Are you living your résumé or your eulogy?

Are you living your résumé or your eulogy?

A school friend of mine died six weeks ago. He was 52, and motor neurone disease had slowly nibbled away at his body for over three years.

I was asked to write his eulogy for a service that was being held in Cape Town – so his old class mates could pay tribute to him. As I started thinking what to say and how to say it, it dawned on me how the eulogies that celebrate a person’s life are very different from the way we define success, and live our everyday lives.

So, for example, you will never hear things like this in an eulogy:

“His crowning achievement was when he made Sales Director.”


“His Porsche 991 was testimony to his success and greatness as a businessman.”


“We especially remember him as a person who had a MBA.”

Eulogies [thankfully] are not résumés. Our eulogy will be the first and only formal marking down of what our lives were about. The eulogy is the foundational document of our legacy – how we cared; how courageous we were; how funny we were; how we were as a human being; how people remember us; how we live on in the minds and hearts of others.

No matter how hard we play the “success” game, the eulogy is ALWAYS about the other stuff – what they gave to others; small kindnesses; lifelong passions; unique and curious habits and traits; and the things that made us smile and laugh.

So the question is: Why do we spend so much time on what our eulogy is not going to be? Or, worded another way, “Why do we spend so much time living our résumé, and so little time living our eulogy?”

Because even those who die with amazing résumés – who’s lives were synonymous with success, accomplishment and business achievement – even their eulogies are about what they did when they weren’t achieving and succeeding, and who they were as human beings.

I wish we could bring a little of that magic back into the way we market ourselves [translation = your résumé]; the jobs and roles we do at work [translation = your job description]; and the way we live our lives [translation = how you define success}.

More reading:

Success at work: what are you chasing?
Dead or alive? You choose
A résumé – your future on a piece of paper
The things that matter
Don’t get caught up in the career game
Laughter is the best medicine
5 tips to polish and proofread your CV
Enhancing your CV? Don’t go too far


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