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We often use the expression, “leave a legacy.”
Usually, the emphasis is on the word legacy. But the first word is just as important: leave. You have to actually depart at some point. That is when you leave a legacy.
While you’re alive, you can influence your legacy, but eventually it goes on without you. Other people will be the ones to define it.
Imparting a legacy starts with defining your values. If your values aren’t written down, you don’t have values. I’m serious. That statement might offend you if you believe you have values, but unless you can articulate them, all you have is a warm, fuzzy feeling. Most of us want to believe we are people of values, but if you don’t have those values written down, they are not actually tangible.
Once you have your values defined, take those values and turn them into principles. Principles are like sayings or expressions that are based on your values. Principles can be shared and passed on and referenced by others without your being there.
We talk about what to do from this point to communicate your values to others and give them the resources to carry them on without you. We also talk about the difference between mere influence and true legacy.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- A legacy is comprised of beliefs, truths, values, stories, or principles that are passed on from one person to another.
- Good legacies come from people who were focused on contributing.
- You are your own person and you have your own legacy.
- Success is not a zero-sum game.
- You can afford to leave a positive legacy.
- Principles give wheels to your values.
- Entrepreneurs aren’t going out and taking everyone’s money—they’re creating value that wasn’t there before.
- Build up your own business and invest your money so you have the ability to contribute even more.
- If you don’t have your values written down, you don’t have values.
- When you invest in others, give them a role, not just a job or a task.
- As your platform grows larger, you can provide more value to more people.
- You create your legacy right now, but others will define it after you’re gone.
- 05:51 Sean: We had quite the interesting discussion a couple hours before we recorded in the Community chat about legacy and what it means. We should talk about what we mean by legacy. I’m automatically coming into this thinking of good legacies, but Ben brought up that legacy is a neutral word. Bad people have negative legacies.
- 06:33 Ben: There are people who we remember from history who’s legacy is negative. It’s taken away from the world. It’s taken away innocence, beauty, or joy. Think about a person of history who represents a culture, for example. That person may not have been the only person in that culture, but because of how prominent their negative legacy was, it colors the way you think about that culture. That’s a shame, but it’s no less powerful than someone’s ability to leave a positive legacy.
What Is a Legacy?
- 07:27 Sean: Obviously, we’re talking about how to leave positive legacies, how to leave a good legacy. Can you have a legacy without being deceased? I wondered this. Did Steve Jobs have a legacy in 2010? Everyone in the chat seemed to agree that a legacy is something that is solidified when you’re gone. When you’re alive, you can still change the message and what people think about you after you’re gone. The key, operative word in the phrase we commonly use, “leave a legacy,” is “leave.” There is a leaving part, something you are stepping away from and letting go of.
- 08:22 It’s like having a kid on a bike without training wheels for the first time. You may be pushing and guiding them, but at some point, you let them go and it is what it is.
- 08:47 Ben: Early on in the conversation, one of the things I really liked about the idea of leaving was that there’s this finality. It’s locked in and it can no longer be changed. Sure, people can go and dig up things from your past, maybe things that you’ve done. Regardless of how public or private those things were, that is all potentially part of your legacy now. There’s nothing you can do to change it.
- 09:28 The thing I like about that is that, now, for the people who receive that legacy, it’s up to them to decide what to do with it. They no longer have the source to go back to. It’s up to the individual to whom it was left to decide what to do with that legacy.
- 09:55 Sean: I was doing some research on legacy, and people obviously have a lot of different perspectives on what it means, like we discovered in our conversation earlier. After reading a lot of different perspectives, I came up with this definition.
A legacy is comprised of beliefs, truths, values, stories, or principles that are handed down or passed on from one person to another.
- 10:24 We were talking about whether handing something off to someone a single time and not having that continue beyond that person is considered a legacy. There’s some validity in how much the message is passed on. The example I used was this: if I’m sitting on the subway and a drunk sits next to me and spews a bunch of nonsense, I can’t really close my ears. I have to listen to him, but I’m not going to pass on the message. I’m going to try and forget it for the rest of my day. It’s almost like the message has to go from person A to person B to person C for it to embody the concept of a legacy. Otherwise, it’s just someone hearing something. There’s a passing-on nature to legacy.
- 11:26 Ben: Sean shot down this idea of the butterfly effect, which we think of as this romantic thing. When you die, if someone goes through the backlog of Sean’s episodes and hears something that really resonates with them, whether they attribute that to Sean or not, because his message is relevant to their life, it’s going to shape the way they think and the way they talk about things. That, to me, is what legacy is. The idea has to take root, so the source has to be seen as someone credible.
