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Write Your Own Eulogy

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 
1827

A eulogy can be as long as you like or as short as you like, but it has to have enough substance and meaning that will catalyze a change.  

Folks:

 

The posting below proposes an unusual exercise that I found useful to do even at my advanced age. It is from the book, Design Your Future – 3 Simple Steps to Stop Drifting and Take Command of Your Life, by Dominick Quartuccio.* Published 2017 by TCK publishing tckpublishing.com. Copyright 2017 by Dominick Quartuccio. All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

 

Regards,

 

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Use the Pandemic to Expand the Lab to the Home

 

 

Tomorrow’s Academic Careers

 

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Write Your Own Eulogy

 

Whenever I present the “you’re going to be writing your own Eulogy” step to my clients, I usually get a response ranging from discomfort to downright resistance.

 

Well good.  That means I’m on to something. (In parts of Asia, especially Japan, there are even particular festivals that let you take a test run of your funeral with coffins, cloths, makeup, blankets and more.

 

In the past I have attempted to stretch people’s thinking by asking them to define their purpose in life. BY in large, this approach fails.  People don’t know where to begin, so they end up stabbing around for the typical platitudes of “I want to be a devoted husband/wife” and “dedicated father/mother,” and “someone who has given way more than he/she has asked for.”

 

Or, it becomes a laundry list of career accolades and achievements.

 

Not that any of these things aren’t great. But they’re usually generated by what people think they should say, versus something that actually inspires them.

 

As David Brooks, author of The Moral Bucket List, once said:

            Our culture and our educational systems spend more 

time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.  Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

 

Society places so much emphasis on building and celebrating what Brooks calls resume virtues, those skills you bring to the marketplace, that there is very little guidance out there on how to build the eulogy virtues, the ones talked about at your funeral, like whether your were kind, honest, or brave.

 

We need a more empowering context to shift the conversation.

 

Something happens when you are forced to confront the reality of your own death. This truth forces you to evaluate the set-up of your life today, and whether it supports the person you want to be when you leave this planet.

 

It also creates clarity and necessary urgency to perform the actions now and into the immediate future that will shape your legacy.

 

Clarity regarding “the end” drives clarity “now”

 

So, where do you begin?

 

A eulogy can be as long as you like or as short as you like, but it has to have enough substance and meaning that will catalyze a change.  You don’t need to be a professional writer to be able to write a eulogy, But I appreciate that you might feel uncomfortable with the experience at first and have no idea where to begin.

 

So, to start, jot down answers to the following four questions:

 

(1)  How long do you want to live?

 

Notice I didn’t say, “How long do you think you’ll live?” This distinction is critically important.  Don’t get caught up in family history, genetics and actual probabilities.


One of my clients always believed he would die in his early 60s. Why? Because his father died in his 60s as did his grandfather. He simply expected that would be his fate too. Do you think that belief affected how he treated himself? Damn right it did. He always had trouble regulating a healthy diet. His weight yo-yoed, he would overdrink and over party. But it didn’t matter because he believed he’d be dying young anyway.

 

When he went through this exercise, it illuminated how silly that unchecked belief was. On his very first stab at it, he added an extra ten years to his lifespan (I’m continuing to push him for more), and it immediately catalyzed his efforts to get healthier now.  After all, if he’s going to live an extra ten years, he better start acting like it, right?

 

(2)  How boldly can you envision your future?

 

You may be so deeply rooted in the constraints of today that you’re at risk of shortchanging the unlimited potential waiting to be unlocked in the years and decades ahead of you. Flipping this mindset is crucial.

 

Here are some examples of “current realities” that you can let go of:

 

·      You’re the breadwinner in the family therefore you must maintain a safe job with a steady income.

 

·      You have four children and outside of work they get 99.9% of your attention.

 

·      You’ve never been an entrepreneur, but the idea fascinates and terrifies you.

 

·      Current life expectancy for adults in America is 78.74 years.

 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the way things are right now, and feel it’s going to continue this way forever.  But that’s not the case at all. Especially not when you’re playing the long game, i.e., the rest of your life. You’ve got decades left of living to do.  Anything can happen.  When you’ve got a blank canvas and a palette, you can paint anything. There are no constraints.

 

Right now the average life expectancy for a U.S., citizen is 78.74 years. But that number is going up every year, and some of the technological advancements coming, scientists are projecting dramatic shifts in longevity. In fact, compelling research has shown evidence that the first person to live to 150 is already walking this planet.  Crazy right? Only if you constrain yourself to the reality of our times.  For every new baby born, 150 is very much a reality of their existence.

 

It's incredibly useful to take such things into consideration when writing your eulogy.  I did.  My first eulogy had me living until 120.** Because I have eight decades left to live, it inspires me to invest in my wellbeing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually every single day.  With that much time on my side, it’s easy to dream big. With that much potential to create anything, I act now.

 

The same goes for you. Just because you have three children under the age five, a seven figure mortgage and a woefully under-funded 529 plan doesn’t mean those conditions will exist the rest of your life.  Use this opportunity to dream up your ideal.  How you get there is unimportant at this stage, finding what’s inspiring is.

 

(3)  What do you want to be in all the days ahead?

 

Dream up any version of yourself that you choose.  Envision who you want to be for all the years left ahead of you, and write about that person.

 

I once failed to give this guidance to a client of mine. The eulogy he’d written was touching, inspiring and beautiful. But 95% of it would be true if he had died on the day he read it to me (even though he projected he’d live another four decades.) This is your opportunity to THINK BIG.

 

You’d be surprised by how many people believe their glory days are behind them. Hell, even The Boss sang one of the greatest songs of all time about this.

 

Believing your best days are behind you is toxic. Yet so many people unwittingly adapt this belief. Which feeds their stories.  Which fuels their behaviors.

 

Someone once said: “isn’t it a wonderful thought, to know that our best days are yet to come?”

 

If that were true for you, what unforgettable experiences did you have? What did you accomplish? What relationships did you forge?

 

(4)  What legacy do you want to leave behind?

 

What lives on beyond you? What dent did you put into the universe that can’t be undone because of you?  What contributions did you make?

 

You get extra smiles if you include how your work contributed to your legacy. I’ve recently added this one to my guidelines because most of my clients will say to me, “Work didn’t show up anywhere in my eulogy. It shows how unimportant work is in the grand scheme of life!”

 

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*Dominick Quartuccio is a speaker, coach, mentor and architect of his own life.  He empowers high-achievers and corporate professionals to become better versions of themselves.

 

 

** One of my clients informed me that 121 would take me to the year 2100 so of course now I’m living to 121!