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Aunt Shirley’s Chicken

My wife has a great aunt named Shirley. After 11 years of marriage, I know only a few facts about Aunt Shirley: She is old, maybe 90, lives in New Jersey, doesn’t like to cook and yet is famous in our house for a recipe simply known as Aunt Shirley’s Chicken.

I thought about her earlier this month, as we had a neighbor over for dinner. Of course, we had Aunt Shirley’s Chicken. Of course, our neighbor loved it. Of course, she asked for the recipe.

This story reminded me of two important principles of life:

1. You never know what your legacy is going to be. I am sure Aunt Shirley, who didn’t even like to cook, never thought she would be so widely remembered and discussed for her cooking! This shows you that legacy cannot be forced. It happens organically. Her chicken is easy to make but really tasty. Word of mouth is still the best marketing approach. We like it, and so we share it. And that is traditional virality.

2. Times change. Fifty years ago when Aunt Shirley was in the prime of her cooking, her chicken was probably considered a rush job. She made it because, at the time and compared to the alternatives, it was easy. In today’s fast-paced, hyperconnected world where dinner can easily be fast food, Shirley’s rush job is something fancy enough that we make it when a guest comes over. The times have changed. Aunt Shirley’s cooking methods may have just been ahead of her time!

There is probably something that you are doing today that you give no second thought to but will be the “thing” that people remember about you. So, whatever you do, do it with love and care. Because you never know, 50 years from now someone might be writing a column about your chicken recipe!

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