An old school mate of mine, Rama Tello, was recently killed in a plane crash.
Too young. Too soon. No mother should have to have their children die before them.
He was killed instantly. A strange blessing not to have suffered.
But many people don’t die instantly. In a culture of such advanced medicine – often we’ve not so much extending our living – but prolonged our dying – where the last years are spent in decrepitude. As story teller and author Michael Meade puts it, “We no longer have elders dispensing medicine to the community – we have olders on drugs.“
But that isn’t the worst part of it.
The worst part is this: Most people die with regrets.
Most people live trapped by their fears. To make things worse – the world of marketing and advertising often doesn’t help people – it adds to the burden of their insecurities and neuroses. It exploits them. It often has a hand in creating them. Bill Hicks made same scathing but important remarks about the world of marketing that are worth watching.
Eventually, most people die with their music still inside them.
The beloved actor Michael Landon, who died of cancer, wrote, “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now!“
So . . . what if we changed the game? What if we changed this in our own marketing.
What if we used marketing as a source of liberation – as a way of inviting people to live more full, rich and meaningful lives. To live lives in a deeper alignment to their own integrity? What if we used marketing not to make normal things seem green – but to make green things seem normal? Not to push people from a place of greed – but to inspire them from a place of deep generosity.
Not to motivate them out of fear – but inspire them out of love.
Not to exploit their insecurities but to empathize with them. To be more committed to serving them and the planet than to selling them. What if out commitment wasn’t about making sales but more about making sure things were a ‘perfect fit’ or no deal. What if we were committed to making a fair profit – not the maximum possible profit.
If you’re selling overpriced, plastic, toxic crap – stop that.
But, if you represent a hopeful alternative that’s good for your community and the planet – wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could be sustained by this business and other people could be helped?
This isn’t about seeking fame – but it is about intending influence.
It’s not about pushing clients to do anything that they don’t want to do – it’s not about pressure – but it’s about loving people enough to engage in sometimes difficult conversation. It’s not about ‘closing deals’ it’s about opening conversations and possibilities.
As Visionary Activist Caroline Casey puts it, “When people complain about the state of the world and hold up the mirror to all that is wrong, the Trickster turns it into a window that looks onto the field of what’s possible and then waves their hand again and turns it into a door and says, ‘Let’s go!’“
What if part of our orientation in our lives and businesses was this: no one dies with regrets?
If you could wave your magic wand and give everyone you work with one result that would have them not only live more fully but also die more peacefully – what would it be?
- helping men get over the fear of meeting new women?
- helping women mend their broken hearts?
- helping people resolve a long standing health issue?
- helping people finally figure out their finances so they can leave a gift (not a burden) to their children?
- helping women feel more at home in their bodies – and learn to love themselves?
- helping local farmers find a market for the food they produce?
- helping people learn how to work with nature to allow abundance through your permaculture courses?
- helping people find the gifts that their deepest wounds bring them and how that can serve the world?
- helping women to embrace their own fierceness?
Of course, these aren’t things we can give people. There is only so much we can do to help people on their journeys. We make humble little contributions where we can in our own limited ways. But, just because they’re limited, doesn’t make them meaningless.
We can still help people live more full, happy and rich lives.
And what if this started with us?
As important as it is to make our business attractive to our ideal clients – to help them on their journey to something more rich and true for them – here’s another question: is your business attractive to you?
I know so many entrepreneurs who create business that own them – rather than them owning their business. And they come to hate it. They’re over worked. Lifestyle must serve life – never the other way around.
Put differently: will your business cause you to die with more or less regrets?
It’s the age old story: Mary bakes pies. They’re the best pies ever. Her friends encourage her to own a bakery. She does. This is her fondest dream. Which quickly becomes her worst nightmare. She’s waking at 4am to go bake things, and doing the books, managing employees, dealing with zoning regulations, trying to market and soon – not even baking at all. Her business is killing her.
