Two of the most powerful discoveries I mined from going through the halftime program were that my future is public service (not necessarily public sector as my second-half father, Mike corrected me once) and that my gift is speaking. It has taken the better part of my 40s to ascertain that. Once confirmed through a lot of internal work it has been easier to separate what’s important from what appears important to maximize the second half of my life.
I have just finished reading Sunny Bindra’s book – The Bigger Deal, and I loved the conclusion. He exalts us to find that one thing that we can do well driven by the desire to serve others. This is similar to Bob Buford’s book – Halftime. He challenges us to think of what will be inscribed on our tombstones when we expire. What will be your epitaph folks? what would you like to be engraved on your grave?
I don’t intend to get spooky here, especially because Africans do not speak about the afterlife frequently or comfortably. Covid has forced humanity to think more about our mortality. Life has hung in the balance over the last two years like never before. For some, fear has consumed them but others (and that’s where I hope we all are) have developed a positive urgency to make their days count and not just count their days. Kenyans in their usual humour have even coined a new quote, “mambo ni mengi, masaa ndio machache”. It may have other connotations but directly translated it means that there’s a lot to be done but time is scarce. Allow me to give a caution here. If we are busy doing too many things then we are just busybodies and risk burnout. We expand our capacity when we narrow our focus.
My dad passed on last year and his tombstone is inscribed with the date he was born and the date he died. Then below it is written, forever in our hearts. That’s one of the common inscriptions at Langata cemetery where we buried him. Grief could not allow us to come up with a more personal description that summed up his seventy-three years on earth. We were too clouded by pain. Today if I were to redo his tombstone I would use words like resilience, a man of solace, seeker of peace and uplifter. That’s what he was and that’s what I also want to be.
Bob Buford’s epitaph was 100X. He desired to impact his area of influence and calling one hundred times. That if he was born with five talents then he will leave this earth having multiplied them to five hundred. At least that’s how I understood it from his book. What we do with our lives and how we impact others is our signature. In the same way, we sign cheques and important documents to confirm our legitimacy and approval, how we live is the signature we leave behind for others to confirm that our presence on earth counted for something.
Many of us are going through the motions and we are yet to know our bigger deal. And I get it. The routine of life, working to meet our obligations and advancing ourselves are what responsible humans do. I did that for twenty years running an events business. While I loved it I regret that I didn’t see beyond the next event on our booking list. I would proudly say over the weekend that I do not plan beyond Wednesday of the following week. While the erratic nature of the event world allows it to some degree I absconded my responsibility to see my life beyond that season. So it suddenly came to an end and crept up on me like a bandit. I was caught unawares and unprepared.
A life with a strong signature requires fully engaging in your current season while preparing for the next. While we can’t control everything we can and should be more intentional in preparing for our next season before our current season is over. For those here who save seriously, we should apply the principle of compound interest not only to our money but to our lives. Sign off the achievements of every season with confidence that you have done your best and begin the next season on a high. The cumulative effect of our lives will be phenomenal when it’s time to leave the stage.
Thankfully, however long we may have been on autopilot we can still disengage it and start flying intentionally towards our purpose and inner calling. Of course, that takes work but it is worth the work. Folks may we take encouragement from Maya Angelou who in my view has simplified the elusive bigger deal of life that many seek. She says,” Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it”
Maybe it’s not that complicated to find out the contribution our lives were supposed to make on earth for the time we occupy it. We just need to start by being ourselves, which according to Maya involves liking ourselves. Once I’m into Lucas (not in a vain manner) then it gets easier to know what I like and how I like it. Right there is the beginning of a signature like no other, authentic and impactful. That’s what a good life cheque looks like. May our lives never amount to a bounced cheque.