The Ultimate Strategic Life Decision

The premise behind being strategic is simple - begin with the end in mind. My first encounter with this principle came from Stephen Covey’s classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

When I worked at McKinsey, much of the client work was focused on this principle — begin with the end in mind.

When it comes to your life, the same principle applies — begin with the end in mind.

In life, most people at best think about what they want out of their life and career over the next 1 to 3 years. However, there’s another approach that is even more strategic.

That is to consider what you want your life to represent to you on your death bed.

Yes, the ultimate way to begin with the end in mind is to begin with the end in mind. On your death bed, when you look back, what do you want to be true?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last two or three years.

I’ve hit the age where I now get more funeral notices than wedding notices. I’ve had high school classmates die, former McKinsey colleagues die, recent clients die, relatives die, friends whose parents recently died, friends with significant others who died.

Although I logically understand that our time on earth is finite and that we all die at some point, it’s entirely different when the people who die are people you actually know, or when close friends are grieving for their losses.

There have been a few lessons I’ve learned through this process that I’d like to share:

1) If you ever have the chance to visit someone who is dying, but has not yet died, do it. You will never regret it.

I’ve opted both to visit and not to visit people I knew who were dying. What I underestimated at the time was how meaningful saying goodbye to someone while they are still alive would mean to me and to the other people who survive that person. I also underestimated how much I would regret not making the effort to visit someone who is on death’s door.

With death, there is no second chance. There is no "I’ll see them next time." When someone is dying, you don’t know exactly when they will pass. If you have the “fortune” to know in advance that someone is near passing, JUST GO.

You will never regret it. Don't be like me. I live with regret for the people I didn’t go to say goodbye to. I will carry that with me the rest of my life. I hope you don’t ever have to do the same.

2) At the end of one’s life, one of the two big questions dying people seem to ask themselves is this, “Will the people I leave behind be okay?”

As I’m writing this tearfully, I am thinking of two friends who passed — one a man, the other a woman, vastly different in age and family circumstances. Both died with some advance notice, and both through their actions and words were just hoping beyond hope that those they left behind would be okay.

(If my late friends happen to be reading this from a “better place,” the answer is, "Yes. Everyone you were worried about, they are all okay.").

The practical action item here is to take proactive steps around life insurance, estate plans, letters to your survivors and the like.

One of the most sobering things I ever did was when my attorney indicated that it was possible to write letters to various family members and have those documents be stored with my will. I wrote goodbye letters to each of my kids — that was just emotionally brutal and hard to get through it without a great many tears.

What it also did for me was give me great clarity as to what (and who) was important to me.

3) The other big question (more of an observation really) dying people seem to ask (or consider) is an inventory of their relationships.

On your death bed, you truly do not think about your resume. What you do is look at whose lives you touched, who came to say goodbye, and who loves you. That’s it.

I’d argue that if you died with a billion dollar net worth, but died with nobody by your side despite ample time — in so many ways, you died broke.

I watched one family friend slowly pass away over 4 months. What she did during that time was quite remarkable. She called everybody in her life who cared about her and said, “I’m dying. Will you come out here for a week or two and take care of my family because I can’t do it right now? I need your help. It is the last favor I will ever ask of you.”

What happened next really touched me. I saw an endless parade of friends and family, each taking one to two week shifts. Friends from high school, college, one city or another... all flying in to help her out.

I have no idea what her financial situation was when she passed, but it was pretty clear to me that she lived a remarkably rich life.

There’s one exercise that I’ve been trying to do for many years now. I’ve never been able to successfully do it, but here it is.

Write the obituary for yourself that you hope will be true by the time you die.

When I first tried this, mine looked like this:

“Victor Cheng passed away today. He was...”

...and then I would get stuck.

What was I? In 200 words, how do I describe the sum total of my life? Is it my work? Is it my relationships? Is it my resume? My net worth?

Going through the process prompted more questions than answers, but they were the right questions to be asking.