Is your business causing you to miss out on your deeper dreams? Time with your friends and family? Compromising your health (says Tad as he types this at 2:17 am when he should be sleeping . . .)
You are going to die.
So how do you want to live right now? What kinds of clients do you want to work with? (and which ones should you fire?) Who do you most want to help? How do you want to spend your days? What hours would you love to work? Where do you want to live and travel?
Here’s to people living lives that are authentic and true. Here’s to unconflicted hearts. The end of ‘settling’. Here’s to lives of enjoyment and a world dripping with justice. Here’s to people’s lives overflowing with an abundance of good things. Here’s to people not needing so many ‘things’. Here’s to people being free. Here’s to people being freaky and quirky – and to a community that not only tolerates that – but relishes in it.
Here’s to our finding an irresistible eloquence that draws people forward into exuberant living. Here’s to us find ways to coax people into living with hearts that are full, open, strong and clear; to finding the perfect words and gestures that open people’s hearts and minds (and wallets) to ways of living that will earn the gratitude of our great, great, great, great grandchildren. Let’s embrace the commitment to find ever more beautiful and creative ways to inspire people to move beyond their fears and into action.
“The goal of the revolutionary artist is to make revolution irresistible.”
- Toni Cade Bambara
Here’s to our embodying beauty and integrity in our lives, our business practices and – yes – in our marketing.
Here’s to, as David Korten puts it so well, “not talking the alternatives to death – but living them into being.”
Here’s to marketing being about being a generosity based business – not a greed based one.
Here’s to taking a stand for beauty in our own lives and the lives of our clients.
Here’s to your green, conscious, holistic, independent business thriving. Because – always remember this: you are where you are, because someone came before you and inspired you that what you were doing now was possible. And there are others now – watching you. If they see that you are broke, miserable, bitter and unsuccessful, if they see that you are using old, high pressure marketing techniques and selling yoru soul to succeed – they will not take the risk. They will not take the step to start their own business – and perhaps it’s a business the world needs very much.
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
- Marianne Williamson
Here’s to marketing as a celebration of the marketplace as it wants to be. Caroline Casey reminded me of this: The marketplace doesn’t want to be an uninspiring strip mall of mass produced goods – it wants to be a lively and convivial place full of storytelling – a place that invites the best of culture and innovation. A place where the exchange of money is a sacred piece of theatre. A place where we gather to nurtured and be nurtured. A place that calls on us to make a true contribution to the well being of our community.
Here’s to the marketplace being an expression of life and community at it’s best – not tawdry consumerism at its worst – here’s to the return of something sacred and beautiful in the center of the market that matters more to us than the dollar.
Here’s to the marketplace not so much selling the promise of healing – but actually being a force of healing itself. Imagine this: marketing in such a way that, even if they never bought a thing from you – they were better off for the conversation – and one step closer to changing their life for the better. Imagine raising money in such a way that, even when they said, ‘no, this isn’t a fit for me‘ you could bless and release them back into the world knowing that your conversation with them had left them more deeply connected to their vision for how they want to see the world – and so much more likely to donate to another cause.
What if your marketing made the world a better place?
What if your marketing was a healing act?
Here’s to lifestyles that serve Life (and, if you’re struggling with how to create not only the kind of income you want but a truly sustainable and nourishing lifestyle – contact my friend Alex Baisley. He’s a genius at helping people create an alternative, non-conformist lifestyle that has them smiling on their deathbed).
And here’s to this wonderful article from Bronnie Ware of the top five regrets people have when they die. Ask yourself which ones you or your clients would have if they knew they would die tomorrow.
Nobody dies with their music still inside of them.
Nobody dies with regrets.
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
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 have 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.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Bronnie Ware is a writer, singer/songwriter, songwriting teacher and speaker from Australia. She has lived nomadically for most of her adult life. Bronnie shares her inspiring observations and the insights gained along the way through the diversity of her work. To read more of her articles and learn about her other work, please visit Inspiration and Chai at http://www.inspirationandchai.com
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