The Single Best Way to Build a Lasting Legacy

A more meaningful life is simply a phone call away.

Man looking out window pondering legacy

Between e-mail, texts, Slack, Facebook, and basically everything else your phone is screaming at you, you probably think you're in constant touch with people, but in reality, you may live as reclusively as J. D. Salinger. Today's overload of information and constant interruptions is what some researchers say leads to New Economy Depression Syndrome (NEDS), in which personal relationships deteriorate as technology intrudes. "I think it affects more people over 40 than under 40," says Tim Sanders, author of Love Is the Killer App, because the boomers and Gen-X-ers grew up with phone conversations and face-to-face meetings, not Snapchat and emoji, as the primary way to communicate and show emotions.

Lack of human contact in today's world also means we have fewer opportunities to really influence, lead, and change the lives of others—unless we make the time. Sanders points to a story from Mike Rawlings, the former CEO of Pizza Hut. Every Friday, Rawlings took his lunch hour to call two of his most valuable customers. One day, he called a woman who had ordered more than 100 pizzas in a year. He talked to her, thanked her, and then asked her an important question: What's your life like? She told him about the three jobs she held—hotel maid, waitress, and house cleaner—to support her family.

In exchange for her working so often, she told her kids they could order pizza for dinner as often as they wished. The woman told Rawlings that people criticized her for being so absent, but she argued that her kids were growing up with a good work ethic. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a good mother?" Rawlings said. The woman said no and cried, then thanked him for giving her a moment she'd always remember and value. To that woman, Rawlings's phone call created more of a legacy than any business decision he ever made.

"You will accomplish more in a day by taking sincere interest in two people than you will by spending two years trying to get two people interested in you," Sanders says.

Sometimes, says Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work, we get so wrapped up in work that we confuse what we do with who we are. "The 'who we are' should come before the 'what we do,'" he says. "A lot of people have the misunderstanding that the 'what' comes before the 'who.'"

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