Are Kittens Dangerous for Your Legacy?

Are Kittens Dangerous for Your Legacy?

A friend of mine called me all excited about a new video he posted on YouTube. It featured scenes of humans helping animals. “I’ve tried all kinds of videos,” he said, “but this one got the most views. It’s up over thirty-thousand! When I posted a serious video about business that took forever to make and cost way more money, I only got like five views …”

“But what’s the point of it?” I asked. “Does it give your business any legitimacy?”

“No. It’s just what people want to see.”

In the book, Trust Me, I’m Lying, I found myself reading through the crazy tactics used by media manipulator Ryan Holiday to get lies reported by big-name publications and learning about how he was able to get no-name brands coverage by using the right gimmicks. The legit side of me was appalled by the terrible monster the media has become; the conniving side of me wanted to try these strategies to promote my own business. But then it hit me: what is the point?

Once we consume all the flashy gimmicks, fake headlines, and throw-away stories, what are we left with? A sick void. It’s that same sick feeling you get after eating a bag of M&M’s instead of a salad. That feeling that you’ve wasted hours online clicking on headlines like “Is Trump a Baboon?” or “Could Housewives Become Extinct in 2019?” – leading you to stories with no valuable content and a dozen more tangents that link to more stories with no valuable content.

Related: The Family Paradox: A Dichotomy of Joy and Dysfunction

Just Add Kittens … It Gets More Views

In a world where everyone has the ability to generate an audience, how do we resist the temptation to let outside opinions dictate who we become? Seriously, do we just tinker with different ideas until we get a million hits on YouTube? Is that what is to drive what we will be publicly known for?

Your legacy is your impact on the world and those you love. For your friends and family, they will remember how you treated them. All those small acts add up to a life well lived. But what about the public component of your legacy? You may argue that you don’t have to worry about the public side of your legacy because you aren’t famous and aren’t interested in notoriety. I think you should reconsider. If you have any social media account — Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter — you are sowing the seeds of your public legacy already, and it has a far-reaching impact. When you apply for a job, meet someone new, move to a neighborhood, go on a blind date, or meet with a potential client, guess what happens next? An internet search.

People who have never met you before want to know what you’re about. They want to know if they can trust you, and they will look for every clue online. They’ll see it all. Those Mardi Gras photos. Your political rant. That video series you posted about going on an all-pizza diet.

The Lure of Fame

Because we all want to be acknowledged by our peers and experience the chemical rush associated with seeing how many people reacted to our posts, it’s easy to get sucked into the fame-seeking vortex. I’m no stranger to it myself. I’ve noticed if I post articles on my personal Facebook page, no one cares, unless the article has a photo of me. And if I post photos of nature (especially mountain and beach scenes), I get a ton of likes. It’s easy to fall into the trap of grooming your online self to be the most-liked version for your audience. This just goes up the chain. Whether you’re presenting yourself to a few close friends on Facebook or have a YouTube channel with a following of several million, it’s all the same. People’s approval matters – a lot.

Although I would never insinuate that seeking connection with others is wrong, I would like you to ask a larger question: what is the intention of your interactions?

Being vs. Doing

There are two types of leaders. One wants to be great. The other wants to do something great.

The first seeks fame. She wants to be seen as special in some way. She wants her peers to think she’s smart or beautiful or creative or talented or maybe even supremely messed up (defined by problems, like being bipolar or dealing with struggle). Her focus is approval and how others respond either feeds or tears down her self-esteem.

The second seeks the pursuit of an idea or a calling. She wants her project to be successful. Her focus is the goal and her actions are dictated by achieving that goal. How others respond is still important, but only to further her cause. Martin Luther King Jr. isn’t remembered because he was handsome, a good speaker, and clever. Sure, he was all those things. But so are a lot of people. He is remembered because he furthered a cause. It was his dream of ending inequality that resonated with so many and became bigger than the man who represented it.

Your Public Mission

What is your cause? I’m not suggesting you become the next Martin Luther King Jr., but there are ways to make your public interactions align with your values and represent something more meaningful.

For example, let’s say your focus is on being a good grandmother and friend. Your cause, in this case, would be to spread love, support, and uplift. Think about how you can do that in both the online and offline world.

I have a dear friend who passed away from cancer a couple of years ago. She was a grandmother, and one of the last things she ever said to me was: “I’m so sick of the negativity in this world. I never talk about doom and gloom around my kids or grandkids. How could I do that to them? They need hope for the future.”

Her way of showing love and support was by sharing only positivity with her family. And she continued with that theme online – only posting uplifting messages and staying away from stories of lack.

My cousin and his wife lost their 2-year-old son a few years ago and, on the week of his passing, their family spends each day doing an act of service and remembering him. On Monday, they go out for his favorite food. On Tuesday, his siblings write notes of remembrance, and they visit his grave. The rest of the week sharing your artwork or involving others in creative thought exercises.

It’s easy to default to the norm of posting photos of cool places you traveled and reposting cute quotes or recipes. But what makes these posts meaningful to you? Are there ways to deepen your connection with those you care about?

Posting with Your Legacy in Mind

Sure, silly videos are fun. So are quizzes and games. A news story here and there is great. But what do your posts, as a whole, say about you and your personal mission? Take some time googling yourself. Look through your posts on Facebook or Instagram. Is this the kind of person you want to be perceived as? Who in your life do you care most about? Do your posts connect with these people? Or are your posts mostly spam or junk or trying to impress people you haven’t spoken with in years (if ever)?

