What Will Your Verse Be?

The Raised Bones of Arlington National Cemetery
Stuck in Customs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. – ‘Oh Me! Oh Life!’ by Walt Whitman

The average movie script contains approximately 1,668 sentences. This means every line an actor speaks accounts for about .05 percent of the entire movie. On the surface, this would seem to mean that you could eliminate any one sentence in any movie script and see no impact on the final result of the movie. And for the most part, that’s true. Most of the individual sentences within a movie script can be thrown out or replaced with very little impact on the final product.

But there are a few sentences in every script that are absolutely indispensable. Would The Godfather be the all-time classic it is without “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse”? I’ve never seen Gone With the Wind, but I can still tell you it’s not the same movie without “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”. And does anyone still remember Jerry Maguire if “Show me the money” never happens?

While each of these classic movie lines account for the same .05 percent of the script every other line does, their impact is felt far beyond that.

We are a Blip on the Radar

It is estimated that human beings have been on the planet for about 200,000 years. Assuming you live to be about 90 years old, you will have accounted for roughly .05 percent of humans time on this planet- almost exactly the same as one line in a movie script. And like most of the lines in a movie script, a lot of peoples lives end up being inconsequential to the world they lived in. They are born, they live a mostly ordinary life, they die and within a generation or two they are forgotten.

We are a tiny, minuscule, almost unnoticeable blip on the radar of human history.

But like a great line in a movie, there are some people who manage to have a far bigger impact than the .05 percent of time they are given on this planet. People like Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Ben Franklin, Walt Disney and countless others continue to improve the lives of others long after they are gone. Their names are remembered for eternity and their impacts are essential to the course of the world.

So why are some people able to have a gigantic impact and be indispensable to the course of history while most people live completely inconsequential lives and are forgotten soon after they die? I believe it comes down to the principal of dying empty.

Dying Empty

If I asked you what the most valuable land in the world is, what would you say? Maybe a diamond mine in Africa? Or perhaps a beach on an exotic island? Or how about 5th avenue in New York City or the French Riveria?

The answer is none of the above. The most valuable land in the world is a grave yard. A grave yard is filled with enough untapped potential, unacted upon ideas, unlaunched businesses, unwritten books and unfulfilled promise to completely transform the course of history as we know it. These people buried in the grave yard left with so much to contribute and no way to pass it on.

I learned this concept from listening to the Knowledge for Men Podcast featuring Todd Henry, author of Die EmptyHenry says the only way to make a lasting impact in this world is to die empty; empty of ideas, empty of potential, empty of regret, empty of our best work. When we die, everything we have to give goes with us. We might as well use it all while we are still here.

The grave yard is filled with enough untapped potential, there’s no need for us to contribute more.

Give Everything You Have Everyday

Make everyday your masterpiece. – John Wooden

The problem with the concept of dying empty is that most of us are procrastinators by nature. I know this is certainly true for me. Left to my own devices I could plop down on the couch and watch TV all day long. We all want to put off until tomorrow what we can do today.

The problem with this is we eventually run out of tomorrows. And even worse, we don’t know when the end is coming. If life were a race with a defined finish line, we could pace ourselves, giving a little bit everyday so we eventually gave all we had by the time we reached the end. Instead it is a journey and the finish line is a mystery. It could end tomorrow or in sixty years. This means in order to die empty, we have to give everything we have, every single day.

Making Your Impact

Have you ever noticed that almost every legendary person in the history of civilization has been a business owner? Seriously, how many employees can you think of who’s legacy has stood the test of time?

There is a reason for this. As employees, you don’t have much room to make a mark on the world. You have to do things when, where and how someone else says and no matter how good of a job you do, the owner of the company is the one who gets the ultimate credit for your work. Steve Jobs had brilliant employees who designed and created the iPhone, but can you name a single one? Instead, history will always remember Jobs alone as the genius behind the iPhone and other inventions.

As a business owner, you already have the stage to make your impact. The world is just waiting for you to create, produce and inspire for them. Most people settle for a life working for someone else with very little chance to make an impact. You chose a different path and it’s time to make the most of it.

What Will Your Verse Be?

I heard Whitman’s quote at the beginning of this article in the new Apple commercial and couldn’t get it out of my mind. With the birth of my twin boys right around the corner I’ve been thinking a lot about my place in the world and the legacy I want to leave. I no longer want to waste my limited amount of days on worthless activities. I want to make an impact. I want to give every single thing to this world I have to offer. I want the verse I contribute to be meaningful. I want to die empty. How about you?

The powerful play of life goes on, with or without you, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?


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