(I know it’s a bit morbid, but if beginning with the end in mind is strategic, then logically it would seem that before you start the rest of your life, you should define what your death looks like, right?)

To this day, I haven’t been able to finish that 200-word writing exercise, though re-attempting it every two or three years has brought me greater clarity. There have been a few themes that have been popping up fairly consistently over the last few attempts.

As I look at these themes, and then look at my life and career plans, I’ve noticed how they’ve increasingly been in alignment these last few years.

If I ask myself to what extent the time I spent this year is going towards things that make my idealized obituary true, it turns out quite a high percentage of my time has gone to exactly that.

That definitely wasn’t the case for certain time spans of my life and career, but these days I’m very much on strategic focus.

What about you?

How would your obituary read?

How much of your time this year is in alignment with the parts of your idealized obituary that are not yet true?

That is beginning with the end in mind... literally.


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48 comments… add one
  • Winston May 19, 2014, 8:58 am

    Thanks for writing this post Victor. Very good reminder of what’s important and how to live the ultimate strategic life. I’ve read and love the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People too, and your article inspires/reminds me to complete my personal mission statement and obituary.

    On another note, I’ve been considering subscribing to the strategic outlier, but I have a few questions/things that are unclear to me:
    (1) what will be covered in the content?
    (2) I really prefer not to have a physical piece of paper; Is it possible to recieve a PDF?
    (3) Do we get access to past letters when we subscribe?

    Thanks again for writing a great post!


    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:24 pm


      He Strategic Outlier covers a wide range of topics – pretty much the full breadth of everything I know – analysis, relationships, life goals, conflict resolution, sales, executive presence, presenting skills, personal competitor advantage, entrepreneurship. Back issues are available for purchase for active members. The newsletter is currently print only.


      • rajan t mehta May 20, 2014, 3:45 am



  • Joel D May 19, 2014, 9:01 am

    Hi Victor,

    I just came across this HBR article recently entitled ‘To create a real-connection, be vulnerable’. I’ve noticed that in all of your articles you show a lot of your human side, emotion and have been candid about your feelings while going through both good as well as embarrassing situations. I don’t know if other consultants or left-brained people are comfortable doing this.

    I believe this is why you’ve struck a Chord with many of your readers…other than the Case Interview related products and articles that you’ve been selling and sharing.

    Kudos! 🙂

    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:31 pm


      I read that article too and if I remember correctly, agree with it. Being vulnerable shows your humanity and allows others to relate to you as a human being.

      Many very successful people are perfectionists (I’m a recovering perfectionist) and have a strong desire to be seen in as good a light as possible. This is basically the present yourself in the best possible light.

      This is a great strategy in a job interview. However, if you want to build an emotional connection with someone (no merely an intellectual one) it requires showing your full range of humanity.

      I’ve seen this done in small group settings where total strangers can be bonded to each other emotionally in a matter of minutes through shared vulnerability, that is much more deeply connected than people who have had purely intellectual relationships with each other in some cases for years or decades.

      For more on this topic, see Brene Browns two wonderful TED talk videos. Excellent stuff.


  • jian May 19, 2014, 9:17 am

    “live each day as if it was your last,” this quote we hear so often nowadays, but I still don’t have a clear idea what it really means. Victors has pointed out some pragmatic way to live with this mindset. Thanks!

  • Emerson May 19, 2014, 9:20 am

    Hi Victor,

    Thank you so much for this post. I usually take a couple of minutes to read your posts and those are very helpful. However this post is one of your best, it belongs not only to a case interview website but to an life-inspirational website.
    Thank you again, I will share your thoughts with my family and circle of friends.
    Please keep posting.
    A big hug from Germany.


    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:32 pm


      Thanks so much. I will keep posting. And a hug back.


  • Alex May 19, 2014, 9:25 am

    That is where I think of eternity of my spirit
    That is where one can read the Book – Purpose Driven Life
    That is where the end is – heaven

  • Anil May 19, 2014, 9:32 am

    Hi Victor,

    A very touching article; personally I try to read all of your letters whenever time permits. I must admit, I started giving respect to you because of your expertise in management consulting but over a period of time I respect you more because of your life touching thoughts. Some of your thoughts on realistic philosophy are good enough to convert into a few essays which can be collectively part of a book on realistic philosophy.

