JR Woodward is thinking about Finishing Well – Writing your Epitaph and Areas to Watch, outlining things that have kept leaders from finishing well. Very helpfully, he also outlines what we can do toward Enhancing Our Chances. All of this is from Robert Clinton, who states that only 70% of leaders finish well; 30% do not. Yes, you might consider George W. Bush’s failure in office, but there’s nothing left to say about that except to conclude that he’d best write his own epitaph… which is a recommendation from the first post in the finishing well series.

It made me think immediately of a road trip I took years ago with a group of church leaders. One of the things we did for conversation was poll the vehicle on the top three books they’ve ever read and why, questions like that. One that I put forward that made us all think was, “If you could write your own epitaph, what would it be?” Benjamin Franklin wrote an epitaph for himself, which was as follows:

The body of Benjamin Franklin, printer, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding, lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.

(From his autobiography, of which I have an older undated copy.) I really like the epitaph he wrote, as it speaks to the hope that many of us have, while still facing that crass old worm-food reality. After thinking about a bit, I gave an answer that reflects what I hope someone else would say when I’m gone, and which be something I would hope to live up to: “He loved God, and God must surely have loved him.” It sounds a bit weird and perhaps open to misunderstanding… but the first part is something I hope/wish would be an observation of how I live, while the latter hope/wish would be an observation of the fruit in my life. Perhaps I could do better, but those are the two things that I would long to have observable in my life. I don’t think either one really is, necessarily, but it’s something to aspire toward.

The “Finishing Well” trilogy brings out a lot good considerations… perhaps there’ no better epitaph anyone could have than “He Finished Well.” What about you? What might you like to have etched in marble to leave behind?

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