Famous Last Words


Soon I’ll begin an abbreviated version of my Annual Review, where I look back on the events of this year and make plans for the next. In recent years, many of our readers have completed this process in their own way, and everyone is welcome to join in.

This year my own review will be a bit shorter than previous years due to a lot of things being stacked up—the India tour finished a few days ago, and then I went to Singapore and Hong Kong for meetings. Now I’m heading to Africa via Heathrow and Lisbon. Blah, blah.

There’s a lot to say about the trips. I’m also proceeding with all kinds of business stuff, travel stuff, book stuff, and other projects—but I think it’s good to begin with the right frame of mind.

Before moving on to things like webinars and Frequent Flyer Miles, in other words, I’d like to refocus on what really matters.


Supposedly, no one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Such a claim is inherently problematic, since we have no way of knowing what everyone says on their deathbed. Plus there are all the people who don’t get a choice in the matter.

P.T. Barnum’s last words were “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” which sounds a lot like asking about the office.

In reviewing a popular article about Regrets of the Dying, however, I thought the most popular regret was especially interesting:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

And here are the author’s comments on this observation:

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

If you’re beginning to reflect on your year and make plans for the next one, these questions may help:

How satisfied are you with the life you are living?

Do you have any big, unfulfilled dreams?

What are you building? (What is your legacy project?)

Are all your important relationships in harmony?

We’ll move to more practical things in another week or two.

As usual, I’m on the road, flying down to Africa in my second attempt to visit Guinea Bissau. Wish me luck!

– Chris


Image: Third Design

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  • Lynn Daue says:

    Good luck with your attempted entry to Guinea Bissau! It’s happening this time – it has to!

  • Cassie says:

    I will be answering those four questions on my blog in a review of 2012. Thanks for a great prompt! These are important things to consider, not just at the start or end of a year, but constantly.

  • Lynn Ferguson-Pinet says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog and look forward to reviewing more of the material. I consider myself very fortunate as I did ask the questions you have posted above a few years back and can now happily report I am living my life the way I want to live it and very happy about it. I would also share a philosophy that one of my business professors shared that really stuck with me: “Make your sins in life, those of commission not omission”

  • Laura says:

    Hi Chris, really looking forward to this and your future posts. I feel like 2012 was the year I kind of ‘woke up’ and got started with things. If I had carried on the way I was I would have ended up saying something similar I’m sure.

    Feeling super lucky that something clicked one day and excited to plan for 2013. Off to do my homework and reflect properly on those very good questions!

  • Aaron says:

    Lately, the “dreams unfulfilled” theme appears frequently. The assumption seems to be that people have dreams or goals in the first place. I wonder how many people are dreamers and how many of them have dreams that are achievable within their talent, means, attitudes and energies. Why and how we dream … more on that!

  • kathryn says:

    actually, except for my career, my life is great! but I’ve worked very hard at it and I am making great strides in where I want to be in my career as an artist. I know I will get there, sometimes it just takes a bit of time…but it’s a process, not an ultimate destination cuz there’s always more things to dream for…never ending!

  • Terri says:

    Chris – I always love seeing your posts land in my inbox! As a 33 year old breast cancer survivor, I picked up the Art of Non Conformity when I was trying to figure out what came AFTER cancer treatment. I learned all too well that we have to live now. Cancer taught me to step into my fears and live a life of purpose (so I could honestly say that I had no regrets, should death come a knocking). Now, I’m living my legacy project. I’m working hard to launch #Delhi2013. We’re taking 12 cancer survivors to New Delhi, India in February for a 2-week program that incorporates volunteering, cultural exchange, and anti-stigma campaigns for cancer globally. It’s just the beginning of building the Fresh Chapter Alliance Foundation where we have a vision of helping thousands of cancer survivors volunteer internationally as a means to healing emotionally from cancer. I can’t wait to hear your stories of India and would love to share our story with you. Thank you for everything you do to help people dream big and serve the world.

  • Sherry says:

    Great questions that help you think about the deeper issues in life. Thanks Chris!

  • Natalie the Singingfool says:

    I am working on these, step by step. I’m pursuing my legacy project, but there are still grand goals left unfulfilled. Obligation to people (e.g., my husband) prevents some of this, but some of it is money (lack thereof, specifically). I’m trying to think of more creative ways to travel…

  • Christina says:

    Not hating, but the “Regrets of the Dying” links to “Dying rock stars’ famous last words”. If that is different than what you intended, I’d really like to see the other article. I don’t have grandparents really, so I’m always interested in the views of the elderly. Thanks!

