Death Gave Me His Calling Card. Twice.

November 2, 2020

Death Gave Me His Calling Card. Twice.

May 29, 2023

Weird subject given I just had my 60th birthday. Here in Todos Santos, most gringos live north of town. What we call “El Otro Lado” or the other side. “The other side” has another meaning here at MEA, one that revolves around our love for the film, “Coco,” which is a Pixar ode to Dia de los Muertos.

I’ve had my own brush with “the other side.” At age 47, I went flatline on stage after giving a speech. Someday, I’ll write a blog post about what I saw on “the other side,” but suffice it to say I had an extreme allergic reaction to an antibiotic soon after having broken my ankle, which then went septic in my leg.

Almost exactly ten years later, the day after I launched my book “Wisdom@Work,” and the day before I was giving a TED talk at their NYC headquarters, I found out I had intermediate-stage prostate cancer. While this wasn’t as dramatic a brush with death as my flatline experience, I once again came face-to-face with death as an organizing system for life.

Here’s an exercise we do at MEA called “An Obituary You Can Live With.” You begin by writing your obituary as a true account of your life to date. When it’s ready, look it over and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to do in order for my obituary to be “complete?”
  • What and/or who did you impact or change? Why?
  • What character traits and values did you consistently demonstrate over your life? At your core, who were you?
  • Who did you care for? How did you impact or change this person/these people?
  • What were the major accomplishments in your life? At ages 40, 50, 60, 70?
  • What was your legacy?

Extra points for those who can distill this down to a Tweet (280 characters max), not because you’re going to send it out on Twitter, but because a Modern Elder becomes an editor who knows how to distill things down to the essential.

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