Legacy (Book Review)

Zilvold Coaching & Training Legacy Blog
11 min read

This article is a ‘short’ book review of “Legacy” by James Kerr. The book has 15 lessons from the successful Rugby team, the “All Blacks” from New Zealand. The lessons are an inspiration to be the best you can be, to learn, and to leave the world in a better place than you found it. These lessons enable you to be a good leader for yourself, others, and life.

Voor Nederlands, klik hier.

I once facilitated a training and asked the group what the purpose was of the company. “To make money!” answered the boss proudly. I then asked him what he intended to do with that money. “Well, pay my employees and invest in the company.” I continued to ask him what effect all this would have. He then had an epiphany and realized that he wanted to change the world.

Changing the world for the better is a legacy you can leave behind. It is not something carved in stone or demonstrated by a big monument. Look how companies like Apple have changed the world by stimulating you to think differently. That’s more than their range of products.

Zilvold Coaching & Training Blog Legacy

I am a fan of rugby and recently came across the book “Legacy” by James Kerr. It was published in 2013 and includes 15 valuable lessons or beliefs for leadership. These lessons come from the “All Blacks.” The New Zealand rugby team exists since the beginning of the 20th century and is very successful. Since 2013, there have been two world cups, of which the All Blacks won in 2015 and came second in 2019. The book describes what makes this team so successful, what values, and what ethics they have.

The (first) 15 lessons are the following:

I Sweep the Sheds
Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done

II Go for the Gap
When you’re on top of your game, change your game

III Play with Purpose
Ask ‘Why?’

IV Pass the Ball
Leaders create leaders

V Create a Learning Environment
Leaders are teachers

VI No Dickheads
Follow the spearhead

VII Embrace Expectations
Aim for the highest cloud

VIII Train to Win
Practise under pressure

IX Keep a Blue Head
Control your attention

X Know Thyself
Keep it real

XI Sacrifice
Find something you would die for and give your life to it

XII Invent a Language
Sing your world into existence

XIII Ritualize to Actualize
Create a culture

XIV Be a Good Ancestor
Plant trees you’ll never see

XV Write Your Legacy
This is your time

I am going to share with you in this blog what resonated most with me and what can be of value for you (it was hard to make a selection).

Sweep the shed

After each test (Rugby Match), star players of the All Blacks clean the locker room. They call it “sweep the shed.” It is a form of humility to do this kind of action. As a leader or champion, you keep your feet on the ground by helping with small tasks normally done by others (lower in the hierarchy). It helps to build character and shows that you’re taking responsibility.


Character shows when you’re authentic, when you do the things you say you do. You demonstrate it through your values, your beliefs, or the written (and unwritten) rules. Values are more than words like “respect.” What does this word mean? What are you doing to give respect? Examples might be that you don’t answer your phone while in a meeting or that you give honest feedback after a performance.

Go for the Gap

We’re living in a complex world. Things change quickly, and there are always challenges. When on top of your game, change tactics and “Go for the gap.” Competitors do not expect this, and it can be of advantage to you. It is more about being able to adapt quickly and creating an adaptive culture.
How can you go for the gap? It is not reacting in the moment but by being an agent of change. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, talks about 100-day plans:

  • Write down 10 things you need to achieve in 100 days.
  • Each day, start with an Action Verb and use no more than three words each. Make sure each action is measurable and that each one is a challenge for you. Do not create a to-do list with things you can cross off.
  • Review your list every Friday morning. When the 100 days are over, the goal is to have each item checked off.

Due to all the input we get during the day, we’re constantly reacting and executing. We should spend more time on assessments and making plans.

We know the Japanese term “Kaizen” to become more productive by improving continually in a company. Originally, it is to create a culture by developing yourself and inspiring others to do so.

Play with Purpose

We all seek purpose. Today it’s a buzzword, but having purpose creates a connection with others (in a team) and helps to improve yourself and create a better person of yourself. Purpose creates a shared emotional connection and is a stronger motivator than money or status.

So ask, “Why?”. It helps you to get focused and inspires you to reach a goal.

 He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.


Important questions

  • What is my job on the planet?
  • What is it that needs doing, that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?

These questions are from Buckminster Fully and helped him out of a depression. It surprises me that these questions are repeated five times in the book. These are important questions you can ask yourself when you’re not motivated, when you’re down, depressed or uncertain. And as Victor Frankl writes in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” you can ask yourself who (your employees, clients, coworkers, or loved ones) or what (your business, the environment) can benefit from your actions and what you can do.

Your legacy

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.


Your legacy is what you teach, writes Kerr. It is how you live your moral standards, your ethics, your values. Ask yourself what the impact is of your actions. What is your contribution?

“Making money,” as my client said, is no longer sustainable and doesn’t go well at dinner parties or in a eulogy. Kerr urges us to take responsibility for something more than profits. He writes that by doing so, we tap into a collective vibrancy that is good for the world and good for business.

The All Blacks have this saying to ‘leave the jersey in a better place.’ Kerr writes that this means to work incrementally towards a better collective outcome, win with flair, be a custodian of the future, an architect of tomorrow, and a steward of society. It means to live with respect, humility, and excellence. It means mana—the Maori word for life force and much more.

Why you should read “Legacy”

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of Rugby or the All Blacks. This book is full of inspiration, and it gives you tools for action to start working on your legacy. It contains many facts, meaningful stories, and links to articles & videos.

This commercial for Adidas starts with the first captain of the All Blacks (Charlie Saxton), who was still alive in 1999. He takes off his jersey, and then one by one, all next captains appear. It shows the lineage of leadership. One by one, the captains added to the legacy. It’s about leaving the jersey in a better place, and that takes character.

The many Maori proverbs touch me. This is one of my favorites:

Mā te rongo, ka mōhio;
Mā te mōhio, ka mārama;
Mā te mārama, ka mātau;
Mā te mātau, ka ora.

From listening comes knowledge;
From knowledge comes understanding;
From understanding comes wisdom;
From wisdom comes well-being.

Why you should not read this book

The content is repeated in the different chapters. For example: In the chapter on Learning, there is much written about legacy and purpose.

There are too many sidesteps to other authors, organizations, books, or sports teams (football). It could have been focused more on the All Blacks.

The tips and exercises could have been presented more clearly. The challenge is to distill them for yourself and to take action. Do not read this book if that is too much of a task for you.

Who should read this book

Business owners, change managers, Leaders in business & non-profit organizations, team(coaches), parents, and fans of the All Blacks.

Do you want to read this book?

I have one extra copy of the book. If you want to receive it for FREE, please comment below. Out of the first serious ten comments, I will randomly choose one who will receive the book.

What will your legacy be?

Discover your purpose or your WHY today. Follow a workshop or a one on one session with me and discover your unique WHY. This is your contribution and its impact on the world. For more information on discovering your WHY, click here or contact me to start right away!

What is a legacy to you? What will your legacy be? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article. and I are looking forward to reading from you!

Thank you for reading up to here & sharing this article with your colleagues, friends, or family. And please SHARE this article with your network on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn by pressing the buttons below so that they can also benefit from this book review of “Legacy” by James Kerr. You are welcome to copy parts of this blog if you state the sources.

Have you seen an error in this article? Let me know! I am grateful!

Legacy, James Kerr
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl

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