Ever heard of James Barrie? Let me help. He was born in Scotland on this day in 1860. Mr. Barrie attended the University of Edinburgh and worked as a reporter for the Nottingham Journal for two years after college. He then moved to London in 1885 and became a freelance writer. His first collection of sketches, Auld Licht Idylls, was published in 1888 and became a big success. Barrie went on to publish a collection of short stories and a bestselling novel, The Little Minister, in 1891. The novel was dramatized in 1897, which led Barrie to shift his focus from prose to drama.
Does any of this sound familiar? Probably not.
Then Mr. Barrie wrote a story you might have heard of. More on that in a bit. He would write dozens of other plays, none of which are still performed. In 1913, he was made a baronet and in 1922 he received the Order of Merit. He would become president of the Society of Authors in 1928 and Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in 1930. He continued in this role until his death in 1937, at the age of 77. Barrie is buried in London.
But no one really remembers any of this. No. Mr. Barrie is known for just one thing. In 1904 he wrote one of the most beloved plays ever imagined – Peter Pan. Performed in dozens of languages over the past 112 years, Peter Pan is the singular reason the world still remembers James Barrie.
That is usually how it works in life. Mr. Barrie was born to write Peter Pan. What were you born to do? When you hear the name “Washington,” you think first president. When you hear “Babe Ruth” you think home runs. When you hear “Henry Ford” you think cars. And when you hear “Thomas Edison” you think light bulb.
I have come to believe people under the age of 40 are consumed with success. Then we care about significance. And after 50 we think “legacy.” What will your legacy be? Being known for one thing isn’t bad. Just ask James Barrie. Every time Peter Pan is performed, Mr. Barrie’s name shows up in the program.
No – it’s not a bad thing to be remembered for just one thing. It’s better than not being remembered at all.