Accountability and Legacy: 5 Questions to Ask

Wake pic


A medium-sized word with a very big meaning—and a tad too heavy for me. I prefer “trail of impact.”

Like a ship at sea, we all leave an impact in our wake as we interact with colleagues, friends, neighbors, customers, vendors, and family. The key question is this:

Am I leaving a positive or negative trail of impact?

Dr. Verne Rockcastle recently died at age 95. I bet he hadn’t thought of me in four decades. But I had often thought of him.

Dr. Rockcastle was a science professor at Cornell University. My dad, Jimmy Miller, was Cornell’s wrestling coach. Back in the day, they knew each other. My father also knew Dr. Rockcastle had a fondness for reptiles.

My kind of guy.

I was and still am a reptile fan. In fact, thanks to my dad, I got my first boa constrictor when I was in the third grade. I mean, really, what else do you give a 10-year-old boy??? 🙂

Johnny and Gloria
Future @QBQGuy at age 10 featured in the Ithaca Journal holding “Gloria.” Photo by George Clay, 1968.

That’s me holding “Gloria” up to the camera lens when featured in the Ithaca Journal in 1968.

That same year, Dr. Rockcastle told my dad to “bring Johnny into my classroom sometime.” So my dad did.

It’s been 47 years, but here’s what I remember:

Feeling special.

Dr. Rockcastle asked me to show Gloria to his students. So there I was, a 10-year-old in front of 20-year-olds, clearly being “groovy” as I showed them my favorite snake.

And answering questions.

And feeling awfully special.

That’s a powerfully positive memory of mine and Dr. Rockcastle created it by showing interest in a young boy and his interest.

That memory is very much part of the good professor’s trail of impact left upon my life.

Dr. Rockcastle is gone now, but the affect he had on me will remain till I am 95. (Positive thinking!)

His passing caused me to ask 5 critical questions:

“How am I creating positive memories for others?”

“Is my ‘trail of impact’ a good one?”

“How can I contribute to our world?”

“What can I do today to serve people?”

“In what way am I giving more than I am taking?”

You see, a positive trail of impact doesn’t just happen—it is created—but only when I take personal accountability for doing so. The five questions above help me get there.

Can you use them, too?

For Comment:
Which of our 5 questions will you ask today?
Who has left a positive “trail of impact” in your life?


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7 Responses

  1. This is perfect John! Thank you for making the word “legacy” something tangible. A “trail of impact” is something we can think about as individual things we can do as listed in your questions at the end – contributions, service, giving and creating positive memories for others. Those things create a “legacy.” I think we all almost feel pain when we think of that word because as you said, it is heavy and also daunting. A trail of impact is something we can work on every day. Thanks again!

  2. Good questions as usual John. For myself, I’ll be looking at a couple of those questions this morning, and asking about my “trail of impact” this evening.

  3. Two men made an impact on my life in the ’70’s. Al Schelske was a VP at a trucking company. He knew my dad, and, without asking, more or less “took me under his wing”. Things that he told me 35 years ago are being repeated by me today. Wisdom is ageless.

    Glenn Brenneise (German for burnt iron) also was a huge influence. I met him through the Dale Carnegie Courses. If he said it once, he said it 1000 times: “Count your blessings every day, count them one by one”. His words were meaningful, but the time that he spent with me was priceless. Why would a 59 year old guy hang out with a 25 year old? Obviously, to make an impact.

    My desire is to pay it forward. I am now in my 60’s, and I have several casual but important mentoring relationship. Some are with employees.

    A friend once told me; “When you are going down a river in a canoe, it is nice to talk to someone who knows where the stumps are”.

    I guess I’m a stump finder.


  4. QBQ! is one of my absolute all time favourite books. I recommend to every group that I facilitate. Recently read “Flipping the Switch” too. Having the answers isn’t nearly as important as asking the right questions. My two questions for myself every day:

    “How can I show even more kindness today?”
    “What can I do today to make someone else’s load a bit lighter?”

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