In 40 years, how many people will remember that Steve Jobs invented the iPhone (or the iPad, iPod and Macintosh for that matter)?

To that point, how many people today can name the principal inventor of television? (To save keystrokes on Google, the answer is Philo Farnsworth.)

L.A. psychologist and executive coach Dr. Andrew Thorn – author of best-selling book “Leading With Your Legacy in Mind” – posed these questions to business and philanthropic leaders at a recent event hosted by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Thorn’s context was differentiating between leaders’ legends and their legacies – the distinctions being quite notable.

As thought-provoking questions should, they set me wondering about the intercept between legend and legacy, as well as business and philanthropy as they relate to Los Angeles and the region’s future.

Los Angeles once was, but is no longer, a Fortune 500 headquarters city – that notion is a relic of the past. The information-age economy will increasingly continue to be dominated by digital, e-commerce and entertainment-content companies, many of them entrepreneurial startups. Look no further than our Silicon Beach for exciting company cases-in-point. And as the rate of change continues to intensify, so, too, will the pace at which wealth is created. Who could’ve imagined the number of millennial generation billionaires – the 20- and 30-somethings – spawned by innovation amid this new economy?

With technology and entertainment fortunes being minted at earlier ages than ever before, it will undoubtedly fall upon the next generation of L.A.’s own Medicis to play influential roles in shaping arts, cultural and social services programs in the decades to come. The public-sector “safety net” continues to fray. While it can never supplant government and other public funding, support from private sources will be more important than ever. An estimated $59 trillion of U.S. wealth is expected to pass between generations from now until 2061, according to a study by Boston College.

Fleeting fame

Our emerging business leaders need to recognize – early in their careers as they monetize their innovations – that their ultimate legacies will not be their “killer apps” or “disruptive technologies.” As Thorn posits, those will make them legends. But legend is fleeting – Philo Farnsworth evidences that point. Legacies will not be built upon the businesses they create but by embracing causes about which they’re passionate; by setting forth and devoting those same entrepreneurial gifts to making a difference in the future of Los Angeles and the lives of others.

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