Purpose and urgency … If you want true purpose and urgency, find yourself a near death experience. Careful now, don’t get too close - no do overs for this one. It’s funny what doesn’t matter, when you realize what does.
Of course, no one is going out searching for the ultimate ‘close call’ in the name of perspective, but it’s also impossible to dismiss the reality of the clarity it brings to those that experience it. Suddenly a father obsessed with his career and climbing the corporate ladder is taking a week off of work to take his daughter backpacking through the Andes. Or a young college student goes from being consumed and held down by the opinions of others to dismissing the thoughts of acquaintances and pursuing her passion of volunteering to serve the homeless.
Why Should We Care? Well, this is a pretty simple question - Why should we care? Uh … because you’re going to die too. Doesn’t matter what you do, how much money you have, or how great your hair looks - it’s coming.
When I introduce this to my students you can physically see the discomfort it brings. But why? It’s going to happen, why don’t we talk about death more? Oh, yea I know - because it’s uncomfortable.
Like most other things that are uncomfortable, the consideration of death can be extremely beneficial to us while we’re still alive. After all, death may help others appreciate things once we’ve passed but it’s not going to do a whole lot for us.
This isn’t just meant just for individuals - all teams die too. The understanding of that reality can have the exact same impact on the teams we lead as it does on individuals.
Here are the three of of the most significant benefits of considering death while you still have time to live.
Perspective - Death provides clarity on what is important. It has the power to cut out all the “stuff” that doesn’t matter, which, just so happens to be - most things. We become driven, disciplined, and courageous when we understand we don’t have forever on earth.
Urgency - When tomorrow becomes a question, today becomes the answer. The idea that we may not have another day to give a hug, say thank you, or volunteer to help is the greatest spur to action there is. Gone are the days we tell our daughter we’ll play pass in the backyard later.
Gratitude - When we are aware of our limited time with a team, or on earth, we begin to appreciate everything more fully. The challenges, the failures, the blunders - all just part of the journey to experience and be grateful for. We see beauty in close ones and in the simple things around us that we had been missing our whole lives.
The other aspect of considering death as a friend is it creates a finish line that you control. We have all of these goals throughout life - pass a class, start on my team, buy a house, own my own business, find a partner … all are great but are any as important as - when I’m on my deathbed, I want the people there with me to say _________? I know they don't for me. Everything fades of importance when it is compared to our ultimate legacy with the people we love.
REAL TALK - Action Steps The World’s Shortest Eulogy So, how does this apply to you or your teams? You don’t need a near-death experience to benefit from the perspective of death. You do, however, need to consider it. How do you want to be remembered by the people closest to you? What really matters to you at the end of the day … or your life?
Parents - Ask your child to write a eulogy in 24 words or less. There is no magic number in the amount of words but it is important to limit it. By keeping it somewhat short, the author must focus on what is essential to how they want to be remembered. Parents should do it also, then share them. Younger children may not understand the idea of a eulogy - try asking how they want their teacher at school to remember them … What would they want their teacher to describe them to next year’s class?
Coaches/Managers - We’ve used eulogies with our team also, but an alternative is to ask team members to write a Banquet Speech. The framing question for this activity is: What would you want your coach to say about you at the end of the season baquet? Players write out a speech in 3rd person from the coach’s perspective describing how they want to be viewed at the end of the season. This provides a great source for feedback and direction to the team members throughout their season / career in regards to how well they are doing in actually living to the qualities mentioned in their Banquet Speech.
Teammates - No real activity here, just the recommendation to honestly consider death. The team you’re on will one day no longer be a team. Your teammates will no longer be your teammates. Teams are special because of their uniqueness. No two teams are exactly the same. Seize the opportunity to make your impact on the team, and your teammates, the one you want it to be.
There are really two ways to live - for your eulogy or your resume. Considering the end of anything is a powerful way to align your actions with your eulogy. Death doesn’t need to be knocking on our door in order for this to happen. But, the reality of death does need to be considered, understood, and embraced. This goes for our teams and our lives. We only get one shot at life - make it the one you want it to be.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com. We would love to know how we could help!