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How to celebrate and create a personal legacy

Reflections on life whilst developing your legacy.

Most of the JAMSO  published blog articles are ”evergreen”, that is to say, we write to provide sustained value over a long period of time as opposed to writing about something that is fashionable and “of the moment”. This is part of our purpose and developing a business legacy.

The Kentucky Kid -Nicky Hayden 1981-2017

The Kentucky Kid -Nicky Hayden 1981-2017

Today, I am writing in a deeply reflective mood, affected by some recent events. There are several unfortunate and coincidental timing reasons that have made today more than ever, a time to reflect upon the word legacy. It generates the questions, what do we share with others and what is the impact we have on the wider world. I will keep an evergreen tone but take a specific recent case as the underlined reference point for this message about legacy.

Creating ripples in life and business.

Not everyone or every business is talented or motivated to leave a global impact legacy. Indeed, enjoying and sharing with a small community may not sound appealing or exciting at first to some, but across a nation and time period, this forms the very backbone of values, principles and shapes culture. You see, everyone is part of the ripple of our times. This, of course, can be seen as the butterfly effect in chaos theory. So everyone leaves some form of legacy and how you create your own for others to inherit might be the biggest question you can ask yourself.

Let’s acknowledge that a legacy is not something we do at the end of a life or career, it is more shaped through the daily actions, interactions and emotional connection points through the life span of a business, product or personality.

Every now and then, a special business or person comes along and makes an impact much larger in scale and magnitude than most others. In business, who can ignore the impact that Ford had across the world in the 20th Century or Elon Musk’s continued impacts within this early 21st century. Maybe you know someone that has left a specific impact on your own life, a person that you have admired, respected and felt sincere gratitude for. Their impact on your life for great or small remains part of your behaviors and shapes your personality.

Pre-race technical briefing to maximize results

Pre-race technical briefing to maximize results

My passion for motorbike racing stems from an interest in over 30 years. During this time some, “legends” have succumbed to apparent inevitable consequences of racing at the edge and combination of mechanical and personal abilities. The names of Joey Dunlop and Marco Simoncelli will remain embedded in my mind from the respect and inspiration given to me through their talents, passion, and personalities.

This week another great motorcyclist “The Kentucky Kid” Nicky Hayden became the latest rider to die. His death was due to a bicycle accident in Italy.

This American-born rider was the 2006 MotoGP world champion and had been recently competing in the World Super Bikes championship. To attain access to such prestigious championships (think premier football, Formula 1, NFL, Olympic standards) is a significant success and achievement in its own right. Before entering such heights, he had earned his place through winning the AMA Championship in America before being identified by Honda as a leading talent and subsequently recruited to represent them in MotoGP. In his first season, he became the “Rookie of the year” with a highly respectful fifth place in the championship.

It would be too easy for me to write and explain about how this rider took many technical advances, improved his riding skills and shared many examples of his outstanding riding talent. Instead, with a legacy intact as a MotoGP world champion already engraved for the Hall of Fame of racing, I will concentrate on another legacy this great man left to inspire others. The legacy I want to explain is the one to inspire others through some specific traits that are accessible to us all.

Grit, determination and a get stuck in attitude.

There seems to be an endless list of people who have thrown opportunities away in their lives. In the case of Nicky Hayden, his father was already a racer and this opportunity was never wasted. His dad's love for the sport was encouraged through his children. Nicky’s two brothers are also professional motorbike riders, yet neither has had the abilities to reach the same heights of success. One common bond between them and especially seen in Nicky is the thrill and love for simply racing. Ever since the start of his career as a young child, a family member would need to hold the back of Nicky’s bike upright so he could start a race.

Racing on the edge in MotoGP

Racing on the edge in MotoGP

Throughout his career, injuries sustained from training and racing was like many other riders. For the likes of you and me, the idea of racing a several hundred kilo motorbikes with a fractured ankle or badly damaged wrist sounds preposterous. To the likes of a truly dedicated champion, who races not for the money and fame, but for the thrill, chase, and enjoyment Nicky demonstrated year after year a level of determination beyond logical norms. These humbling comparisons alone are inspirational to anyone recovering from an injury.

