Once upon a time there lived a man named Alfred. Alfred’s family was fairly well-off so Alfred and his brothers were able to go to schools all over the world, by age 17 Alfred was fluent in five different languages and was bound for success. As an adult Alfred gained success as an engineer, an author, a chemist, and an inventor. Alfred held patents on many inventions, over 300 in fact. We still use some of Alfred’s inventions even today like artificial silk and artificial leather. Alfred was very successful as an inventor.
Many people during Alfred’s time were using explosives unsuccessfully, the explosives were so unpredictable. Alfred found a way to use explosives safely by designing his most famous invention: dynamite. Alfred gained fame and wealth from dynamite as it came into high demand around the world. People needed dynamite for construction, manufacturing, and even in war. Alfred became more and more famous but realized that he was lonely.
Alfred had dated very little, was unmarried, and had no children so he set out to find a wife by placing a personal ad in the newspaper. Bertha became the love of his life but soon she realized she could not be with Alfred. Bertha was an advocate for peace, marching and speaking out against war. When Bertha realized that Alfred’s invention was being used in war to kill people she couldn’t bare to be with him, so she ended the relationship but they remained friends.
One day Alfred picked up the newspaper and was shocked by what he read. Alfred saw an obituary...his obituary. One of Alfred’s brothers had died in an accident and the newspaper mistakenly believed it was Alfred. The headline read, “The Merchant of Death is dead” and the obituary told of how Alfred became rich finding ways to kill more people faster than ever. Alfred made a decision. That was not how he wanted to be remembered so he decided to change his legacy.
Over the final years of Alfred’s life he crafted a plan to change his legacy...and he did! Upon his death Alfred left over 90% of his wealth to the founding of five prizes to honor people around the world in the areas of physics, literature, chemistry, physiology/medicine, and peace. Today, we know these prizes as Nobel prizes and the Alfred Nobel Peace Prize has honored people such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, and our POTUS Barack Obama. Among one of the first recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize was Bertha von Suttner, Alfred’s former girlfriend.
Why am I sharing this story? Because, like Alfred, YOU have the power to change your legacy. Don’t like your past? Create a new past, a new memory, just like Alfred. And you have an advantage that Alfred did not have, you are still alive! Alfred left his mark in his death becoming known for honoring people with great positive impact on the world instead of “The Merchant of Death”. Today is your chance to start your change so you actually get to see the positive impact of your life on others. Start today, start now!
Romaine A. Wright