Last Breath

Last Breath

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[MUSIC] I’d now like to share the best coaching
advice you’re ever going to get in this or perhaps any other lifetime. Where’s
that great advice going to come from? Inside you. I want you to imagine
that you’re 95 years old. 95, you’re just getting ready to die.
Here comes that last breath.
Right before you take that last breath, you’re given a wonderful gift, a beautiful
gift… The ability to go back in time… The ability to go back in time and talk
to the person listening to me right now. The ability to help that person be
a better leader, a better professional… Much more important, the ability to
help that person have a better life… What advice would that wise 95-year-old
you, who knows what really mattered in life and what did not matter, and what was
important, and what was not important… What advice would that
wise old person have for the you that’s listening to me right now?
You don’t need to say anything or do anything or write anything.
Just answer that question in your mind. What advice would that
old person haveforyou? Whatever you’re thinking now, do that.
In terms of a performance appraisal, that’s the only one that’s going to
matter. If that old person says you did the right thing, you did the right
thing. If that old person says you made a mistake, you made a mistake.
You don’t need to impress anyone else. Some friends of mine interviewed old folks
who were dying, and got to ask them this question… What advice would you have
had? Three themes come up with the answer from old people facing death on
the personal side. Theme Number 1 could be summarized in three words: Be happy now…
Not next week, not next month, not next year… The great Western
disease is sweeping the world. What is that great Western disease? I’ll
be happy when… When I have the money, the status, the BMW, the condominium…
I will be happy when… We all have the same ‘when’…
That 95-year old person facing death, that is when…
Learning point from old people… I got so busy chasing what I did not have,
I could not see what I did have when I had everything. My guess is you’re one
of the luckiest people that ever lived. You probably have friends, family,
interesting work–relative to me, you probably have youth.
You have it all. Don’t get so wrapped up looking at what you don’t
have…you can’t see what you do have. I’ve asked thousands of
parents around the world… I say, Complete this sentence with
one word… When my child grows up, I want my child to be… One word
comes up in the answers from parents. One word more than every other word
combined, no matter what country I’m in… What’s that one word? Happy.
You want your kids to be happy. You want your parents to be happy.
You want the people that love you to be happy. You want the people
who respect your work to be happy. You go first. You be happy. Learning
2 from old people facing death… On the personal side, friends and family…
You probably work for a great company. I’m going to help you. When you’re 95
years old and you’re on your death bed, and none of your employees are waving
goodbye, you start to realize, you know, these friends and family, they’re kind of
important. They’re the only ones that seem to matter a whole lot today. And learning
point Number 3–if you have a dream, go for it. Because if you don’t go for
it when you’re 45, you may not when you’re 55, and
you probably will not when you’re 85. And it doesn’t have to be a big dream,
maybe a little dream. Go to New Zealand, or speak Spanish, or play a guitar…
Other people think your dream is goofy… Who cares? It’s not their dream,
it’s your dream. It’s not their life, it’s your life. I had a very embarrassing
experience a couple of years ago. I was teaching this and I said,
Go to New Zealand, speak Spanish. A guy raised his hand and
he goes, We’re in Spain, you idiot…we all speak Spanish.
[LAUGH] Business advice isn’t much different. Number 1, have fun…
Life is short. Life is short. Number 2 is do whatever
you can to help people. The main reason to help people has
nothing to do with money or status or getting ahead. The main reason to help
people is much deeper. The 95-year-old you will be very proud of you because
you did, and disappointed if you do not. And if you do not believe this is true,
you interview any CEOs who’ve retired. And I’ve interviewed a whole bunch
of them, and asked them a question. Please tell me, what are you proud of?
So far, none of them told me how big their office was. All they ever
talked about’s the people they helped. Final advice is also the same.
Go for it. Your industry’s changing. Your world’s changing. You do what
you think is right. You may not win, at least you tried. Old people, we almost
never regret the risks we took and fail. We always regret the risks we did not
take. And in my role as an educator, as a coach, I got one simple mission. That’s to help you have just a little bit
better life. So I hope that something I’ve said or done helps you have just a little
bit better life. Thank you very much. [MUSIC]

12 thoughts on “Last Breath”

  1. What Is the Best Coaching Advice You Will Ever Get?

    This is a great question, and the answer is going to come from an unexpected source. But, I think you’ll agree this is the best coaching advice you will ever get. It’s not going to come from me – it’s going to come from you. Ready?

