In 1941, Lyndon Baines Johnson lost his Senate race in District. Spurned, he turned away from much of what his core beliefs were and went a different direction. Once he finally moved more conservative to win in Texas, he turns against FDR, the New Deal, and along the way makes his way into more powerful elected positions.
He becomes the youngest Majority Leader in the country, but did not a lot of purpose for it. Until he had a heart attack six months later.
Recovering at his ranch, he asked himself, “What if I died now, what would I be remembered for?”
That’s when LBJ “found” himself. He remembered what he stood for and believed. He supported reconstruction, the New Deal, and a far more expansive role of government for the good of civil rights.
All this is to say: what if we didn’t always have to have a near-death experience to think about that big question?
If you died right now, what would you be remembered for? And by whom?
Personally, I struggle with this.
I have long held the dour view that my life is likely to be a short one. Too many brain tumors killed off the women in my family tree and too many prostate cancers and heart disease on the men’s side. 40 is quite an accomplishment for many of the leaves in the Blankenbaker-Malloy-Harter-Knapp- branches.
I struggle recognizing that my work is so ephemeral. A website only lasts so long as someone pays a $13 a year domain name renewal bill.
I struggle recognizing the onslaught of emails and requests every day reduce me to feeling like a mere pixel pusher. “That button should say X”. “Actually, you don’t want it to say that because of Y.” “I don’t care, make it X.” All. Day. Long.
I struggle feeling like any of the work I do amounts to much. Best case some people make a new sale or get a new “like”. What a worthless metric to measure anything against.
I prod myself into doing things that are basically ridiculous — like triathlons, races, and heck I did a 100 mile century ride on a whim two Saturdays ago. All for the intent of feeling a small bit of accomplishment at doing things most people just won’t do.
LBJ lived his life always wanting and seeking power. He got it, then lost it, and never really got over that. I’ve always been seeking some sort of long-lasting thing that would provide … something.
I’ve never cared much about money, clearly. My tax filings can long attest to that. It’s probably made me a worse business owner as a result.
I’ve never cared much about power. I don’t get a thrill out of managing people or telling others what to do.
I’ve always liked creating things. Putting things into the world. Perhaps it would be nice to do something that would last a little longer than an ephemeral web page.
Organizing things is also equally nice. I’ve long felt a sense of accomplishment just putting things into logical order, whether physical objects in space or a story line in writing.
Perhaps most people struggle with this same thing. And you?
What are we going to be remembered for if we died today?