That’s a classic set up for a joke and is often used in parables. The narrator draws humor or a life principle by comparing three perspectives. Sometimes one, and occasionally two of them, look silly after the third one’s explanation.

In contrast, I admire all three of these successful men. These three men are not composites. They are real individuals with features, flaws, and Social Security numbers. I hope my portrayal of them will help enrich your understanding of legacy.

The Bishop is a friend of a mentor. The Bishop leads influencers, is a man of faith and a person of integrity. He recognizes at least one of his foibles. He and his wife were on another flight to minister to some of his extended flock. They were nearing their arrival when she asked a question. The man who advocates faith in Almighty God, politely asked her to hold her question for a few minutes because he “had to land the plane”. They both knew he was a pastor and not the pilot. The bishop could pray but he was not going to touch any of the controls, yet he was seriously wanted to influence the landing outcome. His life work was faith building and spurring love. He was neither afraid of death nor eager for it.

The landlord we’ll call “Rich” can combine $2 +$2 to create $5 of value. He’s ethical, creative and values independence. People do business with him because Rich provides them better value than scores of his competitors. Rich pays all the taxes he is obligated to pay. He strategically operates to avoid excessive tax. After every election Rich assesses the probable law changes and minimizes his tax liability. Recently he told me that he was considering prepaying nearly a decade’s tax “to preserve my independence.” His material success is so great no likely tax plan will restrict his independence or change his lifestyle for the rest of his life.

“Dr. Dewar” is close to the prime of his life. He is a loving husband, a better dad than his father was, and superior doctor. In the emergency room many of his patients are having the worst day of their life and his calm confidence is reassuring. He has not yet encountered middle age when his capacity begins to diminish while his responsibilities and options continue to expand. In the emergency room he practices triage, but he has not yet had to decide between important life priorities. Dr. Dewar is not afraid of failure. He’s afraid of succeeding at the things that don’t matter.

Your unique talent, your bent, your natural inclination may be different from any of these men. But you face the same question. When you’re gone, what will people admire about you? If there is folly or inconsistency left in your life, things you don’t want people to imitate, what changes do you need to make?

You know I love admiring heroes. I’d consider it a personal gift to hear from you to learn about your favorite hero and why you find that person admirable.


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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