3 Lessons From Theodore Roosevelt On Leaving Your Legacy

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Good morning and welcome to the rest of your life. Or at least, what’s left it.

Today, you’re going to do the same thing you’ve always been doing… leaving your legacy.

Except, today you’re going to do it differently.

Today, you’re going to do it better.

You see, every day you are busy making your legacy. You pen it with every demonstration of your character, and continue to smith it through every thought, uttered word and action.

The problem is, you haven’t been crafting a very inspiring legacy. No, not at all.

So, in an effort to properly mend your destiny and spare yourself a future of mediocrity, I want you to think about the word legacy and what it means to you.

Chances are, what comes to mind probably isn’t the legend of the complacent, passive, ‘let it be’ dude who floats through life like a plastic bag in the wind.

Hell no.

You should be thinking of the heroes of history. The champions of their era. The greats who rose above the challenges of their time and succeeded in the face of adversity. Those who left behind a timeless example for us all to follow in our own lives.

It’s important to read the legacies and journeys of these important men and women from history, because their stories clue us in on what to expect when crafting our own legacies. And in their stories lie lessons that we have the opportunity to internalize, and in doing so bypass their struggles in our own journeys.

For example, I’ll tell you the story of one hero of history, which is riddled with lessons and sets the bar very high for all for us all to rise to the occasion.

It’s the story of The Bull Moose: Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt.

If you’re unfamiliar with the legend of Theodore Roosevelt, then it’s important to know that he was born with debilitating asthma and was told as a child that he would never amount to anything. But instead of proving all those who would watch him fail right, the bucking Bull Moose conditioned his body by blood and steel to overcome this limitation, and went on to become the 26th President of the United States.

A fine start to his legacy, but Presidency was only the beginning of Teddy Roosevelt’s legend and ever-flexing bravado, which stands still etched in history as a testament to manliness in American folklore.

You see, during Teddy’s term he did not waste his opportunity to shake things up in the political world. And as in all things, he did this in his own way, which became known as Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Big Stick Ideology.’ Which is simply to, ‘speak softly and carry a big stick,’ when handling foreign policy. Knowing that this was his methodology for life we can see that how the way one handles a single task, shines light on his character, which is then seen more clearly in the future.

In this case, Teddy Roosevelt’s reputation for being a bear-pelt wearing, big stick toting President was immortalized on the 12th October, 1912 when he was shot in the chest by an assassin in the middle of giving his campaign speech. Having been nearly assassinated several times before, Roosevelt handled this moment as gloriously as any man could by simply stating…

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

And then he proceeded to give his lengthy, 90-minute long speech with a bullet in his beating chest.

It was later understood that the bullet passed through his 50-page speech pamphlet, which slowed the bullet and probably saved his life.

I love this story, because it encapsulates how a legend is born. Not by some easy fluke of chance, but by knowing what is right, what needs to be done, and carrying through with it even as your life-force is being brained from your body.

Though, creating your legacy need not be this extreme. In fact, I recommend you avoid any legacy that puts you in the line of gunfire. No, leaving your legacy can be a much simpler – requiring no extra effort than you normally put in. It just means changing a few aspects about how you live your life as Teddy taught us in his.

The first lesson is to overcome adversity through bullishness.

Sometimes we cannot gracefully float over our problems, as was the case with Teddy’s asthma. He had to train his body to become strong enough to live. And knowing that this was the only way, he what he did what he needed to do through sheer bullish willpower to become the legend he is today.

Second, set examples through your character for others to follow.

Every interaction you have with another being is an opportunity for you to act in accordance to your true character. Whether you ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ like Roosevelt, or act in another way that better represents you, do act knowing that you are forging your legacy in the process.

And lastly, do what you set out to do, even if it is the last thing you will ever do.

Creating your legacy is arguably the most important thing you will ever do. And we all have to face the reality of our own untimely death at some point. However, if seen in the proper light, your own death should empower you with a sense of urgency to focus more fully on the task of crafting our legacy. And when you find yourself in the midst of doing the good work, like Theodore Roosevelt was on stage that day, finish what you started even if it’s the last thing you do.

With the ticking clock of your own yawning grave in your ears, I’ll end this with the words of another American hero, Benjamin Franklin who said it best, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

So, friend… which one are you going to do?

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