Suggested Song: That Was Me, Paul McCartney
Suggested Drink: Guinness Extra Stout (The Irish have mastered a good sendoff)
This is the second of 12 experiments I’m proposing to readers this year; one per month. If you’re intent on making 2023 a pivot year toward more purposeful ambitions, or perhaps just asking that post-Covid question – okay, what now and how? – these experiments will help draw maps, uncover truths, enhance motivation, strengthen resilience, and be fun. All are part of the Life Leap Workshops we run in Provence (more about those here). Please give them a try and let me know what you learn and how they can be improved. Comments and critiques are encouraged.
I need to start this essay by highlighting the good fortune we all have, those of us in a position to think about passion pursuits and life purpose. Close to a billion people on this planet are too damn hungry to think about self-actualization. Double that number when including conflict and war zones. Where do I find my next meal and how do I keep my children alive? There are a few Ukrainian families here in Aix – mostly moms and their kids – trying scrape together some way of paying rent while avoiding bad news from the front. What would the hungry and harassed give to be at the peak of Maslow’s pyramid? So, with much humility and respect, onward.
Damn it all, plunked in.
On the gravestone of Andy Loy
(A colorful character from Bill’s childhood)
The January Experiment (Missed it? Click here.) dealt with the Wheel of Life. It’s a helpful tool to examine how well your current life aligns with the ideal life you imagine. For February we fast forward the reel and talk about, …. death. I don’t mean to be darkly provocative. After the final pulse, there will be a day for others to a cast warm light on your life. Your eulogy, the Cliff Notes version of greatest hits; if you die tomorrow will it recount the legacy you want to leave? What does this say about the life you’re living now?
She started a soup kitchen that fed 100s of homeless and hopeless a day.
His films made viewers rethink the black experience in America.
They restored by hand an old, dilapidated French farmhouse into a world-class BnB.
You will have a eulogy, a moment for friends and family to have a final say on your final day. Maybe even an obit! If there’s one thing we all agree on: no one gets out alive. The question then is, do you want some influence over said commemoration? Specifically, do you care about how you will be memorialised by those at the pulpit for them in the pews?
The only option for that input is the legacy of material you leave behind. How you lived your life, whom you touched, and what you created: that’s what will be so fondly recalled, not necessarily the same how’s, who’s, and what’s you hoped for. Others – family and close friends – will be climbing the sanctuary to sing your praises. They’ll want to spin some magic. So give them your magic. Make their job fun.
This experiment, then, is a valuable tool for considering purpose, potential, and progress (gotta love the 3 ps). Why you’re here, why you want to be here, why you mattered. And we all want to have mattered.
How is your eulogy lining up? Here’s a quick, back-of-the-envelope experiment for a quick gauge.
The My Eulogy Experiment
Step 1: Your ideal eulogy.
1. Calmed with a warm cup of tea (or chilled glass of rosé) imagine the contented end. Slipping peacefully into eternal slumber, your purpose has been realized, deepest passions fed, your legacy secured. Yes, that WAS a life lived richly, with little left on the plate. And you’re confident that those things that mattered most will be mentioned at your funeral as a true reflection of who you were, how you served, and why a glass raised in your honor is well earned. (If you practice mindfulness this step is a perfect meditation for that zen state.)
2. On a piece of paper list 10 highlights that most merit mention. This is your ideal life list, so include endeavors and achievements from the past for which you are proud and ambitions for the future to which you are committed. Rank them from 1 (essential and non-negotiable) to 10 (important but less critical).
3. Look at the list. Are these truly the 10 highlights to include? Are they authentic and possible (your memorializers will sympathizers, not fabricators)? Ranked properly? Come back to the list later in the day and then again tomorrow, and each time check for correctness. As with the Wheel of Life, don’t consider the ideal eulogy highlights finished until you’ve had a chance to review them over a couple of days, at different times of the day, in different moods.
Step 2: Your current eulogy.
1. In a similarly calm state take a second piece of paper. Rank the high points of your life to-date most likely to be mentioned should you die tomorrow, from 1 (almost surely) to 10 (possibly).
2. Review the list a few times over a couple of days to make sure you’re not forgetting something and have a proper ranking.
Step 3: Compare the lists.
1. For highlights that are on both lists and at similar levels, bravo, your attention and energy are being directed appropriately to those things most important for your life legacy.
2. For highlights on both lists but at notably different rankings, what can you do now to start a correction?
3. For highlights included on your ideal list but missing from current, what’s the plan to get something launched? (That’s our specialty at the Interprize Group, you should ping us!).
The toughest part of this experiment will be coming up with your list. At first you may think that 10 things about you don’t need to be mentioned, and then you may feel that 10 isn’t nearly enough. Grand passions and life purpose and big achievements are all amazing to pursue, to have on our final resumé. But in the end we just want our lives to have mattered. Helpful grandmother, acclaimed author, much-loved and trusted kindergarten teacher, national champion, …. How did you matter?