- 12:21 Sean: It’s a difference between legacy and influence. Everyone has influence, and I do believe there is such a thing as the butterfly effect. Personally, I define legacy as being tied to a source. It’s not a domino bumping into a domino and who knows where it came from… poke the world here, it pokes out somewhere else. A legacy is tied to someone. I differentiate an influence from a legacy. Maybe the drunk on the subway stressed me out, bothered me, or even caused me to see the world in a new way, and later on the way I responded to someone else affected my decisions, etc, etc. I think he may influence me, but there has to be a passing on of something for it to be a legacy, whether it’s values, beliefs or message. The passing on qualifies the influence as a legacy.
The Source of a Legacy
- 13:36 Ben: I’m thinking about where the focus is, if I’m trying to think of legacy with me as the source of whatever was left. If you’re thinking in terms of a person not being able to leave a legacy until they’ve passed on, then a legacy is essentially the sum of that person’s life as people who have some relationship to that person continue to relate to what is left. By relationship, I don’t just mean family members and friends, necessarily. People who have a relationship to Sean are, currently, people who listen to his podcast, his audience members, and his customers. There are a lot of different ways for people to relate to Sean. When you die, whatever the sum of your life is, is the thing from which those people can draw your legacy.
- 14:49 Sean: I wonder if there’s a difference between relationship and legacy, though. I can have a relationship with someone and an influence on them, good or bad, but unless they pass whatever I’m imparting on, then I don’t know if it qualifies as legacy. There has to be a passing on part.
- 15:17 Ben: In order for the passing on to be possible, is it necessary for the source to be identified? Or can it be the passing on of your values without identifying Sean McCabe?
- 15:33 Sean: I don’t know the answer. I think there can be a relationship where one party is transmitting and the other party is receiving, hearing, but not really internalizing. They may not say it out loud, but they may be rejecting it. I’m hearing you, but I have no intention of passing this on.
- 15:56 Ben: I wonder how much control you have over that. Here are the two possibilities, and this is where my brain gets tied up. If you think that a legacy has to have a source, that it’s attached to your name, it’s like how Abraham Lincoln has a legacy. You can attribute to him certain ideas and stories, and that’s his legacy. As a person building a legacy, the danger of having your focus on the subject is that it takes the focus away from what you’re building. You’re thinking, “How will people remember me?” vs. “How will people remember the things that I did/said?”
- 17:06 On the other side, I think there’s something good about you being attributed. The weight of wondering whether your legacy will leave the world more positive or negative, because it’s attributed to you, has to mean something to you. The weight of that could be a good motivator. If you believe that something you’re doing or a message you’re sharing is taking away from the world, you don’t want that to be attributed to you.
- 17:50 Sean: If we look at good legacies and bad legacies, most of the bad legacies were from people who were focused on themselves. They were the person they wanted people to remember.
Good legacies come from people who were focused on contributing, values, and helping other people, and those things are associated with them.
- 18:16 People end up remembering their name as a byproduct. That wasn’t the end goal. We were talking about Abraham Lincoln, and Ben brought up his dad. I don’t know what their relationship was like, but let’s assume for the sake for argument that his dad played a big role in influencing the man Abraham Lincoln became. The legacy of Abraham Lincoln is one that belongs to Abraham Lincoln, and his father played a role in influencing him, but the legacy still belongs to Lincoln.
- 19:17 Ben: I was almost asserting that Abraham Lincoln and the things that he did were part of his father’s legacy. This is all based on assumptions, again, but because Lincoln’s father was still alive during the time of that influence, it’s not necessarily a part of his legacy. He did die, and what he left in the world was this son who did some great things. I would argue that that was part of his father’s legacy, in the sense that it was part of the sum of his life. People don’t talk about Abraham Lincoln’s father, they talk about Abraham Lincoln.
- 20:17 Sean: Is Hitler’s legacy a part of his father’s legacy? That’s where you start saying, “Dang, I don’t want to say that.”
- 20:25 Ben: I would say yes. I don’t like that, but it motivates me. My kids will choose to do with their lives what they’re going to do, but I am partly responsible for bringing them into the world. Because they are a part of what is left when I die, that is part of my legacy.
Your Children Are Not Your Legacy
- 21:09 Sean: I’m going to put out my controversial point and we can discuss it. I believe that your children are not your legacy. I think a lot of people automatically assume that. “Hey, what’s your legacy?” “I’ve got three kids.” Okay. Your children could be a part of your legacy, but a lot of people automatically wrap their identity in that. “This is my legacy.” You are your own person and you have your own legacy, and as important as your job of being a parent is, you have to see it as a job.
