By Ashley Sharp, Executive Director at Dwell with Dignity.
As someone with an almost pathological need to take on new projects at every turn, I can empathize with those ultra-busy entrepreneurs who are constantly living for their resumes. From board positions and volunteering to new business ventures and investing in startups, we entrepreneurs relish having a lot on our plates (and on our résumés).
Yet, even I have been forced to question the value of living like this. I’ll never stop being an entrepreneur—that’s for certain—but more and more, I don’t want to be the kind who lives for their résumé. Life is way too short for that. Instead, I want to be the kind of entrepreneur who lives for their obituary.
What Will Your Obituary Say About You?
To illustrate my point, let’s take a moment to reflect on what your résumé says about who you are, versus what your obituary may eventually say about you.
Your résumé communicates your professional skills and accomplishments. It showcases your strengths, areas of expertise and relevant qualifications. In addition, your résumé is a road map of your professional history, painting a picture of where you’ve been and where you’re headed.
On the other hand, your obituary is a celebration of the impact you’ve had on those around you. It highlights some of your most important relationships with others, whether you’re a devoted father, spouse, colleague, grandparent or friend. Your obituary also tells the story of what kind of a difference you made in your larger community. Perhaps you were the person always willing to donate your time to people in need or the local shop owner who put a smile on every customer’s face. You can’t exactly put that on your résumé, can you?
While résumés are designed to capture the tangible, measurable aspects of who you are as a professional, obituaries are much better at immortalizing those intangible things that truly make you who you are—not just as an entrepreneur, but as a person.
The Choice Is Yours
What kind of entrepreneur do you want to be: the kind who lives for their professional accomplishments, or the kind who lives for their impact on others? The choice is up to you.
For me, it was an easy decision. As much as I love my job and various professional pursuits, there are so many things that I love even more: my children, the Dallas community, mentoring others, music—the list goes on. My résumé can’t even begin to reflect the full picture of who I am or the impact I’ve been able to make on others. While I take a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished according to my résumé, I take even more pride in being a dedicated mother, friend, career mentor and member of the community.
So, I ask you, what are your values? What do you hold closest to your heart outside of your office, your emails and your work trophies? Honestly, it is difficult to define ourselves without accolades or the praise of others, but I implore you to stop for a moment and make a list. What makes you unique? What makes your soul sing? It doesn’t need to be what others would consider impressive or significant, it simply needs to be precious to you. Perhaps you love building LEGO sets with your kids, or you’re an excellent baker and bring treats to your neighbors. Use these gifts to improve the lives of others, and you may find that your own life becomes immediately richer and more rewarding.
The key is to get started today: Take small steps to ensure that these actions become habits, not fads. Take the first item written on your list, and schedule an hour on your calendar to devote to it. Make it a meeting, and actually hold it—don’t cancel for work or chores. Try to make time for multiple different engagements—an hour to do something by yourself, dinner or coffee with a friend, or one group activity—every week. Quickly, these engagements will add up, and you may find yourself with a rich life that has nothing to do with your desk or office.
As Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” During a time when entrepreneurs are often pressured to work 24/7/365 just to beef up their résumés, this is such an important sentiment to keep in mind. Entrepreneurs: Stop living for your résumé and start living for your obituary!