Thoughts on Legacy, Tombstones, and Death

Death is a morbid topic to think about.

But if you’re going to create a life you want, you’re going to have to think about it.

My problem at every “job” I’ve ever had is that eventually I think about “If I were to die tomorrow, would I want this to be the last thing I did with my life?”

If the answer screamed from my bones: “NO” then I put in my two week notice the next day. Sometimes I had something else lined up, sometimes I didn’t. Most people look at me like I am insane, but I’m okay with that.

Because all I can think about at any given moment is my legacy.

“Is this what I want to be remembered for?”

I’ve gotten much better at narrowing it down and sticking to certain paths as time goes on, but I still think about it all the time.

As some of you know, I am a copywriter at the moment. I love it. It feels great to help people find the right words to describe their business. I’m happy and my clients are happy.

Is it what I want to always be remembered for?

Nope.

It will be a nice addition to the list, but it won’t be the only thing. I can’t personally imagine my obituary reading, “She was great at helping other people sell things.”

I think often of F. Scott Fitzgerald, my favorite author of all time, who never personally recovered from his success of The Great Gatsby. I am not envious of his life. If you ever read about it, it is quite sad. He was a terrible alcoholic, he was plagued with insecurities, he died at the young age of 44, and his wife died in a fire in a mental hospital.

Then on the flip side, I think of Theodore Roosevelt. Not only was he a President of the United States, but he was also an explorer, soldier, author, cowboy, police commissioner, started the Rough Riders, governor, vice president, wilderness enthusiast, Harvard graduate, boxer, rower, and certified badass. At one point in his career, he was shot in the chest and still continued speaking in front of the crowd for 90 minutes. And he did all of that before the age of 60. Not to mention, he wrote and published 35 books… AND had the famous Teddy bear named after him. Just let all of that soak in for a minute.

Throughout my short 24 years so far, every now and then I get friends who ask me how to decide what they want to do with their lives. I definitely don’t have all the answers yet, but there are some things I know for sure:

1. Progression is everything.

You grow in life or you stagnate. There is no middle ground here. You’re either growing as a person, getting in shape, making money, traveling and seeing the world, or you’re just sitting still.

If you focus on continual growth, you don’t have to worry as much about a “career” or a “job”. You will continue to pursue opportunities where growth will happen. You can’t always plan a “career”, but you can focus on your values, virtues, and goals as a person which will help you spot the opportunities.

2. If you can die without doing x, y, and z, move on from it.

Sometime we get so much outside influence for how we should think that we completely lose touch with ourselves. It takes a lot of alone time to clear out the clutter, voices, and suggestions from well-meaning people.

For example:
– Since I have a writing degree and student loan debt, I always feel like pursuing anything outside of writing is a waste of $20,000.00. Then I remember that most people don’t actually stay in the degree they got in college.
– I always feel like being an entrepreneur is crazy and I should just get a job like everyone else. Then I remember that owning my own business is what I always wanted and that every single person I know in my immediate circle who talks a big game about owning their own business in a few years actually won’t. Entrepreneurship is something that courses through your veins and it isn’t something you can ignore because there is no other option.

Something I like to imagine is being 90 and asking myself, “If I don’t do this in my life, can I die happy?”

If you can die happy without owning a fancy car, then get rid of that from your goal list.
If you can die happy without becoming a manager/executive at x company, then stop pursuing it.
If you can die happy without living in another country, stop thinking you have to do that.

If you can’t imagine dying without having started your own company, start one.
If you can’t imagine dying without having children, then add that to your list.
If you can’t imagine dying without having seen Italy, then make sure you buy a plane ticket.

It might require a weekend away from TV, Internet, and other people to really think about what you want out of life. You’ll probably be shocked by how many things you don’t want in your life.

Whatever the answers are, make the plans and adjust your life accordingly. Not all of us get until we are 90, so make sure you start on a path you actually want sooner than later.

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