- 22:35 Your job is to, hopefully, raise good citizens who will go out and contribute value to the world, but you also have your own life separate from the job of being a parent—your vocation, your hobbies, etc. I realize that that’s a controversial point. It’s a little messy, because kids can be part of it but it’s not automatic that you’re children are your legacy.
- 22:31 Ben: For In the Boat With Ben, this is something we bring in every once in a while. I’d like to bring it in a lot more. I don’t know if this has always been true or if this is a more recent thing, but as parents, we have a tendency to wrap our identity up in our children in a way that’s very unhealthy for them and for us. That’s why people decide to not pursue their passion or follow their dreams anymore. I’m not talking about neglecting your kids to do those things. They think, “I can’t do this anymore, because now I’m a parent.”
- 23:15 The kid becomes the center of the parents’ world, and that’s incredibly unhealthy. That’s not how society works. The parent needs to continue to be an active part of society and build their own thing. It’s really good for the kid to grow up in an environment where that’s happening, where that’s being demonstrated for them. Otherwise, it perpetuates this false focus. It keeps you from doing things you really should be doing. When I say that kids are part of your legacy, I think that what Sean said agrees with that.
Kids are a part of your legacy, not all of your legacy.
- 24:09 Think about the amount of time you will live, on average, and the amount of time you spend with your kids while you’re raising them in your care. Yes, they’re a pretty significant chunk of your time, but they’re definitely not more than 50% of all of the time you have on this planet.
- 24:33 Sean: I’m really glad that Ben and I are on the same page with this. I think children can be a part of your legacy. It’s saying, “My children are my sole legacy,” and to say that is to say that your life is over because now you are living for your children. Like we said, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be responsible or that you shouldn’t invest in your family. Be with them, take care of them, provide for them. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do that, but you’re not only a parent. You’re not only living for them—you also have a life, and your legacy is not limited to your child.
You determine your own legacy independently of your child.
- 25:33 A lot of people put that weight on their kids. Sometimes the kid is aware of it and sometimes they’re not, but you’re putting all your stock in your kid. “You better do well, because my legacy is in your hands.”
- 25:48 Ben: It reflects on me. That’s a terrible way to think about it, good or bad. There’s either the pressure that the kid has to continue performing well, because that reflects on the parents. Or, if the kid is a “bad egg,” there’s a broken relationship. Now the parent feels like they have to disassociate themselves from their child because they can’t have that reflect on them. Neither of those is healthy.
- 26:15 Sean: That was uneventful. I thought it was going to be a big discussion.
- 26:29 Ben: It doesn’t work in reverse. Your parents’ legacy is not yours. Your children are a part of your legacy as a parent.
- 26:49 Sean: Your parents can’t be a part of yours?
- 26:50 Ben: Right. You get to decide what you’re going to do with the influence you receive from them and from any other person. If someone’s parents were takers, for example, and they left the world in the negative, that’s part of who they are, and I don’t want that for people. Don’t accept that, because you get to decide. You get to choose the kind of legacy you’re going to leave. On the other side, your parents hopefully instilled some good things in you, but you still decide whether you’re going to let those things be a part of your legacy. As soon as you choose those things for yourself, they become yours. They’re no longer your parents’. You can say, “I’m a good person because my father influenced me,” and that can be true, but what’s more true is that you chose to take that influence, internalize it, and make it your own.
- 28:07 Ownership of that is really important, especially in a case where the parent is a negative influence or there’s some bad history there. That doesn’t have to be part of your identity, because you get to choose. It doesn’t work in reverse, because as the person who’s building the legacy, you get to decide what is going to be part of your legacy.
Two Types of Legacies
- 28:37 Sean: Ben, you mentioned parents being takers. The alternative is being contributors, contributing vs. taking. That defines what kind of legacy you will have. If you’re constantly in the middle, you have very little legacy. If you both contributed and took, you kind of had a null effect. If you took a bunch, you were a bad effect, and if you gave a bunch, you were a good effect. The people who extracted from the world everything they could for themselves have a negative legacy, and those who gave as much as they could during the time they were here end up having a positive legacy. Of course, it’s not that you can only contribute. You do have to take care of yourself. You have to make money and provide for yourself.
