My obituary: What will others say about you after you’ve gone?


I first came across the idea of learning about self-reflection through writing your own obituary in the late Stephen Covey’s life changing Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In this piece, Richard Wright has a go at his own. Once you’ve had a look, am sure you’ll agree that writing talent like his deserves the widest possible exposure.

By Richard Wright*

Richard was stupidly optimistic, inappropriately honest, and the best procrastinator the world has witnessed. He started some amazing projects but never finished one. His passion for life and incredible energy, whilst positive and captivating, landed him in more trouble than anything else.

…Is that it? Is that the best you can come up with? It’s me you’re talking about here!

At the time of writing this blog Madiba is on life support. Sadly, his life hangs in the balance. A life that has had a powerful and very significant effect on my life, despite the fact that I have never had the privilege to meet him.

Every newsroom in South Africa, and I would guess throughout most of the world, has the enviable task of crafting an obituary for arguably the world’s most loved man.

I say enviable because it’s not a very difficult obituary to write. His life has been so well documented that it almost writes itself. He has touched countless lives in the most constructive way and the hardest part is probably deciding what to leave out of a fitting tribute.

But what about yours? What if I had to write a testament to you tomorrow? Would I find enough evidence to construct a positive, honest and fitting credit to your years on this planet? Would your friends and family celebrate your life and the joy that you brought to those around you?

More importantly would you be satisfied with the words I read out should you be able to hear me?
The last time I wrote my own eulogy was three years ago. It was part of an exercise I designed with my sales team, and I made them all write their own. They laughed at first and thought I was a little morbid and strange. But soon it dawned on them that what they were writing were authentic goals.

Suddenly the laughter subsided and one or two who were brave and honest enough murmured, “I know what I would like them to say, but I don’t know if anyone will.” More than one person replied, “There’s still so much I want to do.”
It’s a very sobering thought, and the reality is that we don’t always know what people really think about us. That shouldn’t matter though because yours is the most critical voice, and the eyes that look back at you in the mirror know the full story.

You get to decide how you will turn your aspirations into reality and what is truly important for you.
Call it a personal challenge if you will, writing your own eulogy, because there is no better way to challenge yourself than to write it down, read it often, and measure yourself against what you have written.

They say that the measure of a life is how many people measure their own lives by that life. If the only people who look upon my life, who feel proud of whom I was as a person, and who hope that they can be like me in some ways are my two daughters; I will have lived a good life.

I get to define that outcome I strive for each and every day. Some days I think that I have succeeded, others not.
What got me thinking about this blog are all the things I admire about Madiba, and although I know he’s by no means perfect there is a lot I choose to measure myself against.

I greatly admire the humility of the man, and I want to emulate his kindness. I want to strive to see the best in people despite what they might have done to me. I want to learn to build bridges. I need to learn forgiveness.
What mark will you leave on this world, and what do YOU want people to say about your life?

* Richard is a father, husband, business trainer, elite athlete (Top 20 in Ironman SA) and occasional blogger for his own site doingitwright where you’ll find more insights in a similar vein. 

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