Being committed to being a key contributor and accepting accountability is important for everyone. Here again, Nicky demonstrated some raw grit and determination. He underwent surgery in 2010 to reduce arm pump (compartmental syndrome). This operation is common amongst the top riders, such is the physical condition and forces they battle each weekend whilst racing.

A common trait that number 69 was known for (the beloved number adopted by Nicky during his career from his father – except for 2007 when he rode with the number 1 plate as world champion), was his work ethic. During off season testing, formal testing and practice run, Nicky was often the rider with the most number of completed laps amongst all the riders. This work ethic was consistent throughout his whole career and became a well-respected workhorse for the teams he rode for. Where Nicky lacked in natural talent at the very pinnacle of the sport, he worked tirelessly to attain success and any advantage through good old hard work.

The results from each of the above factors gave Nicky and his team can be seen in his historical record. A high consistent top performer, year after year. This is the character of a no give up guy.

Questions for the reader:

A copy of our dedicated post on social media in the memory of Nicky Hayden

A copy of our dedicated post on social media in the memory of Nicky Hayden

In each area of your life, study, career, health and relationships answer the following questions.

  • How do you show on a daily basis a raw passion for what you are doing?
  • When do you recognize your productivity and motivation is dropping?
  • What do you do to ensure the processes and people around you share a common vision to succeed?
  • Where are your successes numbers added, listed and referred from?
  • Who do you respect as a “stand-up guy” willing to put in the effort for year after year?
  • How do you show accountability with your goals on a frequent basis?

Take a read of this article from Success Magazine suggesting how to live your legacy.

The honest likable fella from next door

“That step was harder than I thought that gonna be”, remembered Hayden when asked about his feelings at his first GP in Suzuka, Japan. “New bikes, new tires, new culture, but…man, the competition! You expect to be near the front and you get impressed by how fast the guys down the grid are, and that was a big shock.” – Nicky Hayden

Typical Nicky. Stopped to pick up a team mate who ran out of fuel after a race

Typical Nicky. Stopped to pick up a team mate who ran out of fuel after a race

Such is the typical brutal honesty from a man known in the motorbike racing paddock as a gentleman but a fierce competitor. This is a professional racer with a truly homely and friendly personality. Did he get angry? Sure, but Nicky seemed to know where and when it was appropriate. Nicky attracted natural affection, part of the true loyal fan base was never because he would win every race or championship, but a rider you knew that was prepared to stretch his personal limitations and inspire others through grit and a smile.

Here is a range of quotes provided from the world of motorbike racing, note I avoided some of the biggest names in the sport as the below reflects the breadth and depth that The Kentucky Kid had so many people within the sport he loved.

Ride easy my mate you were one of my hero’s both on and off the track a true gentleman I am just shocked we are all going to miss that massive smile of yours my heart goes out to your family at this time life is far too unfair sometimes!
— – Jack Miller fellow MotoGP rider.
The most easy and good guy I ever meet on a paddock in my life! 
— Aleix Espargaro – MotoGP rider
Incredible rider but more than that thanks to be Excellent, Genuine, Kind, Nice and Good Guy!! Legend and Great Human!! I’ll miss you Kentucky Kid!
— Toni Elias – fellow competitor
A beautiful person, genuine and real.
— Mark Webber - F1 Driver

IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. "When you met Nicky, you immediately felt you had known him for years. His humility and sincerity always made genuine connections with everyone, as he truly was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet in racing. Nicky was a tireless ambassador for MotoGP at the Speedway and a passionate supporter of all events at IMS. 

These are not the standard public relations releases; they are personal messages about a friend, a person that left an impact.

Seeing and sharing the creation of a legend

One of the key ways I realized my sincere respect and admiration for this character called The Kentucky Kid came on the day he actually won the MotoGP world championship in the last race of the season in Valencia. I had flown to the event to see, what I thought would be the probable crowning of Valentino Rossi. Nicky had managed to apply enough pressure on Valentino which I believe resulted in his venture off track and losing the race. So, as the race progressed one could feel the whole crowd wishing well on Nicky.