- 29:40 It’s more like, what is the offset for you? This isn’t just for individuals, but businesses can also follow this. There are taking businesses and there are contributing businesses. Businesses that make money and extract from the world are taking businesses. Businesses with a mission to impart change are contributing to the world. That may involve making money to be able to fund their mission, but that’s what it is—it’s a mission. It’s a mission of provision for change and not one of extraction.
- 30:21 Ben: It doesn’t even have to be a mission that you take independent of the clients that you’re serving. Part of your mission could be the way that you provide value to your clients. If you go into a client relationship thinking, “They’re going to pay me a fair price for this based on the value they receive, but my focus is going to be on providing more value than what I’m being compensated for.” Whether you’re a business or a person, it goes back to core beliefs. If you don’t believe there’s enough to go around, you’ll tend to be a taker.
- 31:05 If you believe that there’s enough to go around as long as people don’t take too much, you’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle. If you believe that there’s more than enough to go around and that, as long as there’s more than enough to go around, you can afford to give, you’re going to be a person who contributes. Although it’s a struggle for me, I aspire to believe that there’s more than enough to go around. If I out-give every single person I come into contact with, I’m still going to get to the end of the day and I’ll have my needs taken care of.
Leaving a positive legacy is something you can afford to do.
- 31:47 I believe that if everybody did that, we wouldn’t be depleting some finite source of inspiration, beauty, love, or whatever your currency is. Everything would be better. If you’re not there in your beliefs, you have to work toward that. Believe there’s more than enough to go around.
You Create Success
- 32:20 Sean: I’m trying to remember if I added an episode on success, because I really want to talk about this. We schedule out our episodes. In the near future, I’m going to be talking about this a little bit more in depth, but I want to touch on it. Success is not a zero-sum game. Zero-sum means that when you get something, someone else doesn’t. Picture a plate of ten cookies. If you and I were to split them evenly, we each get five. If I take an extra and have six, you have four. That’s a zero-sum game. Success is not a zero-sum game. There are a lot of people that mistakenly think that when one person is successful, it’s because they’ve made other people not successful.
- 33:18 They’ve taken from other people. You create success. You produce value for the world. You are a productive human being, and you can go out and apply yourself. Create value for the world and be successful, and have the world be a better place. A lot of people think that if you’re successful, you’ve taken from everybody else. That’s one option. Some people do take, but that’s not the only option. You can be an individual or a business that’s creating value for the world and success for yourself and it’s not a zero-sum game. Like Ben’s saying, you can out-give everyone and still be okay at the end of the day, still have everything taken care of.
- 34:11 Ben: For some people who are a little bit more on the skeptical side, I know that’s hard. The logical part of me thinks, “The economy of giving and taking has to work that way. The person who gives incredible value may not take from somebody, but maybe their circumstances are better than somebody else’s, and that’s how it evens out.” There’s a part of your mind that’s going to try and find how it’s a zero-sum game. You’re going to drive yourself crazy doing that, and you’re never going to arrive at an answer that satisfies you. If that’s the case, why not lean into this idea that maybe there is more than enough to go around?
- 35:13 I can only say this from experience. I can’t look at the numbers, prove it on paper, or tell you the math to account for every single thing, but I can tell you from my personal experience that when I give more, I’m not left depleted.
In many cases, we are better off for having given more.
- 35:38 Sean: As long as you look at the world as a taker, you’re always going to have a pessimistic view of it. “How can everything not be a give-and-take economy? If you’re successful, someone else is less successful.” That’s because you have a taker’s mentality. I don’t know the exact numbers, but let’s just say we have a ten trillion dollar economy. The taker sees that and says, “Well, we have a ten trillion dollar economy. If you take a dollar here, it’s going to go over there.” What the taker doesn’t see that the contributor does is that, maybe, we have a thirty trillion dollar economy potential, but everyone’s sitting on their butts or figuring out ways to take from what exists instead of contributing and adding to what is already there.
- 36:28 What would the world look like if everyone actually applied themselves and went and created value? That is what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs aren’t just going out and taking everyone’s money—they’re creating value that wasn’t there before, and it affects the economy. Ben mentioned out-giving, working for a client and giving them even more value than you’re being compensated for. I like this idea of leapfrogging. Say you do a $1,000 project for a client. Imagine that you were paid $3,000 and do a $3,000 job. That’s your mindset. When you do that, you’ll end up with a project and a case study that looks like a $3,000 project, which will, in turn, attract clients that will be willing to hire you for $3,000 jobs.