    Coming back to the main topic of death bed and how we want to be remembered; I would say, personally, I want to be remembered as a real life philosopher, who inspired people, who asked people to take control of their lives, who asked people to be more real and less artificial, who asked people to give more and love more, lifelong student, and a strong supporter of equality.


    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:33 pm


      What a wonderful vision you’ve painted. The hard part is taking some action, no matter how small, each day to make progress in one or more of those areas.

      Best wishes,

  • Thiago May 19, 2014, 9:55 am

    Hi Victor,

    I find remarkable how you go about so many different topics in such an interesting way.
    You are a true mentor and I really wanted to say to you how your words have the power to motivate someone reading it from the other side of the continent down here in Brazil.
    This article, in special, tells a lot more than it seens. Although all your articles about work carrer are very important, this one is what life is all about.

  • CocoGaugin May 19, 2014, 10:18 am

    I’ve been reading you from the beginning of your journey….though I am poverty ridden, yet educated, life itself makes decisions for you. Yes, one has choices and can do right, you know there are thoughts with other motives. My point, it is in the details….how do I make an estate will? Plana funeral? How much is a casket? A headstone, websites to steer me in those directions and how to’s on that hits home and is where I am at. That is where most fear to tread and ask the really hard questions. When to turn off the machines. We are ready for the hard stuff and want smart serious answer from guys like you who give us great guidance and advice. What say you to that?

  • Swati Sinha May 19, 2014, 10:52 am

    Hi Victor,

    Great thought as always, your post has always encouraged me
    Being a young graduate, life is not much figured out yet for me. With unexpecting turn of events it has been difficult to judge everything as well but I use to always do one thing and that was thinking of a better future, I think that has kept me going till now . I always thought that was day dreaming but after reading your post I will definately focus more on thinking to the end point.

    thank you for your always encouraging post.


  • Ank May 19, 2014, 11:42 am


    Great article. In your earlier posts, you highlighted winner’s attitude of never quitting. In the pursuit of working hard continuously, one may compromise certain things in life to GET them later.. while “later” may not come at all.

    While the answer to my question (how to achieve this balance?) will vary person-to-person, how do see balancing so many things in life – health, relationships, and career? The internal script that runs in most people’s mind is – alright. let me go to this school, let me get this job, and then everything will be okay and I will focus on lets say health/meeting women/taking a vacation etc. I recall another point you made in your earlier post when a person living nearby Hawaii beach wonders why people work for their entire lives to ultimately come there to enjoy their vacation, when he has been doing so daily. Also, job promotion may not actually feel like a promotion on the day of a break-up! Since individual priorities change with time as well, I wish there was something that one can use to determine how to focus one’s time to avoid guilt feelings later on..

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:40 pm


      I haven’t thought about this topic very deeply yet, but one thought comes to mind.

      1) If you died yesterday, would you have been comfortable with your choices up until then.

      2) If you will live to 100 years old, are you comfortable with your choices today.

      When I use the first test, I tend to think about relationships. Did I tell everyone I love, that love them? Did I end the day angry at someone I cared about and is that their last memory of me? (By the way, a good rule of thumb is to never end the day angry or resentful of people you care about. Try to get all fights resolved so they don’t spill over )

      As I use the latter test, I tend to start thinking about my health. Will my body and organs physically last to 100 years old? Am I in a good spiritual health or will I drive myself crazy by then time I’m 100 years old?

      Another useful distinction that I come back to over and over again also comes from Stephen Covey. He distinguishes between the “Important” vs the “Urgent”.

      Emails are urgent though rarely importantly. Have difficult conversations with people your care about are very important – but often not seemingly urgent.


  • Andres May 19, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Hi Victor,

    I have been following you for more than one year. But this is the first time to leave a comment. Extremelly great thougths! I think you are great human beign. Thanks for sharing your personal life and knowledge. I think you are not just a great Management Consultant but also a GREAT Human Consultant!



