1. Reflection Is Productive
Be one who learns from the past rather than a cog in the wheel mechanically grinding away. According to researchers at Harvard Business School, “once an individual has accumulated a certain amount of experience with a task, the benefit of accumulating additional experience is inferior to the benefit of deliberately articulating and codifying the experience accumulated in the past.” We study world history to understand the present and to plan for the future. We should do the same for our own lives.
2. Communicate Values
Congratulations on writing your will, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. You’ve planned to pass on your Porsche, Patek, and penthouse to posterity, but what about the stories behind their acquisition? Brown Brothers Harriman & Co, the oldest private bank in the United States, estimates that poor communication accounts for 97 percent of unsuccessful generational wealth transfers.
3. Tell Your Own Story
“General Joe was a family man who loved life and made each day count. He’ll be missed.” We’ve all heard generic eulogies that don’t do justice to the departed. Don’t make others guess who you are. Worse than being ignored and forgotten is being falsely known and remembered. Speak for yourself in your own words. Tell your own tale or others will fail to tell it for you.
4. It’s Good For You And Others
Nobody knows what it takes to run that race or grow that business until you tell them. Be admired and lead by example. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Tell your story for others to emulate. You’ll benefit too: studies (e.g., Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999; Wilson, 2011) have shown that writing life stories improves mental and physical health by empowering people to make sense and take control of life’s chaos.
5. Create Something Built To Last
Mountains, empires, and castles crumble to the sea. Sons-in-law sell family estates. Life is short, but art is long. The way to be known and remembered, according to Ben Franklin, is to “write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Telling your life story accomplishes both. You’ve done great things that are worth writing and reading about. Preserve your story in a form that will last as long as Homer’s Odyssey.