- 37:26 You repeat the process. That’s leapfrogging. You then do $10,000 worth of a job for them, even though they’re only paying you $3,000. Set your mindset higher and give back even more, and you will leapfrog. You will keep growing in your professionalism, the kind of clients you get, the amounts you’re able to charge, the amount of value you’re able to contribute to the world, and that’s a fantastic way to level up.
- 38:00 Ben: The benefit to you is that you free yourself up. The more someone can pay you to provide value, the more time and freedom you have to focus and provide more value. It becomes this snowball.
- 38:21 Sean: It’s a “benefit snowball,” as we call it.
- 38:26 Ben: I like the snowball effect, moving in that positive direction. If you’re focused on moving in that direction, it’s going to continue. You don’t just even out.
- 39:13 Sean: I want to talk about this idea of what might seem like taking at first that is really setting yourself up for the big contribution later on. Let’s say that I could give someone $1,000. It would be a good thing to do that. That’s a kind gesture. What would be the impact of that $1,000? They could do this, they could do that. They might buy this or that. Most likely, the person that would benefit from me giving them $1,000 would not be able to do with that $1,000 what I’m able to do with that $1,000 in my business. I could take this theoretical $1,000 and make an investment, either in my business or some other form of investment, and turn it into $10,000 eight months later.
- 40:13 I could then give them $2,000, $5,000, or the whole $10,000, but it’s later on. The reason I bring up this concept is to illustrate that what might initially seem like taking may not be a bad thing. If you’re building up your business, investing in your business, infrastructure, hiring, and whatever else, it’s not wrong to be building up your own infrastructure vs. donating to someone who could use the money. As you build up your own business, it has greater and greater potential for good, evil, or whatever, hopefully for good. A lot of people think that successful people are greedy.
- 41:11 People will criticize or mock the charitable contributions of wealthy people because they say, “Yeah, they gave $50 million, but they have $10 billion.” They micro-analyze the percentages and talk about how they’re not really generous. The objective value of $10 million is significant. A $50 million contribution could do a lot of good. It’s not just about the percentage of their total income. In most cases, the people criticizing don’t give an equal or greater percentage of their own income. They’re a part of the problem, because they’re playing both sides of the field. They’re saying that the percentage is not very big, and therefore, it’s not an important contribution because you could have given more.
- 42:13 Yet, when you ask them, “Why don’t you give?” They say, “If I gave 10%, that would be nothing.” They’re playing both sides. They won’t acknowledge that $50 million is a significant charitable contribution, but they think their own amount is not objectively good.
Build up your own business and invest your money, because you’re building up leverage and the ability to contribute even more.
- 42:51 It’s the difference between giving my parents $10,000 right now and buying them a house in five years. Which is better? It depends on the duration of your vision.
- 43:07 Ben: It also depends on what you believe your investment into your business is capable of. The root of it has to be the desire to give. I can’t prescribe one way or the other for a person, but I think it’s worth questioning. “If I gave this now, yes, it would have an impact. Yes, it would help. If I gave this now, this could save somebody’s life,” or whatever. “If I reinvest it into my business, I know my business over a year could give me X% return on this investment. In one year, I’ll be able to give ten times as much. If I gave it now, I might be able to do that same amount again in a year.” It doesn’t always come down to saving someone’s life or anything like that, but ask that question: “If I reinvested this, how much more would I be able to make?”
- 44:36 Again, the value being giving and understanding what that investment is going to need. Your own business is not the only place you can make that investment. There might be some other way you can invest it. There might be a person who would be a good person to invest that money into. There are a number of options. When considering giving, it’s good to keep those options in mind. Doing so is not self-serving.
- 45:16 Sean: Look at the objective contributions very wealthy people have been able to make. Bill Gates has given away billions of dollars, and that’s done a whole lot of good. First, he built a software empire. People could say, “That’s selfish,” but you have to know your long game. Know your intentions, and don’t worry about what other people are going to say about that in the meantime who don’t understand the vision and who aren’t trying to do good in their own lives.
- 45:54 Ben: My perception of Bill Gates—I follow him on Twitter and see articles every once in a while—is that his life revolves around giving and making the world a better place. If you had found him 10 or 20 years ago, you may not have thought that about him. You may have looked at the things he was building and the wealth he was building, and you may not have thought, “This is a person who’s life is centered around making the world a better place.” As impressed that I am with the things he’s able to do today, those things wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t spent that time building.
- 46:38 I appreciate that he held back all those years. I can’t say with certainty that that was his intention all along, but I like the results of where he is and what he’s doing today. If it’s possible that his “selfishness” made it possible for him to be as generous as he is today, then that’s a good thing. Like Sean said, examine your motives and make your own decision about that, but don’t dismiss it because you’re afraid that people will see you as selfish.
