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Posted: October 03, 2013

Focus forward by working backward

Write your eulogy

Laura Cook Newman

A milestone birthday is in my immediate future.  Next week, I gain entry to the “fourth floor”.

Like New Year’s Eve, birthdays are a good time for resolutions; except we don’t call them that.  Instead we pause for a moment, conjure up a wish, blow out a candle (or 40), and hope for the best.

It seems like we put more effort into submitting our expense report than making our dreams reality. This wish-making business sounds a bit wishy-washy to me.

If it’s important, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Lately, this mantra’s been on auto play in my brain like a catchy Top 40 tune.  Since planning my future is important, I take pen to paper and begin to craft my “wishes”. 

It makes perfect sense to start today and map out 10, 20, 30, 40 years ahead.  But this task feels like pushing a boulder up Mt. Massive.  Writer’s block sets in immediately paralyzing my progress.

Then it occurs to me I’m going about this ALL WRONG. 

Scrapping my original strategy, prior to my birthday – of all days – I decide to write my own eulogy.  Relinquishing the obvious thoughts of mortality, my Sisyphean struggle ceases. 

I won’t bore you with the details of my eulogy (spoiler alert: Anthony Bourdain and I run away to Bora Bora and open up the world’s coolest Tiki Bar).  Instead, I leave this fulfilling discovery of self-awareness in your capable hands.

Start with the end result in mind and work your way backwards.

Some suggestions to get you started thinking about your life’s script:

  1.  Quality Trumps Quantity – The amount of time you predict is in you future isn’t as important as how you fill it.
  2. Be Fearless – Rapper Pit Bull said “Reach for the stars and if you don't grab them, at least you're on top of the world.”  Be the alpha dog.  Woof.
  3. Permission to Self-Indulge – You are the leading role in the movie of You.  You’re not the gullible sidekick, less handsome wingman, or flaky best friend.  Give yourself the star treatment. “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.”
  4. “I’d like to thank…” – In your moment of self-indulgence, don’t forget the little guys during life’s journey; the ones you helped and the ones who helped you.  Props to you for giving them props in your eulogy.
  5. Get Creative – Throw logic to the wind.  Eliminate doldrum barriers and so-called reality.  Think like Willy Wonka: “Inside this room, all of my dreams become realities. And some of my realities become dreams.”
  6. Leave a Legacy – When you make your mark, do it with a Sharpie, not a dry erase marker.  Other than the fact that you know the choreography to Thriller by heart, what’s the one thing you want your great grandchildren to know about you?

Remember: If it’s important, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.

I wish you luck.

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at

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Readers Respond

Willie Wonka was a bit "bonkers" too...but I don't mind. To 'Not a Fan', I'm sorry if this article struck a wrong note with you. There was no disrespect intended to the loved ones who have passed on before us. Like Minerva indicated, I think of a eulogy as a public celebration of one's life. It's a shame those words are written for us after we're gone. By Chef Laura on 2013 10 04
Careful how you reference those movie quotes. Norma Desmond was clearly bonkers by the time she demanded her close-up in Sunset Boulevard. Good advice though. By Pater Familias on 2013 10 04
Chef Laura, it's way too premature to write your eulogy. In fact, that's something better left to the select group of people who know and care for you. The eulogy is a deep expression of what our lives have meant to others. It's our obituaries, or mini biographies, that you implore us to improve upon - good advice at any age! By Minerva on 2013 10 03
Happy Birthday. Keep on Truckin. By Harley Mom on 2013 10 03
You touch upon something that many of us realize as we get older. Writing something down makes it more likely that we will do it. I also find telling people what I'm going to do makes it more likely that I will do it. I think it helps me crystallize my thoughts and make me more accountable to myself. By You quoted Captain Kirk on 2013 10 03
Generally I like your work Laura, but I have to call you out on this. Planning your life is admirable; having a plan is the most likely way to accomplish what you want. But writing a eulogy is a cheap trick to make it easier to face your mortality. Its also crass, eulogy's matter to the people left behind. By Not a fan on 2013 10 03
Another SUPERB article Chef Laura. One thing is sure-- Your obituary and eulogy will no doubt, reference the insight, joy and humor that you brought to people with your writing. By Golden Girl on 2013 10 03
Excellent! Forty is in my rearview mirror and this is great advice for any age! By Andi on 2013 10 03
Sysiphus and Pit Bull references - very impressive indeed! By The Flying Gueridon on 2013 10 03
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