The Problems with Legacy Leaving

The Problems with Legacy Leaving

Now that there are more and more people who are older, lonely, socially isolated and depressed, we are seeing lots of articles encouraging people to mentor or do something that “leaves a legacy”. Consequently, intergenerational websites, platforms and organizations are growing. The lost tribe of medicine is no exception.

However, there are some problems with doing things to leave a legacy:

  1. Like your business strategic plan, life gets in the way and we live under conditions of uncertainty. It is impossible to predict how what you do will leave an impact, if any. Socrates said “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”.
  1. Doing things so people will remember you once you are gone puts the focus on the future, not the present. It’s more fulfilling to live things, not leave them, and let the cards fall where they may. Plus, while you might have helped remove some people’s obstacles to success or happiness, most of their success can be attributable to them, not you. Maybe, for example, you helped awaken their innerpreneur. Truth be TOLD, most of your protege’s success probably has more to do with luck than anything you did.
  2. It is unlikely that people will remember who you are 100 years from now
  3. Mentoring is not always effective. Not everyone is cut out to do it and there are several reasons why mentoring fails. Sure, when it works, mentoring helps both the mentor and the mentee, like helping to soothe burnout.
  4. Legacies are hard to scale. I think most are lucky if you make a difference in the lives of a handfull of people.
  5. Leveraging your impact relies on someone you helped pass it forward. Many will drop the baton so it’s a numbers game. Like innovation, success in legacy leaving depends on how many times you try and that can be frustrating and disappointing.
  6. Doing volunteer work to help others is admirable. However, while twenty-five percent of American adults volunteer, that number is at a 10-year low—putting extra strain on the 85 percent of nonprofits that rely exclusively on volunteer staff to manage the services constituents depend on. For this reason, it’s more important than ever that nonprofits figure out the best ways to attract and retain volunteers.Volunteers want convenience, time defined outcomes and demonstrable impact.
  7. Entrepreneurial psychopaths run the risk of passing along bad behaviors instead of good ones. The result is the lonely leading the lonely
  8. Dealing with narcissistic “successes” is hard. Here are some tips on technique.
  9. There are few insulting or brutally truthful eulogies. They are not like failure resumes.

Helping other people is a good idea and doing well by doing good is not a sin and has a long history. When it comes to legacy leaving, focus on the now, not the next and new.


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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

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Arlen Meyers

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine ,teaches bioentrepreneurship and is Chief Medical Officer for Bridge Health and Cliexa. He is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and author of the Life Science Innovation Roadmap.




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