In December of last year former four-star general Norman Schwarzkopf died of complications arising from pneumonia. The general is most well known for his command of coalition forces during the 1990s Gulf War. Under the general’s command the coalition forces, comprised of forces from 34 different nations, successfully invaded Iraq and, after only 100 hours of combat, forced a cease-fire agreement.
General Schwarzkopf retired in August of 1991, shortly after the conclusion of hostilities. Though he was given the opportunity to serve as the Chief of Staff United States Army, he declined and instead retired to write his autobiography. The book, published in 1992, was one of the few times the general came into the public eye after his retirement. Other than making a few public speaking engagements and serving as a television military analyst, General Schwarzkopf largely kept his life private.
We can learn a lot from the example of General Schwarzkopf, but his life is especially useful to those who want to protect their legacy. Even though the general did make endorsements during presidential elections, he largely stayed out of politics and hot button issues of the day. Largely because of this he was able to retire and maintain his positive reputation throughout the remainder of his life.
While most people will never have to worry about public opinion to the level that General Schwarzkopf did, we can use his example as a way of structuring our own legacy plans. Legacy is not merely about the property you leave or the charitable donations you make, but it’s also about maintaining your good name and reputation.