Yesterday I watched the touching tributes to President George H.W. Bush during his presidential funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The highlight was George W. Bush’s eulogy, honoring his father, our 41st president, not as the Commander-In-Chief, but as a caring family man.
W’s thoughtful and tearful tribute brought back powerful memories of my grandfathers’ funerals. My Grampy Sprau, a Navy veteran, died in 2009 when he was 92. Three years earlier, in 2006, I lost my Grandpa Albrecht when he was 89. Both men left great human legacies. By that, I mean they left behind a lot of great humans as their legacies. In total, the two men had 21 children. Which means that they dutifully obeyed God’s command to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.
The Honor of Honoring
Yet somehow, despite all those children, and nearly 50 grandchildren, when my Grandfathers each died I was given the honor of delivering their eulogy. In full disclosure, no one else wanted the job. It is very difficult to talk at a funeral. So I volunteered for the job. I was told that the only reservations my family had about me speaking was that once I had a microphone and a captive audience I might not stop.
The Great Lesson
delivering a eulogy is an incredible honor and responsibility. But writing my first tribute for my Grandpa Albrecht also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. Because writing a eulogy forces you to look at an entire life from the very end. It is how you complete the story of an adventure on Earth. And as I looked at Grandpa Albrecht’s entire life, from the very end, it forced me to think about my entire life from the closing curtain.
The Eulogy View
This view-point, makes you think about your life as if it were a book, movie or play. It makes you think about the plot, the characters, the obstacles and setbacks. It makes you think about the achievements, the risks, the rewards and the adventures. It makes you think about your contributions and your relationships. Your responsibilities and your regrets. It makes you think about wasting time and making time and taking time and the scarcity of time.
As I wrote my Grandfather’s eulogy, I realized that sooner than I would like, I too will be done with my own story. And if I wanted to make a difference and create a great tale for someone else to tell, I had to do it now. I had to get busy doing the things I would regret not doing. I had to choose my own adventure. I had to live a story worth sharing.
Valuing Our Time
I began seeing more value in each day. I started taking more pictures and documenting my own journey. I began contacting friends and family more. I took on bigger challenges and big changes in my career. Within 6 months I moved to a new state. I advanced two positions along my career path, and nearly doubled my salary.
I planned more vacation time with my family, instead of letting vacation days vanish at the end of the year. Because I had learned that those vacation days represented the pages of my story.
Write Your Rough Draft
Following my Grandfather’s funeral I began writing down more plans and goals. In fact, I spent the last hour of my 39th year writing about all that I wanted to do in the decade ahead. I knew I would have major regrets if I never tried to start my own advertising agency. Because when I looked at my life from the end, that was part of my story.
Two years later I launched my own agency. I called it The Weaponry. At the same time I started sharing the things I have learned along my journey in this blog. I try to share my insights and observations whenever I think they may add value to others. But lately I have noticed that I am offering the same piece of advice to others over and over. That advice: Look at your story from the end. Because from the end we can clearly see what we could have done, and what we should have done.
By using the end-perspective in your early decisions, you can actually steer the course of your life to align with your personal legend (#TheAlchemist). That’s exactly what I am trying to do. It’s what I encourage you to do. In the end, the very end, this lesson was the greatest gift my Grandfather every gave me. And I wanted you to have it too.