A school friend of mine died five years ago. He was 52, and motor neurone disease had slowly nibbled away at his body for over three years.

I was asked to write his eulogy for a service that was being held in Cape Town – so his old classmates could pay tribute to him. As I started thinking what to say and how to say it, it dawned on me how the eulogies that celebrate a person’s life are very different from the way we define success, and live our everyday lives.

You will never hear things like this in someone’s eulogy:

His crowning achievement was when he made Sales Director and smashed the sales target three years in a row.
His waterfront house and his Porsche 991 were a testimony to his success and greatness as a human being.
We especially remember him as a person who had an MBA.

Eulogies are not résumés. Our eulogy will be the first and only formal marking down of what our lives were about. The eulogy is the foundational document of our legacy – how we cared; how courageous we were; how funny we were; how we were as a human being; how people remember us; how we live on in the minds and hearts of others.

No matter how hard we play the “success” game, the eulogy is ALWAYS about the other stuff – what they gave to others; small kindnesses; lifelong passions; unique and curious habits and traits; and the things that made us smile and laugh. So the question is: Why do we spend so much time living our résumé, and so little time living our eulogy?

Because even those who die with amazing résumés – who’s lives were synonymous with success, accomplishment and business achievement – even their eulogies are about what they did when they weren’t achieving and succeeding, and who they were as human beings.

I wish we could bring a little of that humanity back into the way we market ourselves [translation = your résumé]; the jobs and roles we do at work [translation = your job description]; and the way we live our lives [translation = how you define success].

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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