  • Chris says:


    Link fixed! (You can also see the original article on the right side of the other one.)

  • Azul Terronez says:

    Replies are difficult for me to read my thoughts will be bullets:
    – Letting go of old thinking is harder than acquiring new learning
    – Building my dream is better than working for someone building theirs
    – Doing something with failure is better than doing nothing at all
    – Learning only happes when you do something that you never thought you could or would do
    – Looking forward might be harder, but looking back before you do so is smart
    – Laugh more today, because you can

    Thanks again Chris for the Amazing words.

  • Tulika says:

    i think .. “wishing you had spent more time in office”… really depends on how much you love your job. i mean, follow your passion could totally mean going after that perfect job .. just as long as you can recognize your passion.

    if you can improve people’s lives, sitting in an office, and make a real difference to your own .. then why not?

    just a thought. 🙂

  • Ellen says:

    Nice one, Chris. I hadn’t thought of it (that supposedly no one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”) that way! Good luck in Guinea Bissau!

  • Darick says:

    Thanks for the inspiring post, Chris. 2012 was the worst year ever for me, but 2 months ago, filled with the regrets that came along with wasting my life away with drugs and alcohol, I made a choice to get my act together. I was (and still am, kind of…) so mad that I gave up on my dreams and ambitions for so long. But that energy is now propelling me forward into chasing my unfulfilled dreams of being an artist, and writing, and inspiring people. I want to help others that are right where I have been in the past, because I remember how terrible it was. That is my legacy project. Relationships that come with a past like mine are hard to mend, but a lot of good comes from doing the right thing. So the harmony is getting there. Thanks again, and travel safely!

  • sandra says:

    Your post is good food for thought….I’m chewing on this Legacy concept though….

    I’m not sure that Legacy is all that important to me. I was touring San Francisco with my young (age 7) niece…I had pointed out Coit Tower and a brief statement about Lilly Coit and her admiration of firemen….and my niece asked, ” how do poor people get remembered?”. I often ask myself, “Why is it important to be remembered by later generations?”. I have no kids, but lots of friends and fair amount of relatives. Your life and your experiences matter even if no one knew about you…even if no one remembers you. This doesn’t mean living life as if in a vaccuum or as if your actions don’t affect the lives of others. I think your post was a great reminder of many things that are important to me, but maybe not the Legacy Project part. Merry, merry 🙂

  • Marti says:

    The perfect post for me today.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Simple and to the point… a very good point.

  • Kevin Cole says:

    I’d have to agree with Laura that 2012 was the year that I ‘woke up’. It’s been a crazy year and I actually read the article on the regrets of the dying right around the beginning of this journey. It’s been a fun ride so far, and I look forward to the future. Enjoy your travels Chris, happy holidays!

  • Morringhan says:

    i find it great timing that you posted this today. i have just been accepted into a prestigious college in the UK and am taking very large strides towards not only living my biggest dream, but to also be true to myself in my choices. 2013 should be great.

  • Joseph Bernard says:

    I have spent the last 15 months writing and essentially being on retreat. I am now ready to go back into the world. So yes I am happy with my life and now it will change.

    I have no big unfulfilled dreams but I do want to change the world by spreading more more light, more consciousness, more love, and move compassion because these four qualities will transform all that needs to change for the better.

    The “I” in me which is my ego-mind use to run my life. Now that my higher mind/soul/spirit are steering, my personal dreams are replaced by more of a question of how can I serve the well-being of my all my brothers and sisters on the planet.

    The awareness I am today has no need for a legacy. What matters is being present to all those I have the fortune of spending time with.

    All my relationships are in order because my heart is fully engaged.

    This moment is pure joy when I am present to all that is.

  • Nik says:

    Great post…there is no doubt it can be a really powerful exercise to start with the end in mind. If you can ask yourself some fundamental truths about your life on a regular basis and (as weird as it sounds) visualise yourself on your deathbed having not achieved your goals or having led a fulfilling life, then you have one powerful motivator in place to push yourself to start acting now.

    Good luck in Guinea Buissau and keep up the inspiring work!

  • Riya says:

    Hi Chris,

    I met you in your book Launch in Delhi (You might not remember me) but you left me with a great impression. You mentioned your blog in the book launch and I decided to check it.

    I like your blog and would definitely check it every Monday and Thursday.

    P.S. Good Luck for Africe!

