The two most important moments in your life are the moment you are born and the moment you realise why.
Many of us from a young age align to a pattern of life guided by our parents driving forward with our initially seemingly limitless energy but within the twin tracks of conformity laid down by previous generations.
We finish school then we come to our first decision made through a combination of circumstance and our abilities, we either get a job or we choose college/university.
Those who take the job route progress steadily earning money and beginning to shape their lives outside work, they are on the journey.
Those who chose to stay in education expand their minds at the expense of their wallets but they too begin to shape their lives outside work then when they finish and return to work they progress a little faster.
Eventually the two routes merge back onto the same track, there are stations that we pause at for marriages, births and deaths, people get on or off at these stations as people move close to or away from our lives. Further down the track we pause to mark the occasion of new houses, grandchildren, illnesses but then we hurtle on seemingly in a race to the end of the line however far away that is.
The Final Station
We don’t think to much about the end of the line because we don’t precisely know where it is but there is a clue in the name, the track doesn’t go any further and yet we urge on towards it by the relentless passage of time.
Sadly I have attended some close family funerals in the past couple of years and what is interesting to me is what people say when people have come to the end of the line. Generally there is a quick recap of their journey through life and some of the amusing highlights along the way, anecdotes from the people that they journeyed with.
At the end of the service there is typically something the attendees will take away, an impression, a life summed up in a single word or a short sentence. This is what lives on past the end of the line.
Years ago I went on a course in Finland, one of the exercises we were asked to do was to write our own obituary, this seeming macabre activity, although uncomfortable at first, was quite powerful. How would you like to be remembered when you have gone?
Interestingly most of the group described their character rather than their achievements and from my experience in real services this is typically what happens in a ratio of about 80:20.
Now think about this, most of the people you come into contact with in business on your journey are transitory, when you have met them and parted the thing that they will remember about you is 80% your character with the balance being your position and achievements. Being remembered consistently is a powerful thing.
For your character to be remembered coherently by different groups of people it needs to be perceived consistently, you need to be true to yourself and don’t try to cast your character in a different way otherwise you risk confusion.
Write down a list of at least 10 adjectives on how you believe other people would describe your character after they have met you.
The chances are you will be very uncomfortable with showing this list even to your partner or closest friends. This is because it is the essence of what you believe your character is and you will be very wary of it being disputed.
Now ask your partner or close friend to write down 10 words to describe you and you will be surprised to find that about 50% are not even on your list. These 50% are things you will be aware of but that you have been actively suppressing your entire life. The point is, if this is what people see then, since ‘perception is all there is’, this is who or what you are.
Now take a blank sheet of paper and put a circle in the middle about the size of a penny. Write ‘ME’ in that. The create yourself a mind-map diagram with branches labelled with the 10 adjectives you wrote down about yourself in one colour. Then add branches using the 10 adjectives your partner or best friend used in a different colour. If there are duplicates draw the branches together. Keep this diagram in your folio or wallet. Every time you finish a meeting with new people or indeed people you work with regularly review the diagram and place a single tick next to the branches that you felt best described your character in that meeting. Keep doing this for successive meetings to build up a picture of how you are remembered. You will find it a powerful tool in understanding that you might not be remembered in precisely the way you think.