I had a ticket to the Mrs. Carter tour and I must say that it was an evening of pure entertainment. Whether you are a fan of her music or not, you have to admit that Beyoncé is one of the hardest working women in show business and puts on a hell of a show. I enjoyed every high-energy, hair-tossed, bedazzled, and stiletto-heeled minute of her performance, so now is a perfect time to add her to our success jukebox. Although Queen Bey’s booty-shaking beats are what made her famous, I wanted to take some time to celebrate and appreciate one of her quieter, more inspiring songs.
Check out the video for “I Was Here” below and then scroll down for my reflections. The song is great but the video, shot at the United Nations, brings tears to my eyes.
I was here. I lived, I loved.
I was here. I did, I’ve done,
Everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be.
Several years ago I read that I should go through the exercise of writing my own obituary. It sounded a bit morbid, but it was supposed to encourage me to live my best life and get clear on the accomplishments that I wanted to rack up before the end of my days. I know that it is a great exercise for some, but it didn’t really work for me. I wasn’t sure how ambitious I was supposed to be in my obituary. Am I a lazy underachiever if all I want is a happy life and to have a DVR that never cuts off the last 5 seconds of Scandal? I should want to be important, be big, be famous, right?
I ended up with a weird mix of Tiger Beat magazine (“married dreamy Will Smith and had lots of big-eared babies”), Bond villain (“was the first emperor of the world”), and beauty pageant contestant (“built an eco-friendly haven where orphaned cancer patients helped grow organic produce that solved world hunger”). My final version was more intimidating than inspiring. It turned my life into a stressful to-do list and I promptly stuffed it into a drawer, never to be seen again.
I Lived, I Loved
That’s why the song appeals to me. It reminds us that we build our legacies by LIVING, not just accomplishing. Every kind act and smile, every big presentation and embarrassing flameout, every single moment is another brick in the monument to how we lived our lives. It’s not that goals and achievements aren’t important, but if you only define your ultimate success by those things you will sadly devalue all of the cool, sweet, and simple happenings that make up the vast majority of your time on earth.
Think about it, does climbing Mt. Everest or becoming CEO compensate for years of internet trolling, spewing hate-filled messages and bullying people under the cover of anonymity? Is writing a best selling novel somehow more noteworthy than working double shifts to put food on the table? What exactly is your real legacy?
And It Was More Than I Thought It Would Be
The secret to enjoying the moments WHILE still going after your big goals is to honor your gifts. Your gifts are the skills, traits, and passions that you truly love and are naturally good at. It doesn’t matter if they are used in your career or in your free-time, your life will change the more opportunities you make to invest in your gifts and share them with others.
If painting is your gift, then get your hands dirty every chance that you get. Surround yourself with art lovers and creative types. Swap stories of painter’s block and share tweets about art supply sales. Introduce a young person (or an old person) to the wonders of art appreciation and help them see the delicate beauty in brushstrokes. All of this may not guarantee you a spot in the Louvre, but if you don’t do any of these things you probably won’t get there anyway. And even if you never make the walls of a famous museum, your kind words may lift the despair of a fellow artist or your attention may help an at-risk youth channel her frustrations onto a canvas rather than into bad life choices. It may not be fame, but it is still a hell of a legacy.
Whether your gift is computer coding, making people laugh, being a shoulder to cry on, origami, or any other of the gazillion (yes, that’s a technical term) ways that you can contribute to this world, the strategy is the same. Invest in strengthening your gift and don’t be stingy with it (share). That’s how you make it to the TED stage, win a Grammy, or get the cover of Forbes magazine. Fortunately for all of us that’s also how to create a life full of love, laughter, smiles, and service. The journey of your life will be more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and more truly successful than you ever thought it would be.
Live your legacy every day and the obituary writes itself. Good, that’s one less thing on my to-do list.
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