How eulogies can help you live a better life.

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.

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My Grandpa Alton Albrecht, Grandma Judith, and their kids from left to right, Robert (my Dad), Paul, Pat, Linda, Jerry, John, Tim, Mary, Tom and Chuck.

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.

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This is how I imagined my Grampy Sprau laughing at his own funeral. 

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

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Recognizing the tremendous value of your client ark.

In your career you will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of clients. Some will help you make a lot of money. Some will help you make a little money. Some will help you grow old friendships. Some will help you make new friendships. Some will be strictly business. And some will be a party. Some will enable you to do great work. Some will help you make a difference. Some will build your confidence. Some will test your limits. Some will cost you money. Some you will love. And some, you will wish you never met. But if you pay attention, they will all help you grow smarter, stronger and more capable. So on the toughest days with the toughest clients, and the best days with the best clients, don’t forget to learn.

Perspective from high above a big week.

It is 11:15pm on a Wednesday night.

My plane from Atlanta to Milwaukee just took off. My past three days have been packed full, like Oreo Double Stuff cookies.

Monday our team conducted an 8 hour branding workshop with one of our great new accounts in Georgia. There were 16 clients and 4 agency people collaborating intensely to forge a new path for the brand. Afterwards I drove 2.5 hours in 2 different rental cars while drinking 4 large sweet teas.

Tuesday between 7:20am and 9pm I had 8 in-person meetings and an hour-long client presentation

Today I had 5 more in-person meetings.

Then I refilled a hole in my concrete driveway in Atlanta, with help from a few neighbors (thanks Steve, Crain, and Chris! I feel like that really cemented our friendship. #DadJokes)* Then I had dinner with some of my great Atlanta neighbors, including all of the above plus Betty, Melinda and Grace. Then I bolted Adam Albrecht-Style to the airport. (I’ve written about that style before here.)

After I finish this post I need to get back to work for the rest of the flight.

Because Tomorrow:

  • I have a huge creative presentation to a brand new client.
  • I have another important kickoff to an exciting new client engagement.
  • I have a call with a major foundation based in New York City that we are supporting  with a really rewarding initiative later this year.
  • And I have a new business pitch.

The Wee Hours Of The Morning

I will get home at 2am ET.  I will sneak into my three children’s bedrooms, and give them each a kiss (my kids, not the bedrooms). I will tiptoe into my room and kiss my favorite person on the planet for the first time in 4 days. (I am referring to my wife Dawn, in case you were unsure). Then I will sleep as fast as I can.

Key Takeaway

As I reflect on the past 72 hours, and prepare for the next 24, I feel like I am the luckiest man 35,000 feet above the Earth. 

*The hole stemmed from a pinhole leak in the main waterline to the home. It was detected by a higher-than-normal water bill. I hired a leak detection company to find the leak. Which they did. Unfortunately it was two feet under the center of the concrete driveway. Hence the hole. Life is an adventure.