What We're Remembered For - It's Not What You Think!

Everyone strives to be successful – whether it’s to be a doctor or engineer, the first to do something exciting, or to be mega-rich – it’s engrained in us from the moment we start school in kindergarten and throughout our lives. So wouldn’t true success culminate in an obituary listing your successful career?  Actually, no; and here’s why.

I just watched an interesting TED talk about Lux Narayan, owner of a company that focuses on future insights that marketers can derive from past data, who analyzed over 2,000 obituaries in the New York Times to see how both famous and ordinary people were remembered at the end of their lives by loved ones.  He stripped out their names and filler words to compile what was “real achievement” for these people.  Over 40% considered contributions in the arts (theater, music, film, and dance) to be indicators about their success.  Wow.  So why do people think they have to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, or businesspeople to be successful? 

Narayan’s research showed that people valued the extraordinary things that their loved ones did that made a positive dent in others’ lives. The take-away message here: If more people lived their lives trying to be famous in death, the world would be a much better place.