Have you ever been to a workshop-either spiritual or professional—where they gave you an exercise to write your own eulogy for your funeral or your own obituary? What would you want people to say about you when you are gone?
I attended a funeral recently of a man I had only known for the last 5 years or so. I know one of his children and was glad to have the opportunity to get to know his father. As I listened to the stories shared about this man’s life, I uncovered several lessons for entrepreneurs:
It’s not the successes that matter so much as how you respond to the failures. This businessman, as his son described him, was a serial entrepreneur with a long list of ups and downs over his lifetime. His ability to find another way after a venture failed was a key learning his family shared. Knowing when to get out was also key to his forward progress.
Have a vision to see what others cannot imagine, and be able to explain your vision so others can see it, too. He had a big personality and was the creative spark behind many innovations. He could paint the picture for his investors, partners, and employees to help them see the way forward.
Create an opportunity for others to learn. He had an insatiable curiosity about the world and encouraged his children and grandchildren to seek adventure, whether that meant climbing a Mayan ruin or following their career passion. He was not the type of owner who held everything close to the vest. He shared his knowledge and counted on others to step up.
Make time for family. He was a real encourager of their efforts in life whether it was sports or education or the arts. He focused on each one as if they were the only person present. He did not allow his work to interfere with the importance of family relationships. (Note: I cannot speak for his early years. His son shared about some unusual summer jobs he and his siblings had related to his start-ups!)
I remain a fan of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This recent experience brought to mind a new version of his step, “Begin with the end in mind.” I often use it for business owners to think about what their life after this business would look like.
Do they have a plan for their future exit from the firm?
Hearing the story of his life from three different perspectives, father/grandfather/businessman, was a wonderful celebration of his life.
Today, my question for you is: What would you want people to say about you at your funeral?