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The Obituary Assignment

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Several months ago I received an email from a U.T Business student who asked to meet with some thoughts regarding the “key to success.” This was part of an assignment and knowing that I had advised CEOs and senior business people through-out multiple sectors, knew that we would have a productive discussion. “Before we begin I said, I want to challenge you to write me two things:
“One is your obituary. What would it say if you were to be run over by a bus today after our meeting?”
“Second, assuming that you live another eighty years, what do you want it to say?”
He took his assignment to heart and the next day I received the following:

Obituary today:

University of Texas student Shehryar Siddiqui passed away yesterday after getting hit by the Forty Acres bus.
Shehryar was a senior, studying Biomedical Engineering, and getting ready to go to medical school. He was young for his grade, only 20, but showed a lot of promise and potential for the future. Although he had much to live for, he still had a lot of good times with his closest friends.
Shehryar is survived by his parents and two loving, but annoying, sisters. His roommates were devastated by the loss, but stated “at least we get free tuition and straight A’s for the rest of the year”

Preferred Obituary in 80 years:

Today the world mourns the loss of businessman, inventor, and philanthropist Shehryar Siddiqui. Best known for his work in healthcare, and his companies, Shehryar fought tirelessly to improve the global standard of living. His vision revolutionized the field of medicine, and brought care to some of the most remote parts of the world. His developments helped launch humanity into a new age of immortality, finding cures for countless diseases and almost doubling the average lifespan. As a student at The University of Texas, Shehryar studied biomedical engineering. He planned to go to medical school, but after narrowly avoiding getting hit by a bus one day; he decided he would rather do something bigger with his life.
He went to work with a local venture capital firm and learned about investing and business management. After a few years of work, he got an MBA, and used his experience to start up a company of his own. The research spawned from this company laid the groundwork for his future work.
Twenty years later, as the president of a multimillion dollar company, Shehryar did something very unusual. He quit. Leaving control of his company to someone else, he joined a volunteer program and spent the next five years traveling around the world, visiting small villages, experiencing new cultures, and “choosing to help people as directly as [he] could”. When he returned to the business world five years later, he used his newfound experience to once again change the world of healthcare. His new model rolled out a global initiative to provide services for those who most needed it and could least afford it. Shehryar firmly believed that if we could improve quality of life for the least privileged part of humanity, the whole world would benefit.
At the end of his life, Shehryar was surrounded by his friends and family, and the people he loved most. He stated that he could not have made it to this point in life without all of their help and support in everything he did. He also thanked all the people who had helped mentor and guide him throughout the years. Shehryar said that he had no regrets in life, and although he made a lot of mistakes, he never felt like he missed an opportunity. His one piece of advice to others, “don’t take yourself too seriously”
Impressed with his effort I agreed to meet with him to discuss why I had given him this assignment.
“You see I explained in order to be successful you need to have a purpose. (Elementary) but that purpose needs to transcend into whatever it is you are doing. Building a business, creating a corporate empire, whatever, it needs to be tied in with the larger set of objectives. How many CEOs have allowed their business to sail into uncharted waters because they lost their way? How many businesses have suffered needlessly because they failed to check their original plans and alter them when required?

Planning with the end in mind is not simply a cliche’, it is a requirement for a full and successful life – and a more profitable business.

What about you as a new year begins NOW? Have you sat down and revised your plans lately? Does your progress tie into what will be said about you in your own obituary? Only you know for sure.


Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Businesses serious about bringing value for themselves, will want to understand the importance of good planning.
How many small businesses have I spoken to that could have sold for 10 to 20 million dollars if only they had planned with end in mind? Too many!
I just recently reviewed a client profile that has a business in total disarray. “I am so frustrated; I told them – that you did not retain us even five years earlier. We could have helped you build you a solid ship for success. Had we done so, then rather than figuring out a way to get you out of business (debt free) you .may have had a golden parachute worth $10,000,000.”
How sad that they missed the boat. Now the owner (in his senior years) and ready to retire has less time and energy to really turn things around.
If you are a small business owner, I encourage you to make plan with specific strategies designed to maximize your outcome for success. In addition, please consider that though you may be an expert on what you do specifically, it is equally important to surround yourself with competent advisers. It is your journey – and where you end up is often based on a plan with good navigation.