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The Science of Increasing Productivity and Peace: Finding True North

Welcome back. Today we're going to talk about the importance of having a vision of who you want to be and how to stay true to that picture—despite the pressures of daily life.

I want to begin with another true story, not from my life, but from the life of a man named Alfred, who lived many years ago. One April morning, Alfred flipped open his newspaper and saw that the top headline was his own obituary. The headline proclaimed, "The Merchant of Death Is Dead." It ends up that Alfred's brother had recently died, and the newspaper had mistakenly thought that Alfred had died. To add insult to injury, the obituary even implied that Alfred was despised for becoming rich off of other people's suffering. Well, Alfred was horrified and was understandably shaken by this obituary. After some moments of calming himself down, Alfred asked himself a key question: He asked, "If I could be known for anything by the time I really die, what would I like to be known for?" Alfred thought about it for awhile and then decided he wanted to be known for great contributions in the areas of science, literature, and even world peace. So Alfred—last name Nobel, the inventor of dynamite—started the Nobel prizes, and by the time he died many years later, he was indeed known for his inspiration and his ongoing contributions to humanity.

You know, it's never too late to decide who you want to be and what you'd like to be known for. However, if you want to stay on target in life or at work, it helps to define exactly what you want to be known for. Do you want to be known for your generosity, your ability to get things done, or perhaps your leadership skills? Deciding in advance what you want to be known for is a great way to make sure you move steadily in the right direction.

So right now, sit up straight in your chair, take a deep breath, and then let it out with a long, slow sigh.


Open up a document on your computer or get a pad and paper and write down your answer to the question, "What would I like to be known for by the time I die?" Let yourself think big, and be specific as to what you want to accomplish. You may think, What would I like to be known for from my kids or my mate, or my friends? What exactly do you want to be known for by the time you die. By writing down your answer, you'll have a compass for where you want to go, and a reminder of what you most want to achieve. Once you've typed or written your answer down, read it out loud and then put that piece of paper where you can see it often—such as in your wallet, on your desktop, or even on your desk.

This reminder of the direction you want to go can even help you make important life decisions. For example, should you take the promotion you're being offered in another city, or would you rather spend more time with your kids and mate in the place you now live. Well, it depends on what's important to you—and who you want to be. Having a clear sense of what you want to be known for will help you to stay true to what's really important to you—so take two or three minutes now to write about your answer to the question "What would I like to be known for by the time I die?" Do it now, and tomorrow we'll talk about how to turn your vision into daily priorities that can keep you moving forward in the right direction.

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Written by

Jonathan Robinson