  • Gene Jennings says:

    Thankfully, I have good answers for your four questions!

    1. VERY!
    2. Always
    3. Mission 227
    4. YES!

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    Good luck on getting into Guinea Bissau, I’m sure you’ll make it this time.

    It’s a salutary reminder to read the biggest regret of most people on their death – bed and I can understand why they wished they had pleased themselves more. A long time ago I visualised myself lying there at the end and being very sorry for not doing all those things I had really wanted to so ever since my motto has been…….I don’t want to be on my death-bed saying, Oh no, I forgot to…….. Even if we believe in more than one life, we can’t be sure of more time to do stuff so better get on with it now and make the best of this life.

    Anyway, doing what you really want to do makes you happy and that’s good for your health!

  • Chi says:

    So true, it’s a bad habit of ours. to only regret our actions when it’s far too late. Thank you for reminding us.

  • Dwayne Golden Jr. says:

    Interesting last words from PT Barnum huh? Always nice to sit back and put things in perspective cool post look forward to your year in review bro.

  • Bobby Galvan says:

    My youth is flying by and it is scary as hell. One of my biggest fears is actually having regrets by the time I die. Still not sure if this is a great long-term mindset, but so far it seems to be working for me. Thanks Chris!

  • Jenny says:

    2012 has been a difficult year. A year full of good, full of healing, full of new loss, and full of the yet to be healed.
    It’s also forced me to question much more; to realize that which I am still clinging to – and to judge whether that is a good or bad thing, whether that is my legacy and I’m just still building it, or I’m being slowly guided in another way.
    And I’ve had ideas about legacy, but I’ve also wondered – great idea or not, is that the legacy that I want to build myself?
    And most importantly, when the going gets tough, to still keep putting one foot in front of the other. For all the posts admonishing mediocrity, encouraging us to be more or let go – sometimes just to get up and keep going is a terrific accomplishment.

  • Dana Leavy-Detrick says:

    Especially when you’re in business for yourself. or at the helm of leading someone else’s business, it’s easy to equate your self-worth with that of the business (hence the PT.B quote above). We find it so difficult sometimes to step outside of that role, and outside of those expectations, and see what other things we might be ignoring, what other values, and passions and interests are getting sidelined, until it one day hits a critical boiling point and we realize we’re successful and miserable.

    I just watched Adam Baker’s “I’m Find, Thanks” documentary last night that addresses exactly this point, and how widespread it is – definitely recommend checking it out – it’s uplifting!

  • Geoff Hall says:

    I have just started a new company to help attract investment and talent to make a feature film, after this years successful venture with a short film drama. I looked around at the local scene and thought I don’t want to be making short films in a few years time and wondered how do you step up to make your first feature.

    I did a bit of research and saw that I could take some small steps to reach the bigger goal, hence the company. I don’t want to look back this time next year, or at the end of my life and think, feature films were for someone else to make!

    So, as that was hanging over me like a dark cloud threatening an impending storm of despond, I began to think “Why not me?” And so, here we go, the small steps to get some momentum going towards the big goal. Next year I’ll have something different to report!

  • David says:

    I don’t related to this fear of being forgotten. You live forever in the life you make so stop worrying about doing something big and just do something you want to do. That means to actually breaking out of your bubble of work-home-work-home cycle…and that’s PT Barnums last words huh?

  • Rebecca Tracey - The Uncaged Life says:

    Love the simplicity of this review? What do you want for life/how are you going to work towards it this year?

    Awesome. Thanks for making it easy 🙂

  • Dave Crenshaw says:

    I enjoy these questions, Chris. Good luck in Africa!

  • Elise Daly Parker says:

    So important to take a look back so we can move forward more intentionally. I am putting together a notebook to prepare for the New Year and your questions will be part of this. I know the reflections will be powerful.

  • Anna says:

    Chris, just want to let you know that I really enjoy reading your ‘informational’ posts and your travels around the world – some of the places you mentioned in your last travel brings old memories back. I have been following you may be for two weeks now, and your blog is one of those that is always on the back of my head, by the way I found you because of ‘legacy project’ keyword. I don’t have anything compared to you on the grand scale, but I have been really happy with all my writing and photo blogs (just two going on three), and because our town will be celebrating 150 years in 2013, I am starting a legacy project (this is three) that will document Aurora moving forward. I am not very big on history written by historians, I like people’s history, their personal stories. There is always so much happening that sometimes I cannot keep up. I think I found my niche without travelling for now. Thanks again for ideas. Anna 🙂

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