Perhaps you have heard the story of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist who invented dynamite. He was shocked to discover his own obituary published one morning in a French newspaper. He was very much alive – it was his brother, Ludwig, who had died, but the newspaper confused the two and, in doing so, described the inventor as a “merchant of death.”
Nobel had thought his invention would end all wars. “The day when two army corps can annihilate each other in one second,” he wrote, “all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war.” Clearly, it appeared history would be judging him otherwise.
Unlike most of us, Nobel had been given the remarkable privilege of reading his own obituary – and he had a chance, from that day forward, to more intentionally and proactively write his own epitaph by creating the real legacy for which he hoped he would always be remembered. One of the first decisions he acted on was to better align his wealth with what he truly cared about most – human achievement. To do this, he changed his will, leaving everything he owned (when he actually did die) to establish the renowned Nobel prizes for accomplishments in a host of human endeavors.
Nobel obviously had been granted a very special second chance. If we’re really honest, many of us would value such a wake-up call that provides a “do over” opportunity with our life and legacy. In Nobel’s case, an errant obituary motivated him to focus intently on, bring to life, and actually do his personal “more that matters.”
What will awaken and inspire the rest of us? Amidst the buzz and busyness of all of our lives, what will lead us to pause and reflect long enough on how we wish to be remembered? Thinking about how we’d like our epitaph to read and how we’d like to be remembered can be a helpful start. But perhaps even more importantly, we ought to reflect on what we personally feel led to touch, change, improve, impact, and provide leadership during our lifetime. What will it take to get us to a place of decision and action?
Let’s take our cue from Nobel’s compelling story and begin living as if we’re dying. Carpe diem! Seize the day! But not just for ourselves – for others. Why wait? As we all know, life is fragile and fleeting. Tomorrow may never come, and a meaningful, impactful life is the single best way to create a meaningful, impactful legacy. After all, the only legacy we can pass on after death is one that we have given life to while we are alive. Plus, it is a whole lot more fun to do our giving while we are living.
“If you haven’t found something you are willing to die for, you aren’t fit to live.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, 1929-1968
-Excerpt from You Can Do More That Matters, Chapter 2
Download a chapter of the book at www.domorethatmatters.com
Ron Ware, J.D. and Greg Hammond, CFP®, CPA are wealth impact strategists and personal legacy advisors who help individuals, families, and business owners enhance their financial standing while discovering a greater capacity to provide for their loved ones and support cherished charities. Contact Ron or Greg.