    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:40 pm


      Thank you. You are very kind with your words.


  • Ryan May 19, 2014, 2:20 pm

    Wow. I’ve read nearly a hundred of your articles, but this is the first time I feel inspired me to write a comment.

    This is a question of life design, touching upon clarity of purpose and direction. I’m in my mid twenties but lately have been thinking about how I want to live and contribute throughout the next five, six, or seven decades. We’re on the same wave length. But here you articulated some things that I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

    Please keep asking these types of questions, in your personal life and on your website. This is what really matters.

    If I may add one thought to your article, it would be this: each human is a microcosm of humanity. If we design our individual lives around what really matters, I believe humanity as a whole will start to do the same.

    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:41 pm


      Very insightful point!

      I love the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


  • anthony May 19, 2014, 4:26 pm

    Great article and very important thought process. Major gap in the content:
    True that at the point of death, many are asking if the folks left behind are going to be ok. Sadly, often the folks behind are not ok. Some end up lonely and go to the other side soon. Some are left without enough financial provisions and have to scrape a solution. Sadly, some left behind are abandoned by long time friends. Pain is real for too many and I’ve had to spend time helping family members of those who passed away, when they are left behind. New challenges are sometimes met with painful fight or flight reactions. Sometimes, after years of suffering, a glimpse of hope returns to the person left behind.

    Most importantly, the one question that was missing from this article that I’ve found almost all people that are dying ask: “Am I ready to meet God?” So many are not sure if their immoral choices will now catch up to them. I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but it’s obviously real. Those who humbly sought Christ Jesus while on earth and faced their inner heart and repented regularly by God’s Grace, are able to peacefully face God with great hope. But, those who abandoned path of faith, hope and love, in favor of regular fleeting pleasures are now left with great regret.

    Thankfully a few during the final days or minutes, choose to turn to God like one of the thieves on the Cross did when he faced The Son of God at moment of crucifixion before He trampled down death by his death and set us free from terror of death that we might experience abundant life, love and mercies in our relationships with God and with others made in His image now.

    For those who don’t choose to trust in God, their loss is beyond imagination. They leave this earth wrongly believing that there is no life beyond. They are miserable as they face that moment or living in ignorance until seconds after death when they face reality. Amazingly as the scientist Blaise Pascal shared long ago, logically if those who trusted in Christ and loved here, are somehow wrong, at least they lived a wonderful life of love. If they are right, they will continue to do so in love forever. But those who don’t trust, if they are right, missed out on so much life and love in hope now but most importantly, if they are wrong, … how awful is that moment when regret turns into eternal reality of regrets forever.

  • Sophie May 19, 2014, 4:42 pm

    Hi Victor,

    I would like to thank you for your very inspiring articles. I started wondering about where my career was heading about 2 years ago. I started carrying out self assessments but only ended up being more lost than when I started. Some of these assessment recommend to try to write down one’s obituary but I could not bring myself to do it. Two years down the line, I’ve got a clearer idea but still cannot put words on paper. It is reassuring in a way to note that others have the same struggle. However, I feel that I have matured over the past 2 years, thanks partly to your insights, and one day I will be ready to write this obituary.
    Many thanks again.

    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:42 pm


      There is value in the writing of the obituary, and there is value and all the questions and feelings that attempt brings up even if no words are written.

      Both are useful.


  • Ss May 19, 2014, 5:49 pm

    Hi Victor,

    A have read a number of your articles. They always have a sound format and structure, not just in grammar but also in thought. And I believe that it comes from the clarity ( or lack of clutter) in mind. We all have these moments in varying amounts and degrees. The luckiest and wisest amongst us are the ones who maintain this clarity the longest. It is my endeavor (and hope) to be someday able to maintain this state of clarity persistently. The better I get at dealing with clutter and distractions, I think the closer I get to my goal.

    What do you think? Would love to see a letter from you on this topic too.