Celebrating the world championship 

Celebrating the world championship 

When Nicky won that world championship, he cried, an open act of humble emotions that had attained an ultimate goal. I do not think any of even the most hardened Rossi fans thought anything bad about Nicky. Indeed the consciences on the day were, well at least Nicky got it. Such was and is the ability to develop and build a legacy of being a grafter, competitor and likable rider.

The openness of Nicky’s personality made him the most popular motorbike rider in the USA, no mean feat for a nation addicted to NASCAR and Harley Davidsons. Indeed such was the power of his personality that both Honda and Ducati continued to court his talent to the closing days. His natural but relatable personality is what has built his reputations. He was never the easy winner but rather the potential winner in any modern race class.

“But that is all in the past, and I’m looking toward the future. It’s a challenge, and it won’t be easy. I have a lot to learn, but I’m looking forward to going in there and making myself known.” – Nicky Hayden

Let’s take a little look inside the person, according to his website

Favorite Movie: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Favorite Food: Pizza or Mom’s cooking

Guilty Pleasure: Ice cream (any flavor)

Pet Peeve: Excuses

Sport to Watch: Basketball, Supercross, cycling

Hobbies: Riding dirt track, hanging with friends

Favorite Music: Hip hop

Favorite Clothes: “Team uniform means it’s a race weekend!”

If He Weren’t a Racer: “Don’t scare me like that; I’m a bike racer!”

Words to Live By: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk only leads to poverty” Proverbs 14:23

These offer a look behind the curtains of a star and an insight into what makes a person tick, think and behave. They give the appearance of a normal mid-thirties guy and I guess this is what made him so relatable and likable.

A couple of highlights to consider hidden behind the nice answers, are about his answers to racing. Here is the truly born racer mentality that shines through.

So, we often hear about the need to be authentic, kind and positive. I believe this legend lived up to those personal traits in exemplary style.

Questions for the reader:

  • How do you remain grounded as an individual whilst retaining a core biased focus on excellence?
  • What do you think your colleagues would write about you?
  • Where do you shine the most in life and how does this bond and connect to other areas of your life?
  • Why should it matter that the nice guys don’t always finish first?
  • What is your personal vision statement?
  • How do you hold yourself accountable for principles and values you believe in?
  • When do you plan for daily action for wider goals?
  • What are your plans to deal with emotional adversity and setbacks?

Take a read of this article I wrote asking the 29 most important questions in life

Daily celebrations as part of a legacy story

Climbing Mount Everest, becoming a world champion athlete or running a sustained successful business takes time. This achievement can become key goals and motivators. The manners in which the goals are attained create the legacy, the personality, the emotional relationship with the outside world. So, living a life full of integrity is respected more than a life focused purely on success by any means. Recent names like Bernie Madoff or Lance Armstrong are people who have fallen from deep respect to feelings of betrayal. Nicky Hayden certainly will be remembered for his positive legacy.

Nicky racing in MotoGP 

Nicky racing in MotoGP 

Celebrating your legacy and others that have influenced you will help boost your personal results and help lift or strengthen the bond with people and the culture around you. Learning to forgive others and keep a high focus with integrity are the key factors that seem to resonate deeply and influence others the most. So, within a business or daily life consider how you develop and build a legacy that reaches beyond your own personal sphere.

I recall a few years ago a trend amongst business consultants, making money from teaching leadership legacies. The legacy process would be created in several steps and linked to strategy. Today, hot off the press in leadership consultancy is the emphasis of the narrative. “What is your story?” tends to be the headline and workshop focus. I rather see these trends and interlinked. Your story becomes your legacy.

When I reflect on the unfortunate passing of Nicky Hayden life, I feel sad but am deeply comforted by the positive and inspirational traits he brought to the sport and its fans. In my mind, Nicky’s biggest recorded achievement will surely be his world championship title in MotoGP 2006, but the legacy and influence he leaves is something much bigger and more important than a title. His ability to pursue his goals not matter the difficulties and chase a personal dream from passion and with the utmost integrity – Now, that’s a legacy worth remembering and worth celebrating every day.