    Imagine yourself at 95 years old, knowing what was important and what wasn’t. Take that knowledge to heart now, both for your career and for your personal life.

    You are now about to receive the best coaching advice that you will ever get in this—or perhaps any other—lifetime! You are about to receive advice from a very wise old person. Listen very carefully to what this wise old person says.

    First, take a deep breath. Take a deeper breath. Now, imagine that you are 95 years old and you are just about to die. Here comes your last breath. But before you take your last breath, you are being given a wonderful, beautiful gift: the ability to travel back in time and talk with the person who is reading this column. The 95-year-old you has been given the chance to help the you of today to have a great career and, much more important, to have a great life.

    Figure Out What Counts

    The 95-year-old you knows what was really important and what wasn’t; what really mattered and what didn’t; what really counted and what didn’t count at all. What advice does the wise “old you” have for the you reading this column? Take your time. Jot down the answers on two levels: personal advice and professional advice. And once you have written down these words, take them to heart.

    In the world of performance appraisals, this may well be the one that matters most. At the end of life, if the old you thinks that you did the right thing, you probably did. If the old you thinks that you screwed up, you probably did. At the end of life, you don’t have to impress anyone else—just that person you see in the mirror.

    A friend of mine actually had the opportunity to talk with old people who were facing death and to ask them what advice they would have had for themselves. Their answers were filled with wisdom. One recurring theme was to take the time to reflect on life and find happiness and meaning now. A frequent comment from old people runs along the lines of: “I got so wrapped up in looking at what I didn’t have that I missed what I did have. I had almost everything. I wish I had taken more time to appreciate it.”

    Look to the Present

    The great Western disease of “I will be happy when …” is sweeping the world. You know the symptoms. You start thinking: I will be happy when I get that … that promotion … that status … that money. The only way to cure the disease is to find happiness and meaning now.
    A second theme from old folks was friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company and believe that your contribution is very important. But when you are 95 and you look around your death bed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving goodbye! Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care.
    Don’t get so lost in pleasing the people who don’t care that you neglect the people who do.

    Give It a Try!

    Another recurring theme was to follow your dreams. Older people who tried to achieve their dreams were happier with their lives. None of us will ever achieve all of our dreams. If we do, we will just make up new ones! If we go for it, we can at least say at the end, “I tried!” instead of, “Why didn’t I at least try?”

    In conducting research for one of my books, my co-author and I interviewed more than 200 high-potential leaders from around the world. A key question that we asked was: “If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?”

    The top three answers:

    1.  “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting, and I love what I am doing.”

    2.  “I like the people here. They are my friends. This feels like a team—like a family. I might make more money if I left, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”

    3.  “I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me the chance to grow and do what I really want to do in life.”
    When my friend asked people who were on their death beds what really mattered in life, and when I asked young, high-potential leaders what really mattered at work, we heard about the same thing.

    If you want to make a new beginning in life—look ahead to the end. Then decide what to do.

  2. Your videos and advices improve lives. Thanks for being so generous in sharing with the rest of us!

  3. A very introspective approach and one which will often be very difficult to answer, but answering can afford great rewards.

  4. Great advice, as always from you, Marshall.  Thanks for this simple way to remember that the "busy-ness" we all pursue is not what yields us "happy-ness".

  5. Really good one Marshall, Every time think of this question, ( and i did many time after our ISB program) my life get more grounded and better. thanks marshall

  6. This was wonderful! I work for the Good Samaritan Society, an organization that provides senior care, and I'd agree that most older adults will tell you to pursue your happiness now.

  7. Appreciate your thoughts and guided questions. My 95 year old me would add, why not be more spiritual, knowing God much earlier in my life, would have allowed me to do the top 3 things you mentioned. Thank you.

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