Monday, October 21, 2013

What is your personal legacy?

Everyone leaves behind a personal legacy.  Just that some don’t know and some know – The What?, The How? and The Why?” BY Nischala Murthy Kaushik

There are some life events which compel you to think deeply about your “PERSONAL LEGACY” – For most of us, these events center around birth of your children or grandchildren, children touching specific milestones (say turn 18, getting married, etc.), loss of your parents, spouse or loved ones. For some of us, it may be our age (say 40, 50 or 60), or retirement from active work, or a major illness, or some other emotional trigger

No matter what the trigger is at some point in life, most of us tend to think about the answer to the question “What is my PERSONAL LEGACY?”

The first response for many people is around financial legacy and assets. Very valid and true. After all, money does make the world go round. However, we are all endowed with several other assets in life. And many times don't even acknowledge them as assets or something we want to hand down to future generations.

So what all can be an integral part of your legacy? Sharing my view below:


      Anyone who has truly lived / experienced life has learned several Lessons of Life  ; which I refer to as the Wisdom of Life.

For e.g.:  My father taught me several lessons of life. But I think the most important one’s which I will always remember, and would want to pass down to the next generation are (1) The importance of being a “lifelong learner” (2) The importance of having only 3 TOP Priorities in your priority list at a specific point in time. Too many, and you really won’t be able to do justice to any! (3) Openness to deal with life changes, irrespective of your age and situation (4) The importance of being clear on your value system; and living by it – no matter what. This will be the strength of your character.

Again, no school or classroom or book really re-enforced these learning’s, but life has many times.

So take a step back and ask yourself about the “Wisdom of Life” in your lens. And figure a way to share it with those who matter, for whom it will make a DIFFERENCE!


Over the years, I have come to believe that your life is really a collection of Habits – Daily Habits, Weekly Habits, Monthly Habits, Yearly Habits – which all add to how your life eventually turns out. And the good news is that habits can be developed and nurtured at any age and stage in life.

As individuals, the habits you demonstrate as a part of your personal and professional life determine how your life turns out, and this will be part of your personal legacy. Something which can potentially inspire others, something which others can learn from you or something which others will always remember you for.

For e.g.: No matter when she sleeps, no matter rain sun wind or rainbows, no matter how she is feeling, my mother will wake up every day of the year at 5 AM. Not only does it give her some time to do things which are important to her like reading, yoga, exercise or prayer – But it also gives her a head-start to plan her day and get things organized around the house. Again “waking up early or even at a fixed time every single day of the year” can sometimes be the one and only good habit that transforms your life.

So think about it? Do you have enough good HABITS that you are personally proud of? If not, may be you need to start building them from today – They will add to your personal legacy


Broadly, there are two types of skills I have seen in people – Skills you are born with and self-taught skills. There’s very little you can do about the skills you’re born with. You accept them, are grateful for them, hone them for life and try to make the best out of them.

Self-taught skills are built by individuals because of their interest, passion, years of repeated practice and / or necessity. And these self-taught skills many times enable individuals to reach the pinnacles of success or achieve their life goals. The fact is that most of us have learnt several skills in the journey of life. But we fail to recognize these as our assets and as something worth leaving as a part of our personal legacy. Agreed that some of these skills become obsolete with time and the era, but there are so many life skills which will never die.

For e.g.: My mother-in-law is an excellent cook. She loves cooking, experimenting and innovating – especially when it comes to Indian cuisine.  No matter how few / many ingredients you give her, how many people are waiting at the table, and how much time she has - She always cooks a fantastic meal and presents it in the most exquisite manner – It tastes great, smells fantastic and is a feast to your eyes. It’s obviously a passion for cooking, years of practice, experimentation & experience and a personal encyclopedia of tips, tricks, best practices and learning from masters along the way which has helped her achieve mastery over her culinary skills.

So what are those life skills that you have picked up along the journey of life? Writing / Cooking / Music / Dance / Technology / Communication, etc. Whatever it is, identify it and find a way to share it as a part of your personal legacy


We live in the “Knowledge Era” – A time when knowledge is power, knowledge translates (directly / indirectly) to money, knowledge is a source of “competitive advantage”, knowledge is considered “priceless” and knowledge is a great personal asset.

Along the journey of life, everyone one of us amasses an incredible amount of knowledge – through formal learning, through self-study, through experience, through observations, through introspection, through practice, through interactions, through realization…

And yet, many of us fail to acknowledge, recognize and appreciate how much we actually know. In most cases, what makes each of our knowledge “truly unique” is the combination of theory and practical experience which we individually go through – which in most cases is “exclusive” and “implicit” to us. If you can find a way to make the “unique knowledge” “explicit”, then that would definitely be part of your legacy.

