affairs department to investigate the official.

There is so many wrongs in the behavior of this official that I can’t even begin to capture it all. To state just a few of those wrongs, it is quite clear that she took her job for granted, had a serious attitude problem (watch the video on the website and you’ll see what I mean), and was completely unfocused to say the least. Though many may not see it that way, I personally believe that she got what she deserved in this case. If I was in her superior’s position, I would have done the same thing.

Unfortunately she is not an isolated case. She is an example of many other people in the service industry today who behave the same way in different ways. How many times have you gone to some office and instead of the receptionist serving you, you see her busy on the phone chatting (basically gossiping)? How many times have you gone to the bank and found a bank teller with an attitude problem, serving you like she is doing you a favor instead of realizing that you are actually the one paying her salary?

When will people realize that the jobs they have are actually partnerships they have with their organizations, partnerships that give them the opportunity to achieve their goals?  When will people change their mindsets about their jobs and their contribution to society in general?

Now, do you think Stephen Hawking would have gotten to the level he did if he’d been having an attitude like the one this immigration official had? As a matter of fact, he chose to use his condition as fuel to achieve the things we will remember him forever (read his biography). Many other people in his shoes would have chosen to have a victim mentality, manipulating other people to feel sorry for him, but he didn’t. That’s what made him different. That’s what made him excel. And that’s why he has left a legacy.

My question to you today is the same question I asked myself; what legacy will you leave behind when you leave? Are you a Stephen Hawking or are you that immigration official? I would want for each one of us to be like Stephen Hawking who never looked at his limitations but went ahead and surmounted them to do great things that other people are afraid of doing.

Like Sheryl Sandeberg in her book “Lean In” asked “What would you do if you weren't afraid?” And I ask, how can you make a difference where you are?

In light of this quote from Sheryl, my book recommendation for the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 this week is Lean In.

Today I end this article by yet another quote from this book: “Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.

 

Be a Stephen Hawking and not that immigration official.

 

Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Be the best version of yourself you can ever be.

 

PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 18th of March, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

 

 

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