I’m fascinated by obituaries.
Every Saturday morning after my workout, I buy the Globe and Mail newspaper, take it home, and spread it out over my kitchen table. Five minutes later, after petting the dog and making my healthy post-training blender drink, I meander through the sports section. On the back page is the week’s featured obituary column. That’s where my reading gets interesting.
A well-written obituary, like those found on the back page of the newspaper or in The Economist or even Inc. magazine is better than any inspirational short story you can find. The tales of triumph and tribulation, heartbreak and hell, persistence and persuasion, prove that truth is indeed often stranger than fiction – or at least much more interesting and inspirational.
The obituary is the true ledger of one’s impact on the world. Funerals are clouded by emotion and the inability of the full story to emerge. There it is difficult to get a full measure of the trials and tribulations that one has endured. It’s not the right time to truly record one’s place in the world. That is best left to the obituary. It is in the obituary, read by perfect strangers in unbiased settings that tell us whether or not a person did the best that they could have done with what they were given.
Recently, as I read through an issue of The Economist, I stumbled across an obituary of a man that “will be remembered with the giants”. His faults and accomplishments were listed, and an argument made that his reputation that should live on.
“He had done the best he could,” was the message. Though he was neither perfect in achieving his aims, nor in how he treated others, the end result of this man’s life was that he accomplished all that he could given the life he had lived.
Will the papers say the same for us when it comes time?
Are we doing the best we can do?
Sadly, the answer is most often, “no”.
How I do I know this?
For all my preaching on time management there are still hours wasted each week that could be better spent working towards my mission of helping one million men and women transform their lives. There are still many things I could be doing better.
We all have plenty of room for improvement. But the good news is that you don’t have to be perfect. You can still have vices – as we all do. You don’t have to be a super-mom or saint to be remembered as doing the best that you could do.
You only have to do better than what you’re doing right now.
Can you do better at work? Could you arrive 15 minutes earlier each day to tackle a vital task with your full concentration before the rest of the office arrives? Is there a work relationship that you could repair that would help move a project along? Is there a way that you could better communicate your orders to subordinates so they do a better job and have greater enjoyment and focus in their work? There must be a way you can do better.
And what about when it comes to taking control of your financial independence? Can you work harder to set aside 30 to 60 minutes per day to work on your side business? Is there something you could be doing better that would get you to your goals faster?
But improvement is not limited to work. Can you do better with your health? Can you plan ahead and do a better job with your nutrition? Can you set aside 30 minutes to consistently engage in the movement that your body needs for optimal health? Can you do a better job of following the rules for better sleep, so that you don’t toss and turn each night because of the alcohol and caffeine flowing through your bloodstream? Surely, we can all do better here.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, are you doing your best when raising your family? Can you spend more time at the park with your children? Are they receiving the best experience you can provide them with given the resources at hand? Or are you spending more time on your iPhone answering email than being present for their milestones? Think about what your family deserves and find a way to do better.
We can’t ask for perfection from others or from ourselves. But we can demand better.
We must take all the gifts we’ve been given and make the most of them. And for almost all of us, that means doing a slightly better, or in some cases, a much better job than what we are doing now.
(I’ll let you decide where you belong on that continuum.)
We will have bad days. There will be days, even weeks, characterized by exhaustion, frustration, and obstacles. But we also have the opportunity to do better in these tough times than we have in the past.
Ultimately, we have the opportunity – and choice – to do our best in every given situation. And if we do, we can look back and say, “I could have done no better”. This was the best I could do.
The fact that you’re here means a lot. It means that you care enough about yourself and about others that you are willing to take action, to risk stumbling (but never truly failing), and to get out of your comfort zone in order to create a better world for those around you, and for yourself. You will earn it. You deserve it. And I respect that. I am proud of you for what you are doing.
And when it comes time for you to pass on to the hereafter – a day that I hope is far, far, far away – it will be said that you have done the best you can with what you were given.
The world will agree. It will take notice. And your reputation will live on.[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with a web-based business that you can operate from anywhere in the world – including a coffee shop, your kitchen table, or anywhere around the world where there is Internet access. Discover how you can achieve the American Dream and your financial independence here. You’ve never seen anything like this before.]