For e.g.: A very close family friend has incredible practical knowledge on how to repair any kind of electronic equipment or cars – Something which he acquired over a span of 50 years of his life purely because of personal interest, self-study and experimentation. And the fact is no one apart from him really knows what he does, but he can fix just about any device with any kind of problem, and from any era! It is a truly unique knowledge, and I don’t know of too many people who have the depth and breadth of knowledge that he does.

Take some time to reflect on what KNOWLEDGE you possess – And try to figure out a way to store and pass on that knowledge to the next generations. That would be definitely worthwhile; and an important aspect of your personal legacy.


For those who have children, they are an integral part of your personal legacy. How they eventually turn out?, What they make of themselves? and the difference they make in the world can be directly / indirectly be linked to you, how your raised them and the role you played in their upbringing.

So for those of you who have children - Are you doing enough – your bit and BEST to nurture,  teach, groom and guide your children to truly discover themselves and live life to their BEST potential? That is part of your personal legacy


Within each of us lie a “Creator”, a “Consumer” and a “Critique”. And while most of us tend to be active “Consumers” and “Critics” for many things as a part of everyday life, we are also “creative souls” and do tend to create so many beautiful things in life like software, art, paintings, poetry, writings, books, cards, blogs, tweets, movies, music, documentaries, videos, podcasts, jewelry, etc. etc.
Not everything you create may be worth storing or sharing, but we all have some “special creations” which form an integral part of our personal legacy.

For e.g.: Almost 100 years back, my maternal grandfather had created a multi-purpose “cupboard” – One which was compact, “foldable” to fit in 2 feet ; and could be used as a book shelf, writing table, dining table, bed, reclining chair and a dozen other features. I have never seen such a unique and innovative cupboard design in my entire life (till date) – Undoubtedly, it was an integral part of his personal legacy, something which is of great pride when I even think about it.

So think about it - What all have you created so far – which is unique, personal and special to your talent and creativity? Add and share this as a part of your personal legacy.


Every family has “family traditions” which are sacred. Most of us tend to follow them – knowingly or unknowingly because they become habits which were developed from childhood. But we fail to recognize their origin, reason, emotion or genesis. If you probe a little deep, you will be surprised to hear of their legacy.

Are you aware of how your family traditions came into being? If not, ask your parents / grand-parents / elders in your family? And share their significance and importance with those who need to know. 100 years from now, it will make a difference if people know answers to the WHY’s?


No matter where you live, what you do, how old you are, what culture you belong to, what religious affiliations you have…  Festivals have been / are / will continue to be a part of your life.

In 2012 as I did a detailed research on festivals, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that most festivals have multiple significance – One is definitely the religious significance. But beyond that, most festivals also have a social, geographical (especially with respect to the changing weather and seasons, and how the human body reacts to these changes), emotional and spiritual significance.

However somewhere along the way, the “TRUE SPIRIT” is never spoken or discussed, and celebrations revolve around the more physical / materialistic / commercial aspects – which include food, shopping and simply enjoying a day off.

So take time and make the effort to understand the “TRUE SPIRIT” of festivals. And if you already know it, then share it with those around you – family, friends, etc. It is important to spread this message!

From time immemorial, food and humans have a “deep bond”. There is something “exquisite” about traditional recipes, family recipes, special recipes, self-discovered / self-created recipes; something which have a special taste, flavor, smell, emotion, reason, meaning and experience.  And the fact is that no cook book or Master Chef (No matter how many  Michelin Stars he / she has) can tell you the magic ingredients, portions, history or “emotions” that go in to making those recipes.

If you probe a little deeper by asking a few questions to the elders in your family / owners of a recipe, you will realize that every special recipe has a story, history and reason for its existence.

And simply because of their uniqueness, these special recipes are worth knowing, worth cooking and worth passing down to the next generation.

If you don’t know any of these “recipes”, make an attempt to learn them. And if you already know them, then share it with those around you– especially family 

Many individuals / families have personal collections – Which are an integral part of one’s personal legacy. This could be
(i)  Personal hobbies (For e.g: Collections of stamps, coins, books, photographs and some of the more interesting one’s I know are of collections of erasers, paintings, sculptures, antiques, exquisite jewelry, designer watches, pens, wine glasses, coffee mugs, etc.),
(ii)  Personal / Family achievements (For e.g.: Recognitions, Awards, Citations, etc.)
(iii)  Personal / Family discoveries (For e.g.: In the kitchen, in dealing with the opposite sex  [And that could be the topic of another post :)], etc.)
(iv)  Personal / Family assortments which were handed down through generations (For e.g.: Jewelry, clothes [especially wedding clothes], Music, Videos, Documentaries, Photographs, Art-work, Unique designs, etc.)

