So yesterday I wrote about how birthdays always remind me of death and how brief our lives are here on earth. Then what was announced today? That music pop star Michael Jackson will be buried on what would’ve been his 51st birthday, on August 29.
How ironic is that? I’m sure his family probably strategically planned for him to be buried that day. But could you imagine being put to rest on the same day as your birth — the day you were introduced to the world in turn becomes the day in which the world says “goodbye” to you?
Consider what his family will be thinking on that day. Consider also what might be going through the minds of his fans and how the famed singer had touched their lives. And then, of course, there are the critics, who will probably have a thought or two, albeit altogether negative.
All of this talk about death, had me thinking about a writing exercise I was required to do when I was hired to write as an intern for Bloomberg News a few of years ago.
For one entire week, I, along with about 20 other college students from across the U.S., convened in New York City one summer at the Bloomberg Tower, its headquarters based in a horseshoe–shaped building located in Midtown Manhattan (Yes, the same building in which singer Beyonce apparently purchased a condo prior to her marriage).
Each day, we were required to take several writing and finance-intense classes that were intended to prepare us to write informatively on financial news and market trends, using a unique technology and computer called the Bloomberg terminals.
One of those classes, led by one of the bureau’s top editors, included a series of writing exercises that aimed at helping us budding journalists get more in touch with our story-telling side.
Guess what he had us do? Write our own obituary. Kinda morbid right?
Well, not exactly if you examine the purpose of the exercise a bit more closely.
For our purposes of discovering our true career path or for those of us who have already embarked on a such a journey, we’ll look at it this way:
Writing your own obituary . . .
- Helps you focus on what type of legacy you’d like to leave behind.
- Puts in perspective the time constraints in which you’re working with to live out your dreams.
- Gives you a sense of urgency.
- Serves as a reminder that every minute of each day is priceless.
- Is a gut-check, and propels you to make the most of any and every opportunity.
I thought it’d be a great idea to share with you this exercise in the event you wanted to try it out yourself.
Here’s what you need to do. . .
Write about yourself in the third person — a short paragraph or entire page should suffice. Describe who you are, your personality, your accomplishments, your values. And most importantly, provide details on the person you’d ultimately like to be remembered as when you’ve left this earth.
Be as bold or ambitious as you’d like to be in describing your greatest achievements. Use lots of, what we call in journalism, “color” or details to describe who you are and the person you’d become.
For example, if you want to be a famed writer list the magazines or publishers who showcased your work. If you want to be remembered as a volunteer extraordinaire who donated your wealth to notable charities, then say that as well.
This exercise is great because generally the person that is buried underneath all of the past failures and disappointments, will start to shine through as you begin writing and allow yourself the freedom to dream once again.
Keep the Discussion Going
If you’d like your “obituary” featured on TheCareerPioneer.com, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or simply cut and paste it in the Comments section below.
Try this writing exercise with a group of friends as an icebreaker and to be the basis of lively group discussion. After sharing your individual “obituaries” don’t stop there! Then move on to discuss ways in which you can take steps to accomplish the things you’d ultimately like to be remembered for.