    • Victor Cheng May 19, 2014, 8:45 pm


      I think persistent clarify comes from the willingness to tackle difficult questions where obvious answers aren’t readily available.

      I remember learning chemistry back in high school. My greatest improvement in learning came from the questions my teacher asked that I did NOT immediately know how to answer. I had to push those neurons to think, extrapolate, connect existing knowledge in new ways. In many ways, my brain would “hurt” from such intense thinking.

      I think the same is true in developing clear thinking. If you want to think clearly, allows yourself the opportunity to struggle through difficult questions (about life, career, or really anything). Most people avoid difficult questions, and in so doing miss out from the benefits of the mental struggle.


  • Omair Homaey May 19, 2014, 7:27 pm

    Hi Victor,
    Can’t expressed how timely and touching this topic has been. Having heard a friend’s father dying less than 12 hours back, it’s just amazing how life changes within a split second.

    The way our society is changing where parents are being less taken care off by their offspring is having detrimental affect on our society. This needs to be changed !

    Keep up the great work.

    Omair Homaey

  • Kelsey May 19, 2014, 9:06 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree with it that you should begin with an end in mind.. but I think a question that we all face is that, (well, it’s not really a question but more like a constant fear), what if the end is too difficult to reach or too glorious it’s beyond our power? Then we will be spending our entire lives pursuing something we will never be able to achieve. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Victor Cheng May 20, 2014, 11:12 am


      I think most people are overly focused on achieving a specific goal, and not focused enough on the pursuit of a direction.

      The value of knowing the end game is to help determine the general direction you want to orient your life around. When you pursue the direction, it gives life more meaning, satisfaction and joy.

      This is a topic for a separate post, but measuring ones self worth I think should ideally be defined by how close one is living to one’s own values, and not tied to specific achievements. If you are in the Olympics, and on the day of the final race you beat your own personal record, you ran as hard as you possibly could, and you are certain you cou do not have prepared any better and performed any better, be proud of what you did – regardless of whether you won’t a medal or not. You ran with heart, went all out, and that itself is remarkable.


  • Grant Hansen May 19, 2014, 9:26 pm

    Hey Victor,

    I once heard an interesting bit of wisdom around self-discovery at a conference in Chicago. The speaker suggested asking those close to you what you are truly good at in order to gain this insight.

    Maybe this tactic could be of use in completing your assignment…

    As one of your readers – I think that you are a good person who is genuinely interested in helping others find fulfillment in life and work.

    • Victor Cheng May 20, 2014, 11:16 am


      I totally agree with the idea of asking people who know you well to describe what they think are your gifts. I did this about 5 years ago or so, and it was fascinating.

      Everyone said more or less the same thing, and I was surprised by what they said. Then they were surprised that I was surprised. Apparently this is very common.

      People are so accustomed to their own gifts they don’t even notice it is special versus others.


  • WB May 19, 2014, 9:39 pm

    Victor, great blog post. I work in finance with some extremely high functioning, intelligent individuals. What amazes me is how few people think about death and what might happen after death. Why do you think that is? Also, have you ever thought about doing a MECE analysis on life after death? I would be curious to see what that looks like…

    • Victor Cheng May 20, 2014, 11:20 am


      I think people differ in their views on what happens after death. All I know with certainty is life as we currently know it ends. It is my argument that it is worth while to live life to the fullest, regardless of what happens after death.


  • Rishit Kar May 20, 2014, 1:52 am

    Hi Victor,
    Your deep thought article is indeed remarkable and highly appreciable. It is said death pays all debts. Similarly different scriptures portray life after death as a ultimate reality.Maharaja Yudhisthir says in Mahabharat that although we see many many people everyday being sent for funereal we never fell that the some is going to happen with us. In the Bhagavad Gita this present world is called as martyaloka or mortal world. But beyond this world is the kingdom of God where the deathless spirit revels with the supreme spirit in pastimes of love.
    So the modern intelligentsia like you need to question what happens after death or why should i die at all,why am i suffering ..These are age old treasured and wise questions addressed in the Vedas.