How to Impart a Legacy
- 47:26 Sean: I wrote down four things, and those things are:
- Identify your values.
- Turn those values into principles.
- Communicate those principles.
- Invest in others.
- 47:46 Figure out what you want to plant. If we think in terms of a plant metaphor, what is the crop that you want? Go out and get the seeds, plant the seeds, and then water them.
- 48:15 Ben: I feel like we don’t have to talk about the values and principles thing because it feels like such a given, but a lot of people seem to stop there. They say, “Well, I’ve got my values and my principles, so I’m good. If people are around me, they’ll be influenced by my values and principles just because they’re interacting with me.” I love the idea of communicating those things. I break that into two things. There’s verbally, publicly communicating these ideas and trying to share these ideas in a way that helps other people think about it and invest, if it really will make their lives better to internalize those messages. Secondly, part of communicating is demonstrating those things and living them out.
- 49:06 This comes back to integrity. You can say that your values and principles are what they are, but if you’re not demonstrating that in your life, it doesn’t hold as much weight for people. Ultimately, the things you do to express those values and principles are the things that will stand the test of time. Part of that goes hand in hand with investing in people.
- 49:45 Sean: For the first point, identifying your values, it’s like with a professional process. If you don’t have your process written down, you don’t have a process.
If you don’t have your values written down, you don’t have values.
- 50:01 You think you have values because it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling. “Yeah, I’m a person of values.” Can you write down more than three? More than four or five? I probably have a few dozen written down. You have to identify your values by name. Say them. What are they? Not just, “Am I a moral person? Do I have values? I believe in things.” What are those things? Identify them. Then—I’m not lumping together values and principles—take your values and turn them into principles. Principles are the sayings that people take with them. Principles give wheels to your values.
- 50:57 Ben: Principles are the set of rules that are the natural result of those values. I think about the principle of not being a technician, that I’m going to design something and not take creative input from the client.
- 51:23 Sean: I’m not just going to do a job without looking at the context. I’m going to solve the real problem.
- 51:31 Ben: That’s the principle that’s tied to the value that informs that.
- 51:36 Sean: The value might be that we serve the clients’ best interest. Sometimes, the client doesn’t know what is in their best interest. They just come in demanding things. Some people want money, and they’ll do whatever they’re told. If you know that something is really detrimental, you may need to say no to the client and reframe the project. The value is, “We serve our clients’ best interests,” and the principle may be, “We are professionals not technicians.” The principle is something that can be communicated, so other people understand what we stand for. The value is the reason. That’s why I separated those.
- 52:23 You communicate those principles to other people, and they understand that the values are where they came from. You invest in them and empower them. Give them the ammunition, tell them what the mission is, and then give them all the resources they need to carry it forth.
- 52:55 Ben: When it comes to investing in people, I go back to communication being both what you say and what you do. You demonstrate the value of working in the client’s best interest by carrying out the principle and actually doing that. If I say that this is my value and then I take on a client who is going to treat me like a technician and I say yes to that, it breaks down. When you’re trying to invest in people, that value isn’t as strong and you can’t impart it as readily. That demonstration is going to speak a lot louder than your words.
Invest in Others
- 53:49 Let’s talk about investing. What are some ways that you can invest in people in a way that instills your legacy?
- 53:59 Sean: You empower them. You make them autonomous. You give them responsibility. Give people a role, not just a job or a task. Empower them to make mistakes, to impact other people, to carry out things, to make decisions, and it all comes back to the principle. It can go on and be replicated with or without you. Essentially, you’re giving them all the resources they need to carry that out.
- 54:43 Ben: When I hear Sean talking about this, the example I think of immediately is the employee/employer relationship. That seems pretty straightforward. You’d rather have them act autonomously based on principles that are tied to values. You’d rather have that than to have them follow your instructions and not understand the reasoning behind it. That’s not leaving a legacy, because the cut-off is you. If you don’t give them specific instruction, they don’t know how to carry out those values. Whereas, if you communicate the values and principles, they have the ability to make decisions to act independent from your specific instructions and still uphold those values.
- 55:43 Sean: If a person on my team comes to me with problems, I’m thinking of a way to get rid of them. I only want people coming to me with solutions, because I’m arming them with the knowledge they need to make the right decisions based on certain principles. If they need guidance over something, it should be, “Which of these two solutions, in your experience, is the best? I’ve already narrowed it down.”
