Original question from Quora:

How could I make my life more useful? So people remember me fondly even when I am gone.

My Answer:

When you say people, which people do you mean?

If you mean the people closest to you like your best friends and family, that is one thing. I you mean people in the world at large, that is quite a different thing.

Oh, and neither one cares much about how useful you are.

Here is the thing, if you want the people closest to you to remember you, don’t spend your life being useful to them, spend your time and energy loving them and caring about what they care about and helping them be and do whatever is is that they want to be and do.

People care about themselves primarily, and everything else secondarily. People around you will care if you care about them first. If you care about other people and show them how much you care about them and what they care about, it will leave an impression.

Also, be nice to people. Compliment people. Give them praise. There isn’t enough of that going around.

Seriously, it all comes down to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

If you want the world at large to remember you, it is not about being useful, it is about being memorable (and a considerable amount of self-promotion).

Do you know who Ben Franklin is?

Of course you probably know if you know much of anything about American history. He was many things but he was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. That was a huge deal right?

Yep. It really was. Without that act of defiance towards England, the USA doesn’t exist and the last 250 years or so looks a whole lot different. For example, both world wars could have gone very different, the entire course of global commerce would be different, and much of the freedom and democracy we take for granted now might not have happened the way it happened.

Benjamin Franklin is truly a memorable character of history and millions, if not billions of people still know who he is hundreds of years later.

Now, pop quiz hot shot….

Who is Caesar Rodney, Robert Morris, Josiah Bartlett, Thomas Whipple, George Clymer, Lyman Hall, Carter Braxton, and Abraham Clark?

Would you believe they all signed the Declaration of Independence? In fact 56 men signed that document, but we only remember about five of the names in most of the history books.

What happened to the other 50 men?

See, that’s the trouble with worrying about being remembered. There is no way to control or sometimes significantly influence how much you are remembered and for how long.

In fact, many things that we should remember, many great achievements are mostly lost to history a far as many are concerned. Who is the highest ranking general of World War I? Who is the most decorated soldier of WWII?

Who had the #1 hit song of 1994? Do you even remember? It was recent enough to be in many people’s lifetime, possibly including yours.

It’s Ace of Bass’ “The Sign”. When was the last time anyone cared about Ace of Bass? Yep, only 20 years later and the band with the #1 song is almost totally forgotten.

Just think about that fact. You can get to the very top of the world in terms of something as pervasive as pop music and be completely forgotten ten or twenty years later. Even when you are still alive!

That’s the thing about people remembering you. It’s not about being useful. It’s not about achievement. It’s not even about fame.

It’s about being memorable, and it is nearly impossible to control how memorable you are to the world.

So, why bother trying to be memorable to people you don’t even know? You have no control over that.

Ignore being memorable to “people”.

Instead, make your life and the lives of the people closest to you better. Then, work your way out from there. The people who matter to you will remember you fondly.

That is a beautiful thing isn’t it?

-Brian

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