How do you want to be remembered?

When someone reaches the end of their life, it’s typical for someone close to them to read a eulogy in their honor; something that captures the person’s essence, the things that made them unique. For example, I was fortunate enough to write and read the eulogy for my father. It was an absolute honor. 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 incredible how many people came up to me to tell me how much my father had meant to them. All from people I had never met before! 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 one day at a time 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 help ensure that you are leaving a legacy you will be proud of.

And you can start by taking a lesson from the movies.

Movie Magic

I remember coming across the lessons of a former Disney executive named Mike Vance, who passed away in 2013 but left his imprint on the movie business. Vance shared a story that when studios shoot a movie, they film it one day at a time. They then review the footage and see what kind of progress they made that day, or not. These are called the dailies. The dailies add up over time to the film. The same is true of your life.

At the end of the movie of your life, Vance says, you’ll either find yourself in heaven or hell. If you watch the film of your life, do you find yourself in heaven, happy for what you accomplished and having left 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? Did you become everything you could be, or did you miss incredible opportunities?

Vance’s lesson is to not wait until the movie is over to take the time to look back and assess how things turned out. Start today by reviewing the dailies of your life and see what you think. Do you like how things are progressing toward the ending? If not, the good news is it’s not too late to start rewriting things to create an end you’ll be proud of.

Rewriting Your Script

So where would you begin if you were going to write the movie script of your life, or even how someone might write up your eulogy? You could consider factors like:

  • Who were you as a person? What were your background, education, and experience?
  • How did you show up? Were you friendly? Aggressive? Enjoyable to be around?
  • Were you someone who had lots of friends? Charitable interests or hobbies? How did you impact the people around you?
  • Were you someone who has had financial success? If so, would you be proud for people to talk about how impressive it was, and how much money you made?
  • What did you stand for? What were the core values that you stayed true to in your personal and professional life?
  • What was your true legacy?

All of us are here for such a short period. What will others most remember you by? To paraphrase Steve Jobs: What kind of dent did you put in the universe?

Your Story Starts Today

Remember that even the best Hollywood writers constantly change and tweak their scripts even as the movie is being shot. You have that same opportunity. It’s not too late to rethink your script and write it with the kind of plot and ending that you will be proud to call your own — or to have a loved one read it out loud to others in the form of a eulogy.

So take the time to ask yourself some tough questions about your life’s script, because it’s never too late to write a happy ending.

Jim Schleckser