GS Article 5
LEAVING THE GREATEST LEGACY
by Rajen Devadason
A teacher affects eternity: he cannot tell where
his influence stops.
Henry Brooks Adam
What kind of a
legacy or inheritance do you plan to leave
One thing is
certain: If you don't turn that hope or dream
into a tangible, clear, written goal, there is a
high probability you won't succeed.
So, if you're a
responsible parent already, or hope to become
one later on in life, you have in all likelihood
given some thought to what kind of financial
'gift' you would like to bequeath to loved ones
when you 'shuffle off this mortal coil'.
After mulling over
the issue, you would most likely have come to
one of two conclusions:
1. All my money is mine
to spend; let my children go earn their own;
2. I want to give my kids a financial head start
Neither answer is categorically right or wrong.
For some people, inheriting money is the worst
thing that ever happened to them.
These are the
unfortunates who end up being shackled, not
freed, by their unearned wealth.
For others, receiving an
optimum amount of money as an inheritance
is an effective means of trans-generational
wealth accumulation that has the potential to do
a lot of good.
Money itself is amoral. Whether it is good or
bad to leave a financial legacy really depends
on the individuals and situations involved.
But I do know of one type of legacy that is
always, always, always worth leaving!
That is a legacy of
This legacy is transferred not at death but
throughout the life of the benefactor.
The mode of transference is TEACHING.
George Bernard Shaw may have succeeded in coming
across as a great wit when he wrote, "He who
can, does. He who cannot, teaches." But Shaw was
as wrong as he was eloquent.
You see, those who are able to do would not have
reached that point without someone teaching them
In my opinion, Henry Adam came much closer to
the truth when he noted, "A teacher affects
eternity: he cannot tell where his influence
Yet, to achieve such lasting greatness, a
certain four-letter quality is required.
A friend, a natural born teacher who lectures in
philosophy, lent me an excellent two-volume set,
Leonard Thompson's The Speaker's FRIEND.
Tucked in one of those volumes is this
A Johns Hopkins
University professor assigned students to survey
200 of the worst children in the worst part of
the slums. After extensive research the class
predicted that ninety percent of these children
would end up in jail. Twenty-five years later
another professor found the survey notes and
assigned his class to locate as many of the 200
students as possible. They found 180 of them and
only four had been to jail.
Seventy-five percent of the boys were asked how
they managed to stay out of jail. They replied,
"We had a teacher who cared about us." They had
all attended the same public school and had the
same teacher. This teacher was located and told
the results of the survey.
The researchers asked her how she got such good
outcomes with these children. She thought for a
while and then answered, "I don't know, unless
it was that I really loved every one of those
The lesson is clear: If you want to live a life
that is full - one that counts for something
bigger than yourself in both the short run (say,
over five or fifty years) and the long run
(perhaps, over five hundred years), then be
generous with your knowledge.
Give out of a
heart, and mind, brimming over with love.
You achieve that incalculably valuable form of
giving by teaching others, be they your
children, your friends or your enemies.
If you teach your children, you will be laying
the groundwork for them to surpass your
accomplishments. That is the basis of all
If you teach your friends, you will be making
their lives better. That is reward enough.
And if you teach your enemies - in a
non-malicious, non-retributive manner - perhaps
you can turn some of them into your friends.
Things don't always work out like that. But
sometimes they do. And that's worth shooting
Unfortunately, that only takes care of the
'why'. What about the 'how' - how should you
Here is a three-step process you will find
useful in detecting the correct route for your
sojourn to exalted Teacherhood.
First, be honest with yourself about what you do
know and what you do not know.
Don't lead people astray by teaching them out of
the black abyss of your ignorance.
educate them out of the shallower - but
completely clean, honest - pool of hard won
knowledge and wisdom.
Second, never be satisfied with what you do
know. Admit that there is far, far more that you
When we were young, the main sources of learning
for us were our parents and teachers. Now that
we're grown, our primary sources are the books
we read, the audio programmes we listen to, the
conferences and seminars we attend, the websites
we visit, and the people we interact with. So,
Third, do not despise your hard-won knowledge
and dismiss it with a mental shrug that reflects
your misapprehension that 'everybody knows
that'. Trust me, everybody does not!
There are many things
you know that most others don't.
Of course, there
will always be people who remain
unteachable. But there are many more, perhaps
younger or less experienced than you, who would
love to know what you know.
Find them, or
better yet let them find
Then, teach them with all your heart.
It doesn't matter whether what you teach is as
basic and prosaic as tying shoelaces and sliding
coins into a piggy bank, or as deep and esoteric
as calculating the quantum signature of dark
matter in our universe and going perhaps halfway
toward understanding members of the opposite
There is always someone out there who needs your
So, if you will
step up to the plate and extend that needed
help, you will be sowing seeds of life into
others. You'll be giving them the greatest gift
of all - useful knowledge.
It is the greatest gift
because only useful knowledge can be applied.
And only applied knowledge can complete the
crucial transition within our skulls, from raw
data to information to knowledge and finally to
If you will take
those three steps I've listed here and
incorporate them into your life, you will
eventually grow into the shoes of a true
There is NO higher calling.
© Rajen Devadason