Would You Leave A Legacy Like Jon Stewart?

I know, I know…I’m yet another blogger writing about Jon Stewart’s departure from the Daily Show. But I couldn’t help myself. I’m such an admirer of his talent and intellect I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons/Comedy Central)
Photo Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons/Comedy Central)

As I’ve watched his final episodes leading up to his last day, it’s been a parade of guests praising his work with a clear recognition he’s left a mark in the entertainment and political communities. It’s a legacy of which he should be proud.

Since there are several definitions, let me clarify what I mean by “legacy”. Your legacy is about what you’ll be known & remembered for. How you lived your life and the impact it had on the lives of others.

In the final episode, the parade continued with former “correspondents” making an appearance and in their own special way, they were thanking Jon Stewart. Thanking him not only for what he had done for their careers, but for serving as a mentor and role model for how to do great, creative work, all while demonstrating respect for everyone. Click this link to see how Stephen Colbert said it best: (focus on the last 3.5 minutes of this clip for the great stuff!).

So my question is this. Would you leave a legacy like Jon Stewart?

Do a quick self-assessment and determine if a course correction is in order by answering a few questions:

  1. Do I spend  more than 50% of my time thinking about myself vs. others? If you are more concerned about your own needs and doing work that makes YOU look good, then you hardly have time to be considering how you can share your knowledge and develop the skills in others. Just look at all the people that started on Jon Stewart’s show and went on to be superstar talents! Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Jon Oliver, Lewis Black, Mo Rocca…the list goes on and on!  You get the idea. Do you recognize and nurture the talent that you lead? Doing so is a sure-fire way to leave a legacy!
  2. Do I strive for high-quality work and deliver those results with integrity? Granted, Jon Stewart had a team of people creating content and digging into the details to present a show that presented the most relevant topics of the day. However, he’s the one that set the standard of how the work was done. He operated in an ethical manner and clearly looked out for the interests of those who were not being well-served by the powers that be. He used his “stage” to raise awareness of important issues that were not being addressed appropriately. He created an inspiring work environment – doing good and having a great time while doing good is a little slice of heaven!
  3. Would the people who have worked for/with me say they were better having known me? Did I impact other’s lives in a positive way? This might be a hard one to self-assess. However, let me propose a way to reflect on this. Ask yourself: *Do I stay in communication with people after the “working relationship” is over? Will they return my calls? *Do former colleagues talk about the time we worked together as some of the best times? *Have their careers progressed after working with me? Have they gone on to bigger and better things? *Would they help me if I asked for their assistance? *Would they attend my retirement party? The impact you have on others has everything to do with how you make them feel. Always treating people with respect and looking out for their best interests are critical for impacting lives in a positive way.

While I will miss seeing Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, the reason he decided to call it quits is one more reason for my admiration. He wanted to spend more time with his family and be present in the lives of his children. He has his priorities straight and recognizes the value of those relationships vs. the temporary rewards of more material wealth.

Interestingly, his “Daily Show” will continue in that the way he chooses to live his life, daily, is something worth watching and from which we can all learn.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.