When someone reaches the end of their life, it is typical for someone close to them to read a eulogy in your honor – something that captures the essence of the person, the things that made them unique. For example, I was lucky enough to write and read the eulogy for my father. It was an absolute honour. But it was also a challenging task to summarize someone’s entire life in just a few pages that I could read aloud.
After I read my father’s eulogy, it was unbelievable how many people came up to me to tell me how much my father had meant to them. All people I had never met! It was so meaningful that I knew that part of my father’s legacy was taking the time to help other people. That incredible life was built day by day with the decisions made every moment.
The lesson here is that you can think about your own life and reverse engineer the magic of a eulogy to ensure you build the kind of life you’ll be proud of.
And you can start with a lesson from the movies.
I remember coming across the lessons of a former Disney executive named Mike Vance, who died in 2013 but left his mark on the movie industry. Vance shared a story that when studios shoot a movie, they shoot it day by day. They then review the footage and see what kind of progress they’ve made that day — or not. These are called the “dailies”. The newspapers add up to the film over time. The same goes for your life.
At the end of the movie of your life, Vance says, you’ll either end up in heaven or in hell. When you watch the movie of your life, do you feel in heaven, happy with what you have achieved and with no regrets? Or would it be more like hell, where you mourn the choices and decisions you made in the precious days of your life? Have you become all you could, or have you missed incredible opportunities?
Vance’s lesson is not to wait for the movie to be over to take the time to look back and assess how things turned out. Start browsing the daily newspapers of your life today and see what you think. Do you like how things go towards the end? If not, the good news is that it’s not too late to rewrite things to create an ending you can be proud of.
Rewrite your script
So, where would you start if you were writing the movie script of your life or even how someone would write your eulogy? You can consider factors such as:Who were you as a person? What was your background, education and experience? How did you show up? Were you friendly? Aggressive? Nice to be around? Were you someone who had many friends? Charities or hobbies? How have you influenced the people around you? Were you someone who has had financial success? If so, would you be proud if people told you how impressive it was how much money you made? What did you stand for? What were the core values you have stayed true to in your personal and professional life? What was your real legacy?
We’re all here for such a short period of time: what will others remember you most? To paraphrase Steve Jobs, what dent have you made in the universe?
Your story starts today
Remember that even the best Hollywood writers are constantly changing and adapting their scripts, even while the movie is being shot. You have the same chance. It’s not too late to rethink your script and write it with the kind of plot and ending you’ll be proud to call your own — or have a loved one read it aloud to others in the form of a eulogy .
So take the time to ask yourself some tough questions about the script of your life because it’s never too late to write a happy ending.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.
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