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Steve Jobs inspires business executives to write their own eulogies



Steve Jobs


  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered a memorable speech in 2005
    about his struggle with cancer and facing his own mortality.
  • Thirteen years later, business executives are trying to
    attain similar clarity by writing their own eulogies.
  • Some leadership coaches say writing your own eulogy can help
    you realize what kind of person you want to be and what changes
    you need to make.

In 2005, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered a memorable commencement
speech to graduates of Stanford University.

In the 14-minute
, Jobs detailed his battle with pancreatic cancer and
explained how facing his own mortality helped him recognize what
was important in life.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important
tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in
life,” said Jobs, who succumbed to his illness in 2011.

“Because almost everything — all external expectations, all
pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just
fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly
important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way
I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to

Thirteen years after Jobs delivered that speech, business
executives are finding a way to reach a similar epiphany: by
writing their own eulogies.
According to Fast Company
, the exercise is becoming
increasingly common in the business world, both in the US and in

The reasoning behind the exercise is that by imagining what might
be said about you at your funeral, you’ll gain clarity on what
kind of person you want to be and what changes you’ll need to
make to achieve that.

The practice dates back decades, and has been recommended by
therapists, psychologists, and business coaches.

“When we take the time to write our eulogies, it creates this
magnetic pull power that draws us forward,” executive coach
Daniel Harkavy told Fast Company. “Our priorities and our vision
for where we want to be as leaders and how we’ll get there come
into sharp focus. This clarity enables us to make the best
decisions, get up out of our comfortable patterns, create new
habits, and start moving us toward a better future.”

Read more:

Obituary writers reveal the surprising things they learn by
writing about the dead

Science seems to support the benefits of the eulogy technique,
too. A
2012 study from the University of Missouri
found that
thinking about death can lead to positive changes in a person
such as exercising, quitting smoking, and using sunscreen. It
also found that thoughts of mortality “can lead to decreased
militaristic attitudes, better health decisions, increased
altruism and helpfulness, and reduced divorce rates.”

Another paper from 2015
found that when people were reminded
of death, it made them less likely to waste money in the present.

The research suggests why people stand to benefit from writing
their own eulogies, and it’s something Jobs alluded to in his
famous speech:

“Death is very likely the single best invention of life,” Jobs
said. “It is life’s change agent.”

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