Winning Legacy

Gerwig 2013-12-27

Are you a sports fan? Or an athlete? If you’re not, I’m willing to bet that you know one. You see, sports are popular all over the world—from soccer to rugby to football to cricket to basketball. People the world over enjoy playing and watching sports. It’s obvious, when you talk about the Olympics or the World Cup or the Super Bowl, that people are crazy about sports.

One memorable sports highlight for me was playing soccer (futbol) with a group of kids in Africa. We were in a remote part of Kenya working on a water project that would provide clean water to several tribes that had to walk up to 20km for clean water. During a break, one of our project members brought out a soccer ball and kicked it toward the kids. I’ve never seen such joy and energy. Before long, we had teams and were playing in the world cup final! These kids had imaginations matched only by their energy.

Recently I had the thrill of attending a college basketball game at Rupp Arena with one of my sons. It was a big deal for us. You see, my son is an avid basketball fan. The team that calls Rupp Arena “home” is the University of Kentucky Wildcats. They are a perennial powerhouse in U.S. college basketball, having won several national championships, and they happen to be coached by one of my son’s favorite coaches.

As we took our seats, I looked up and saw numerous championship banners hanging from the rafters dating over many decades. It was apparent to all that we were about to watch a team with a winning legacy. A team with a winning tradition. A team that had enjoyed a long period of excellence.

Though not likely a championship year, Kentucky is still nationally ranked. We enjoyed watching the game (yes, they won!) and the colorful spectacle that accompanies such an event, crazy fans dressed in weird costumes, acrobatic cheerleaders, fireworks during player introductions, etc. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Whether watching college basketball or playing a pick-up game of soccer in a remote corner of Africa, what captures our attention about sports, at least in part, are the champions, the all-stars, those that win the gold medal or hoist the trophy. We are naturally drawn to players like Lionel Messi and Michael Jordan. We love to watch (whether to pull for or against) teams like the New York Yankees or Manchester United.

And not always, but usually, the players who are the most famous and command the largest salaries play for the biggest teams, those with winning legacies. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or Barcelona. These teams have winning traditions. These teams know how to set high performance expectations and meet them. Over time. Through the ages. Whether in an athletic, corporate, academic or family setting, world-class leaders and organizations set high performance expectations and then meet them.

What about you? Are you playing for a national championship caliber team? Are you leading a world-class organization? Developing a winning legacy takes time, patience, discipline, planning, and execution. A legacy, by definition, is not a “1-hit wonder” nor does it occur overnight. Why? Because a legacy implies staying power. Excellence over time. Sustained excellence.

Whether you’re starting out, at half-time, or near the end, you can make a difference. You can start or continue a winning legacy. You may not see the final outcome, but you can take pride in the fact that you started or continued a work of excellence.

Last night, my two sons and I were having a discussion about our family and the legacy that we’re entrusted with. Parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and many generations whom we’ve never met have contributed to a strong legacy in our family. There is much to be thankful for and much still to do. We know the responsibilities we have and we know the blessings we enjoy because of the hard work and prayers of others who went before us and paved the way.

Life (home, work, church, etc.) is much more important than sports. The winning legacy that you start or continue is much more important than trophies, gold medals, championships or world-records. … Enjoy watching and/or playing sports, but never fail to recognize the temporal and eternal consequences that stem from a winning legacy in your family and in the organizations with whom you’re associated that impact hundreds or thousands of other people and their families. … Start or continue today.

Take a deep look within. Are you developing a winning legacy in your family? How about in the organization you lead or for whom you work? How are your actions contributing to the winning legacy you want to leave behind?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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