Your legacy starts at home

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So, I’m reading People Magazine and there’s a story about how Sean Penn and Robin Wright are getting divorced.

Sources (gotta love them sources, eh) said things really started to fall apart when Sean began to spend more and more time away from home, involved in humanitarian and political causes.

Now, I don’t know Sean or Robin and I am sure there were many layers to the devolution of their marriage. But, it drew me back, very quickly to…

The dark side of the desire to save the world.

Probably, because I’ve seen a common scenario unfold, especially among friends or acquaintances in the world of business and entrepreneurship. Especially those with family situations that are teetering on the edge.

It usually unfolds in one of two ways…

Scenario #1 – Driven by passion. Fueled by a mad-passion for something, very often a business, interest or relentless quest to solve a problem that plagues large numbers of people, you start to turn more and more energy to your quest. You visualize how many peoples’ lives will be improved by your investment and that vision fuels increasing levels of commitment and action.

Over time, you begin to spend less and time with your family and close friends and more and more time pursuing your cause. And, without really intending it, you begin to swap your desire to leave the biggest, most public footprint possible with your ability to nurture the relationships and people you sleep next to.

The people you snuggle with (increasingly less often), play with, learn with and lean on for support. The people who are profoundly affected by your presence…and absence, physically, mentally and emotionally when you reallocate your energy from your family to your quest.

Scenario #2 – Driven by Avoidance. Similar to scenario #1, but with the addition of a second, often not so apparent motivating factor. Things at home have become increasingly unhappy and devoting yourself to your cause serves as both a distraction from your home-life and an excuse to avoid dealing with it. And, this excuse is laden with power, because it’s just so easy to response to calls for more family involvement with some variation of “the world needs me more, how can you be so selfish or we all need to make some sacrifices for the greater good here.”

You lose sight of the fact that there is no greater legacy than to nurture the people and relationships you hold dear.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the notion of your legacy, beyond the boundaries of close family and friends. To take for granted the support and needs of those closest to you and your responsibility to cultivate wonder, love, gratitude, confidence, passion and compassion in those closest to you.

This is your greatest legacy. Pursued with zest, within the walls of your own house, you’ll find your greatest reward. And, it will provide the foundation for a vastly broader, but not greater legacy. Abandon this with great reservation.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am a huge believer in service to the greater community.

It’s an essential part of life. But, if we all defined our greatest cause as the quest to cultivate and foster joy and success in those closest to us, honestly, the greater vision will begin to take care of itself on a level you never conceived possible.

You will create a base of familial and fraternal support that will allow you to grow your broader vision with vastly more power and speed than if you tried to go it alone.

And, in your kids, nieces, nephews and mentees, you’ll cultivate a deep sense of both familial and community responsibility that will help cultivate a new generation better equipped to keep “doing it right.”

So, if you want to save the world…go for it!

But, start with your quest to save your family.

As always, thoughts are welcome…

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11 responses

11 responses to “Your legacy starts at home”

  1. Parenting is the highest form of activism.

  2. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Michael – Completely agree. though, i might change that to…parenting is the greatest opportunity for activitism.

  3. It’s sad that they couldn’t be involved as a family.

  4. Didn’t Dickens write a little novel called “Bleak House” about this two centuries ago? 🙂

    Plus ca change…

  5. Wyatt Song says:

    What you’ve mentioned here is quite profound! I read the article twice and enjoyed every bit.

  6. I agree. You make the greatest impact on the world by creating a happy family. While Bob Hope made the troops so happy by entertaining them for so many Christmases, for example, I wonder if his children were made sad.

  7. Kelly says:

    Reminds me of the saying,”Charity begins at home”.

    Very nice blog! I aspire to speak with such clarity.

  8. Your family must take priority –

    Truer words than this from Jonathan are not spoken!

    “You lose sight of the fact that there is no greater legacy than to nurture the people and relationships you hold dear.”

    They don’t need your rapt and smothering attention, but when there is a choice – choose your own – and by the way, that includes yourself.

  9. […] article was inspired by a wonderful writer – Jonathan Fields – and his post  Don’t miss […]

  10. Cari says:

    I think Scenario #2 is most likely. While Sean Penn’s activism and charity are no doubt born from a genuine desire to make the world a better place, perhaps the amount of time he devoted to it was born from a genuine desire to be away from home. In other words, it’s a symptom, not the disease.

  11. this is why my wife and i are still married i guess, we just don’t give a fuck about anyone else (sorry about the f-bomb).