What will be inscribed on your headstone? “something was left” or “used up!”

A funny story my physics professor told me

In the final year of my physics degree I told the professor that I was thinking of going into business upon graduation.  On hearing this he told me this story:

“A wounded soldier is flown back to the USA.  Due to the miracles of medicine the medics heal all kinds of wound and after some time the soldier is once again walking around.  There is only one problem his brain is damaged and needs to be replaced.  Luckily for this soldier the USA has pioneered the process of brain transpanting.  The day comes when the soldier has to choose a brain.

The soldier is greeted by the surgeon.  The surgeon tells him “We’ll do the transplant but you need to pay for the brain.”  And then proceeds to show the soldier some brains (in vats).  The soldier asks “How much is this brain?” The surgeon says “$500”.  Then the soldier asks “How much is that brain?”  The surgeon replies “$500,000!”.

Shocked at such a big difference in price for two brains that look identical, the solder asks “Why such a big difference in price?”  The surgeon replies “The first brain belonged to a physicist and it has been heavily used.  The second brain, well that belongs to a businessman – its never been used!””

Lets move from the brain to life – and death.

What will be inscribed on your headstone? 

When you die and end up in grave what will be inscribed on your headstone:

Will your headstone read “Something left over” or will it read “All used up!”?  Let’s listen to what Werner Erhard has to say on this.  Here are his words:

We’re willing to give up, to sacrifice, our own self expression.  You see on your tombstone, what they are going to put on your tombstone, when you die?  Something was left.  And we don’t know what it is or was. See, they ain’t going to put on your tombstone: used up.  Cause you ain’t going to get used up. Uh-uh!  You’re going to save it, till prince Charming comes, then you’re going to give it.  But not now, not here, not for this, not for what you got.

Most people are going to go to their grave with the sense that there was something in them that never got expressed.  That there was something there, something of real value, something that could make a difference, something that could have been a contribution that just never got expressed.  And most of us are going to our grave like that.  Because we are willing to sacrifice our own full self expression for the avoidance of responsibility. To avoid the domination of taking on life like an opportunity……”

“Playing BIG” requires you, me, us to let go of the default

Let’s be clear the default setting is such that our headstone will read “something left over – had something of value to express, to contribute, and never expressed it, never put it into the game of life”.  That is simply what is so.  How does that sound to you?  Is that how you want to live your life?  Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?

How about gettting off our metaphorical backsides and being cause in the matter of our lives.  How about a ‘Playing BIG’? How about being ALL used up by the time you arrive in your grave?  Wondering what that looks like?  Here is a wonderful quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

‘Playing BIG’, living an ‘extraordinary’ life is a choice that I, you, we, have to make and keep in existence knowing full well that we will meet all kinds of obstacles – they simply go along with choosing this path.  They are essential to this path – they test our commitment, they are the fire that forges us from “the small man”, the “common man” to the “superman”.

Remember: not choosing this path (again and again and again) is choosing the default a life of ‘smallness’ and a tombstones that reads “something was left – something of value was never expressed!”

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

2 thoughts on “What will be inscribed on your headstone? “something was left” or “used up!””

  1. Maz, I just found your blog today and have read several of your posts now. Thank you for what you are doing here. It has made a difference for me. I will continue reading and digesting these words. (from SF Bay Area)


  2. Hi Maz…I just found your blog today. Have read several of your posts now. You are making a difference here. I will continue to read and digest your words. Profuse thanks! Lisa from SF Bay Area…..


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