- 56:19 Ben: Sean saying that out loud sounds a little bit scary. “They come to me with problems, I’m thinking about how to get rid of them.”
- 56:25 Sean: Is that scary, Cory? I know it sounds scary, but what do you think about it?
- 56:33 Cory: I’ve always tried to come to Sean with options. That comes naturally to me. For the most part, I try to do that. We’ve talked about mistakes, but that’s a whole topic of it’s own.
- 56:46 Sean: For the record, Cory has done that. That’s why he’s here. He’s good at that. He comes to me with solutions. That’s not to say that there can’t be problems. There are problems, but he says, “Here’s the situation. This is what occurred. I think we should either do this or this, based on these reasons or principles.” They know that.
- 57:19 Ben: Then, the burden falls on you as the employer to communicate those things and to make sure that your employees are aware of those things. That’s a specific example, but what about your audience? How does that translate?
- 57:44 Sean: I try to explain the reasoning, the why, behind anything I prescribe. This whole thing, everything we’re doing, is iterating in public, an experiment. Let’s see what happens and share what happens when we live out our lives and operate our business based on certain principles. In some cases, we challenge the status quo, whether it’s pricing, discounts, pop-ups, clients, how we think of employees and who we hire, hiring proactively vs. reactively, or whatever it is. The experiment is, “Do we believe in our values? Are we willing to stand by them and make decisions from them?” Everything I talk about here are my values, and you can decide if you agree with those values or not.
Even if you don’t agree with my values, hopefully you see this show as an inspiration to live out your life based on your own values.
- 58:58 This is a value-driven approach to life and business.
- 59:04 Ben: How do you go from being an influencer to a legacy-builder in that space, in terms of investing in people?
- 59:15 Sean: If we go by what we said earlier about leaving a legacy meaning that you have to leave or depart, you have a legacy when you’re dead and not when you’re alive, your legacy is going to live on without you. There is a letting go involved. While you’re alive, you create your legacy, but others will define it after you’re gone. Ben’s question is, how do you build it while you’re here?
- 59:54 Ben: I’m thinking about the investing in people part. I would answer that by saying that the communication and the investment are almost the same thing, because in order to communicate it, you have to build a platform and an audience. That does take quite a bit of investment. Anyone listening to this podcast, for example, is receiving value and being invested in. Every single one of you is being invested in right now, because of the time and effort it takes to deliver this to you. In that sense, this is a way of both communicating and investing.
- 1:00:44 Sean: That is how I would answer it. I could put everything behind a paywall or I could only talk to people who are in my physical space, and I would be investing in them. I would be creating a kind of legacy at a certain scale. I’m giving it away and paying whatever it costs per listener for them to hear this message. Nothing is free. I’m paying for that, and my hope is that eventually, after they’ve taken enough, they feel compelled to give back because of reciprocity. The communication and investment are one, because I’m paying to communicate to them.
The Legacy of seanwes
- 1:01:35 Ben: Sean, your ultimate goal is giving. It’s building this legacy that leaves you “in the positive.” When they reciprocate, it just gives you more of an ability to give.
- 1:01:51 Sean: Yes. We talk about this more on Lambo Goal, where we talk about business and big picture. If you’re not listening to it, you’re missing out. I share all the revenue numbers. I’ve shared a lot on this show, but on that show, I share everything. It’s not about exotic cars—the Lambo Goal is a representation of principles that we have. Listen to that show, but if you don’t, I’ve shared before that our payroll with the eight full time people that work at seanwes is in the neighborhood of $30,000 a month. seanwes does not make $30,000 a month. In 2015, without launches, it would come down to an average of $12,000 a month. Sometimes $10,000, sometimes $15,000, and sometimes more, but that’s the recurring baseline.
- 1:02:53 We have these other launches, different promotional things. The spikes from launches, whether it’s courses or events, even out. It is a little bit stressful, but because I see the trajectory and where we’re going, I’m investing now, while it’s kind of scary, because I see where things are going. That means that our payroll is well above what we make on a recurring basis every month. In January, we actually made 80% of payroll, which was pretty cool. We made nearly $25,000 with zero launches and zero promotions. That’s positive. I’m anticipating that, in 2016, we will have recurring revenue up to payroll. All that to say, I’m busting my butt to try and get us there, and there have been some really hard times, especially last year.
