“How will your life be measured after you die?” he asked me. He was a very successful entrepreneur, so this seemed like a trick question. Like it was an important teaching moment for him as a mentor. So, feeling like he was about to get philosophical, I said, “It will be measured by how many lives you changed.” On the laptop in front of me he pulled up a page on his website that provided a different answer.
“Your life will be measured according to the size of the problems you solve,” it read. And, I realized that he was right. The bigger the problem you solve, the bigger your legacy will be. When I thought about that, I realized that it also achieved two things: it achieved the creation of wealth for the problem-solver and it achieved the creation of an impact.
The billionaires of this world will be remembered far longer than the homeless of this world. Unfortunately, despite both being equal in terms of humanity, this is how the world works. People make money based on the value they provide to the marketplace and their ability to provide that value. If you’re a billionaire, it means you solved a problem in the marketplace that the marketplace was willing to pay you top dollar for. Or, it could mean that the marketplace paid you an average amount of money for the value, but that so many people needed the value you were able to become wealthy because you had so many customers.
The question becomes, what problem did you solve and how did you solve it? For example, a drug dealer could sell drugs to solve a problem in the marketplace. Their buyers use the drugs as a means of escaping their anxiety, their depression—their pain. You’re impacting their lives because you’re solving that problem for them, even if it’s as a drug dealer. However, you’re creating wealth in a way that may or may not be legal and you’re creating a negative impact that could endanger the lives of the people you do business with. If the drug dealer in this example were to pass on, what would his legacy be? Would it be a positive or negative legacy? How would he be remembered? Outside of his loved ones, would he be remembered as someone worth befriending?
So, the goal is not only to solve a problem, but to make sure that the way you solve that problem creates a positive impact and not a negative one. To start, figure out what’s important to you in life. What do you value? What do you care about most? Now, think of what may be preventing you from attaining that thing you value or what could be preventing you from being able to hold on to it. Right there is your problem. And, your opportunity to solve it in a positive way for yourself and for others.
Right here is where most people would stop or get started and then give up. If you want to be remembered, if you want to leave a strong, positive legacy behind, it’s important that you don’t stop here. There is where a network can come into play. The connections within your network can help you brainstorm ways to solve the problem you’re aiming for. They can also provide you with access to resources or with introductions that can help you get closer to your goals on this mission.
The best part of all of this is that if you’re networking the right way, you’re doing more than “networking” in the traditional (and sometimes sleazy) sense. You’re actually relationship building. This means that the connections in your network are more than contacts, they’re your friends. So, you can get in touch with these friends of yours and work with them to get them as your accountability partners so you don’t fall off track.
This is how legends are made (not born!). The high-achievers of this world do things themselves, but they don’t do things alone. That way, they have access to all of the resources they need without having to sacrifice any of the credit once they solve the problem they worked towards solving. More than that, they’ll be self-made men and women. They’ll have created wealth from solving a problem in the marketplace and created a lasting impact from solving a problem in the lives of others.
As I sat there, soaking in the wisdom of this mentor and thinking about what I want my legacy to be, I realized that it all starts with purpose. Once I know my purpose—my WHY—I’ll know what problem I want to solve and why I want to solve it which can inspire myself and others to action.
Learn more about your purpose. Discover what it is you want to change in the world—the problem(s) you want to solve—and start brainstorming ways to tackle it. Life is only worth living when we decide to live it. When we refuse to make that decision, we simply pass through life and then on to the other side, with no trace that we were ever here. Worse, we leave with no way of helping those of us who still have to fight with the same problems you could have solved every day.
Be the change by being the problem solver. The rewards are more than monetary because the process is self-fulfilling since you’re on your purpose whenever you’re working to solve that problem. As you work through that process, remember to enjoy the journey and celebrate the small wins along the way.