As with anything, the most important part to your online legacy is intent. What is the intent of your posts? Do you want to look cool for your friends? Do you want to make everyone jealous about the vacation you just went on? Or look like you’re doing awesome things too? Is your intent to get the most likes? (Time to start adding some cute animals to your videos!) When your intent is less about keeping up with your peers and more about making sincere connections, it will change your paradigm. It may lead to less attention on the whole, but it will result in deeper one-on-one connections and a feeling of true engagement.

Escape the Matrix

Certainly, social media is a tool for connection, but you may want to consider how much impact you want it to have on your life and legacy as a whole. In other words, at the end of your life, do you want people to say, “Gee, Hermit Dan sure posted a lot of great anecdotes online! His pictures of crazy cookies are something I will always treasure”? Or do you want them to remember actually seeing you – in the real world? Perhaps the best use for social media is to invite people to dinner parties, real-world meetups, or even a video chat.

These genuine real-life connections are what build friendships. Your online posts are passive billboards that may attract attention, but, when all is said and done, I’d rather have a few close friends who I’d do anything for (and vice versa) than millions giving my video about animals a thumbs up.

And if I promote a noble cause that resonates with massive amounts of people, it’ll be the cause that matters. Not the gimmicks I use to obtain fame for myself. At least that’s my hope. The lure of fame is pretty strong, and the temptation to do something solely for the novelty of it – to get more clicks – is a trap I hope to avoid. Only time will tell.

Laura A. Roser
Life Transitions
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Laura A. Roser is the #1 expert in meaning legacy planning. She is the Founder and CEO of Paragon Road, a company that assists individuals in passing on their non-financial as ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: March 19-23

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: March 19-23

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on, March 19-23, 2018

Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!

1. Multi-Factor or Not Multi-Factor? That Is the Question

Let’s pretend you are a US investor that wants to deploy some of your money overseas.  You think international developed market stocks are attractive relative to US stocks, and you also think the US dollar will decline over the period you intend to hold your investment.  — Chris Shuba

2. The Lies Spread by Bankers About Cryptocurrencies

I had a chat with The Financial Times the other day, and provided lots of background as to why I don’t think cryptocurrencies are the choice of criminals. The comment that was reported was the following ... — Chris Skinner

3. Alternative Investments? You May Need New Shock Absorbers!

During the tumultuous red and green gyrations of the capital markets this year have your clients anxiously called to ask: “What’s going on with my portfolio?” What do you do when the usually smooth ride in your luxury automobile becomes as bumpy as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the Happiest Place on Earth? What does the average investor do? — Ted Parker

4. Why Fear of Inflation Is Rattling Investors

Inflation is a bad thing, right? It make things more expensive, right? For those of us of, let’s say, a certain vintage, we recall the runaway inflation of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. So why does the Federal Reserve – in charge of managing the country’s currency and value thereof – actually try to create inflation? It’s called the inflation targeting and it matters to your money. — Bill Acheson

5. The Best Retirement Investments for a Steady Stream of Income

As you near your 60’s, your prime earning and saving years will transition into a period of time where you get to enjoy the “fruits of your labor,” a.k.a retirement. We call this segueing from accumulation to decumulation, the period when you will be drawing from your accumulated nest egg. Dana Anspach

6. An Emerging Theme In Thematic Investing

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are popular vehicles for market participants looking to engage in thematic investing. Thematic investing looks to take advantage of future growth trends, including disruptive technologies. Given that forward-looking approach, stock-picking in the thematic universe is equally as hard, if not harder, than in traditional market segments. — Tom Lydon

7. 8 Winning Questions You Should Be Asking Every Prospect

It’s not enough for your salespeople to be product experts, they also need to be capable of having the kind of conversations that position them as business experts and even strategic resources. — Lisa Rose

8. 10 Steps to Successful Strategic Alliances

Business growth doesn’t come from wishful thinking. As you know, it takes a lot of hard work. The growth of your business is not an option – it is a necessity. Coordinating the right mix of strategies to gain market share and improve client acquisition rates is essential to advance your firm in today’s economy. — Michelle Mosher​​​​​​​

9. Keep It Light: Harnessing Humor for Financial Marketing Success

It’s undoubtedly true that investors’ financial security is no laughing matter, and this is reflected in the stolid, dour, reliable imagery and branding that is, by and large, the industry standard. This is hardly surprising—investors need to believe they’re placing their hard-earned money in the hands of experienced, trustworthy professionals. — Alexandra Levis​​​​​​​

10. Do the Economics of a Move to Independence Really Add Up?

The number one question advisors ask when exploring a move to independence is how the economics compare to accepting a recruiting package from a major firm. It’s certainly a valid concern, because while the recruiting deals being offered by the wirehouses are down, it is still very possible for a top advisor to get a really attractive hard-to-pass-up offer. — Mindy Diamond

11. Four Big Reasons Why Short-Term Muni Bonds Should Excite You

Municipal bonds might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a sexy investment. They don’t typically command news headlines like the stock market or bitcoin. — Frank Holmes

Douglas Heikkinen
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IRIS Co-Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues ... Click for full bio