A Question for the New Year: What Do You Want to Be Remembered For?

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest online column for Time magazine, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman explores one of Peter Drucker’s most famous—and penetrating—questions.

“This is a time when many of us turn inward,” Wartzman writes. “We consider what we’ve done over the past 12 months. And we resolve to do better during the 12 months ahead.

“For Peter Drucker, though, such a pensive posture wasn’t simply the stuff of New Year’s,” Wartzman adds. “In fact, he was always asking the question, ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’ He asked it of his corporate clients. He asked it of his university students. He asked it of himself.”

“It is a question that induces you to renew yourself,” Drucker wrote, “because it pushes you to see yourself as a different person—the person you can become.”

Wartzman notes that Phalana Tiller, the host of the Drucker Institute’s monthly podcast on management and leadership, “Drucker on the Dial,” asks each of her guests what they want to be remembered for. Wartzman then relates how a number of executives and others, including Under Armour’s Kevin Plank and the Motley Fool’s Tom Gardner, answered the question.

He ends the piece by revealing how Drucker himself answered it. “My definition of success changed a long time ago,” Drucker said. “Making a difference in a few lives is a worthy goal. Having enabled a few people to do the things they want to do, that’s really what I want to be remembered for.”