Last words

I was hoping for a pyramidSome random thoughts about dying…

I’m working from home at the moment and welcome the company of Radio 4. So most Friday afternoons you’ll find me listening to Last Word – the weekly obituary programme which features four or five people who’ve died that week. Recently, of course, the programme has included David Bowie and Terry Wogan. Not coincidentally, this week’s Radio Times magazine includes a tribute to Wogan and a feature on obituaries. BBC News has also been sharing the stories of deaths from less natural causes, including the suicides of two males living with depression, one of whom was, literally, close to (my) home.

My interest in death and what we leave behind – which was how someone once defined ‘the afterlife’ – is neither new nor, I think, morbid. When I get the annual magazine from my old school I go straight to the ‘across the years’ section to see who I know has died (incredible few considering I left in 1973!) When I read celebrity questionnaires I always go first to their answer to ‘how would you like to be remembered?’ and who hasn’t considered their own answer to this question?

In a 40-year career in which marketing – doing it and advising others – has been a constant, I’ve heard many definitions of ‘brand’. One that struck a chord with me was ‘what people say about your organisation/company/service when you’re not in the room’. In a similar vein, your ‘personal brand’ could be described as what people say about you when you’re not there. Apparently the big thing in marketing is avoiding ‘brand dissonance’ – you should provide the experience your publicity promises. Sorry if that sounds like marketing guff.

Assuming we want to be talked about in a positive way (less important when we’ve passed – which seems to be the new word for dying…) I presume we need to avoid ‘personal brand dissonance’ which in turn means being true to our values and behaving accordingly.

I’ve just started an 8-week Action for Happiness course on ‘Exploring what Matters’ (and by extension what makes us happy). It occurs to me that how you’d like to be remembered, and what you’d like people to say about you when you’re not there, might add up to what you think ‘really matters in life’ – the theme of our course discussion last week. This week it’s ‘what actually makes us happy’ and for me, part of the answer is making other people happy. Which doesn’t work for many comedians of course – Tony Hancock and Stephen Fry being two.

As you may know, Spike Milligan was another famous funny man living with depression and one of the first people in the public eye to talk about it – as early as 1970. You may not know that in 2012, 10 years after his death, Spike’s famous epitaph ‘I told you I was ill’ was voted the UK’s favourite ahead, by a considerable margin, of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Either those curtains go or I do’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘The best is yet to come’.

So what would be your epitaph? Given my current interests and my intention to have my ashes scattered on the roses, I think mine could be ‘beyond repair, but not recycling’ or maybe just RIP – recycled in passing.

For more on the theme of communication go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/communication-matters/

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One thought on “Last words

  1. Helen Ashby

    Chris

    thought you might be interested in this – tagged it on Twitter to watch and I haven’t got round to it yet, but very apt considering your post!!

    http://www.ted.com/talks/david_brooks_should_you_live_for_your_resume_or_your_eulogy?language=en [http://tedcdnpe-a.akamaihd.net/images/ted/3dc7a652c7e4e835a28fb593b241fcbedf70950b_254x191.jpg]

    David Brooks: Should you live for your résumé … or your … http://www.ted.com Within each of us are two selves, suggests David Brooks in this meditative short talk: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks …

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    Reply

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