Many such similar personal / family collections usually take time, effort and personal interest to build.

So if you have already built such a collection, do spend some time in thinking about how you would want this to be part of your personal legacy? And if someone entrusts you with their legacy, then do justice to maintaining it.

(11) IDEAS

Every reality of the world started sometime somewhere as an “idea”.  Some ideas got the required fodder, environment, ecosystem, monetary backing and support to thrive and flourish. And some lay dormant for a while. Some die.

The reality is that we all have so many ideas which flash through our mind every single day - And yet we fail to pay attention, we fail acknowledge them, and we fail to log them. Many of us believe that not every idea is probably worth capturing, but just “What-If” there’s one that can change the world?

For e.g.: A very successful entrepreneur who runs an illustrious family-owned enterprise told me that one part of his legacy is his “treasure of ideas” – An idea log which he jots down religiously with great fervor. And he tells me with great pride that part of the reason for his entrepreneurial success is that he acts on these ideas when the time is right. What an idea!

So make the effort to document your own Idea Journal or Idea Log or Idea Repository. Who knows? It may be the next “game changer” of the world!

      But of course! Your financial legacy is a very important part of your legacy. What assets / liabilities you leave behind is a critical part of your legacy, and directly affects the quality of life of your family – today and even long after you’re gone. It takes a lifetime of toil to earn money, but it takes focused planning, investment discipline and periodic reviews to compound that money!

So think about it - What is your current personal wealth? Do you need to be more frugal in spending, wiser in investing and regular in reviewing your personal finances? If yes, you can start today!


Your life is a continuum of thoughts, words and deeds: or you’re “KARMA”. And whether you realize it or not, an integral part of your legacy is the cumulative sum of all the “karma” of your life. And the point is this - You will be remembered equally for the “good karma” and “bad karma”, especially all that you said / did which changed the course of life for someone else. 

So think about it – If you had to balance between the entire positive and negative karma in your life so far, how would the reading look? Do you need to do something today to change how it would look in the future?


Long after you’re gone, others will remember you not for the money you made or your many successes / victories or your impressive career resume or how you looked or how well you lived. But they will always remember you for the difference you made in their lives, especially in those vulnerable / difficult moments!

So think about it – Are you making (consciously / unconsciously) at least a small difference in the life of someone? And if someone made a difference in your life, have you acknowledged / appreciated what they did?  If not, spare a moment to say what it means to you. Who knows? You may never get another chance!

This post is dedicated to my FATHER - Dr.P.S.B.Murthy. Thank You….. for everything.

Did you like this post? Did it compel you to think? Did you compel you to introspect?
What do you think can go into building one’s personal legacy? Leave a comment to me know. Look forward to hear your views…

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  1. Wow, that was quite a long post, but kept me riveted right from the beginning to the end. Loved how you structured the post into those points and went on to write at least one small paragraph about each point.

  2. WOW - so much food for thought. I found myself scrolling through to the end - then realizing I didn't take time to think about each one individually. So, I'm not rereading (slowly) to really make the connections between your ideas - and how I live (or want to live) my life. I love the lessons you learned from your father - especially #2. If you have multiple priorities . . . how can you give them all the time and attention? Three really are the max I recommend to clients - and to myself!

  3. Loved this post! I found I was quickly scrolling through it, without thinking on each point! So, I'm now going to reread from the beginning! My favorite is your advice from your father (#2). How can you give the time and attention needed to multiple priorities?! Picking a small number to focus on is a key to success!

  4. Nischala good job at putting everything together. What really made me hone in on leaving a legacy was when my father passed away last year. It really made me think about the kind of legacy I want to leave. To be honest, at first it was monetary type of legacy, it still is. However, I want to leave wisdom. Wisdom will outlast everything. A person that took the time out to impart into my family, friends, and everyone that was under the reach of my voice via print, audio, video, or anything medium. Thanks for sharing. Great article.

  5. A long post but kept my interest alive till the last point. We always considered money , money assets , movable and immovable as legacies but habits, traditions etc too are rich legacies that we leave behind as footprints for our future generations to follow.