- 1:04:00 I worked 1,000 hours in 53 days, and I did that because I had to do a launch to be able to pay for payroll. I had to take care of people. That’s not where I want to be, but if I didn’t work 1,000 hours in 53 days, for you the podcast listener, there would be no podcast. There would be no more seanwes. If my calculations were totally off and what was needed was 2,000 hours, I can’t not sleep for 53 days, so that would mean the end of seanwes. You no longer have a podcast to listen to. When I say that I’m paying however many dollars per listener for them to listen to this and for me to spend my time and impart this, because my hope is that eventually that they’ll give back and compensate me, it’s not because I want their money. It’s because I want to continue doing what we’re doing.
- 1:05:00 We can’t continue doing what we’re doing if we continue making 60% or 80% payroll. It’s just not possible. I believe in the Rule of Reciprocity, and that’s why I give. It’s always this balance. Right now, we need to survive. I want to give as much as possible so we don’t die out and we can still survive. I know, eventually, that will come around, but that’s why we’re doing this, so we can keep doing it at a greater scale and help more people.
- 1:05:43 Ben: Knowing who Sean is as a person, his desire is to continue doing this as much as possible, to give away as much value as he possibly can.
As your platform grows larger, you have more influence and you can provide more value to more people.
- 1:06:03 Asking for people to reciprocate the value that they’ve gotten is really asking them to say, “I’ve received a lot of value from this, and I want other people to be able to receive value from this, both now and in the future. Because my life is better for having listened to this material or taken that course, I want to give back.” I think it’s going to work because Sean’s focus is not on trying to get money—it’s on trying to provide as much value as possible, regardless of what he’s doing. The courses he sells are being sold at a price point that’s below the value of what people are actually receiving from it. He’s providing even more value there.
- 1:07:00 That goes back to what you believe. Do you believe that there’s more than enough to go around? If you do, you’re going to operate that way, and you’re going to see the results from that.
The Reciprocity Loop
- 1:07:12 Sean: Reciprocity is involved in this whole process, and you could say, “I see what you’re doing, Sean. You’re giving a bunch away so people will give back, and you repeat that enough, and you’re going to be in a pretty good spot.” That’s absolutely true. If you think that is the end game, then it can seem selfish. My goal is to go out leaving the reciprocity loop open. We talk about the Rule of Reciprocity a lot, but there are new listeners. The Rule of Reciprocity is a human, intrinsic thing. If you give someone value, like if you buy them a coffee, they feel compelled to pay you back. Usually, they feel compelled to buy you lunch, because they don’t want it to seem like they still owe you something.
- 1:08:07 People are motivated to give back, and that’s the Rule of Reciprocity. It’s built into everyone. When someone gives you a gift, you feel compelled to give, even if it’s not to them. You want to pay it forward. When you give someone something and they give something back, that’s a reciprocity loop. When someone gives back, the reciprocity loop is closed. When you give to others, the reciprocity loop is open. You can go out in life with a closed reciprocity loop, or you can go out with an open reciprocity loop. My goal is to go out with an open reciprocity loop, because that will carry forward. Whatever I end up with, hopefully I can pay that forward and do good with a long lasting effect, and I can go out with an open reciprocity loop. That contributes to a legacy. That contributes to what you leave behind.
- 1:09:16 Ben: Before the show, we were talking about this really simple example. Hopefully by now we’ve established that a legacy is much more than you finances. It’s many different things. If you die with money in your bank account, that’s got to go to somebody. If you die and you have a negative balance, somebody has to pay for that. I would much rather go out in the positive. I used to work at Starbucks in the drive through, and every once in a while someone would buy their coffee and say, “Hey, let me pay for the person behind me, too,” and they’d drive off. That’s leaving an open reciprocity loop, because the next car pulls up and doesn’t owe any money. They were ready to pay, and now they can’t pay that other person back, so they say, “I guess I’ll pay for the person behind me.”
- 1:10:23 Sean: They pay it forward to the person behind them.
- 1:10:31 Ben: It always ends at some point. Somebody says, “That was really nice. I get a free coffee today,” and they drive off.
- 1:10:39 Sean: You think, “They closed the reciprocity loop,” but maybe that loop closed differently than you imagined. What if they just did something nice for someone right before they came through the drive through, and that was the world’s way of closing their reciprocity loop?
- 1:10:57 Ben: Or what if they left and they did something nice for somebody else?
- 1:11:01 Sean: And that person did something nice to the guy that was in the front of the line who started it.
You have a legacy right now—you just have to die to find out what it is.
- 11:24 Your legacy is in the future, but it’s also something you’re creating now by the choices you’re making now and the contributions you’re making. If you die right now, you have a legacy. What legacy is that, and are you satisfied with it?