    P.S. Kindly go through ‘BHAGAVAD GITA AS IT IS’ BY H.D.G. A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada

  • Volha May 20, 2014, 1:59 am

    This article made me think.
    I find more and more confirmations that personal capital or wealth is measured in number of ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ these days. Not how much money you earn, how many books you wrote, and not how many TV programs you starred.
    Literally, in how many people like you. Specifically, how many people genuinely like you to the extent they are ready to put everything on hold and rush to do something for you if you ask and more importantly – in case you don’t even ask. How many people you can call at 3 a.m., how many people will notice your changes, and with how many people you share your happiness, sadness and interesting thoughts so that they are not bored to listen.
    This is different from networking and people skills and promoting selfie as a brand. People will like you for being sincerely, genuinely unique and original, which you cannot fake, it’s in your core personality, especially in face-to-face interactions, not digital. Basically, coming back to the principle you mentioned at the beginning for those who want to be consultants – don’t be an a…hole )).

    • Victor Cheng May 20, 2014, 11:19 am


      Great point.


  • Dawn May 20, 2014, 2:36 pm

    Starting with a perfect end in mind is the ultimate best strategy…..long term strategy….but if the most perfect your end gets is today or tomorrow it should ALWAYS be good enough.
    The only way to have an end worth starting with is to make every moment, every person, every emotion, every memory count and play the part it is worthy of in your life…not more and not less, just exactly what it is worth.
    Too much or too little attention/ worth will guarantee to throw out the balance and dynamics required for the perfect end.

  • ZRL May 21, 2014, 2:27 am


    Your post was very touching, thanks for sharing. Having just recently graduated college, even while having read Covey’s book, I find it challenging and often difficult to think about the “ultimate” end. Though, in recent days, I’ve reflected upon it on several occasions.

    Just 2 weeks ago, a dear professor of mine passed away suddenly. I remember the first time I spoke with him, just as I remember the last time I spoke with him. He was an insightful, empathetic, and deeply inspiring man. What you say about the regret that follows a loved one’s death is so very true.

    The inevitability and finality of death is something I struggle with, each time the thought enters my mind. I do find that contemplating this does make me think harder about what really matters, but the challenge then becomes applying that thinking in the right way and the right time.

    How do you use your obituary exercise to frame your decisions? And, how do you make it a source of invigoration rather than defeat?

    Very much appreciate your thoughts. Thanks as always, ZRL

    • Victor Cheng May 22, 2014, 3:46 am


      This may not be the exercise you want to do if you are still grieving as the grief may easily overshadow the intellectual thought exercise.

      When grief is no longer in the picture, you take the vision you have for the totality of your life, you determine what aspect of that vision is not yet true, and you use that as a guide for how you devote your time.

      A significant portion of your time should be devoted to maintaining those aspects of the vision of your life that are already true, and to taking those aspects that are not yet true and making them true.

      For example, in my vision of my life, I see myself as both a life long student and a teacher. Each week I ask myself, did I learn anything new this week? Did I do any teaching of anything to anyone?

      If the answer is yes, and yes, then it was a good week. If have too many weeks with lots of “no and no”, then I force myself to take a time out to figure put what’s going wrong in my life – and to determine if I need to make any changes.


  • kilian May 21, 2014, 6:00 am

    Best blog post yet

    • Victor Cheng May 22, 2014, 3:47 am




  • Moritz May 21, 2014, 2:57 pm

    Great insights! I’m very happy you are sharing this thoughts with us! Thanks Victor!

  • John F. May 25, 2014, 5:14 am

    Hi Victor,

    I really enjoy your e-newsletters and find them valuable (I think I’ve even realized that consulting is not for me with your “riding the bicycle uphill” career analogy from a week or two ago). But I will continue reading your newsletters, of course.

    This post made me tear up a little as I considered the finality of death and the idea of leaving people behind.

    One idea we can add to such considerations is the spiritual side of life. (I’ve read what you’ve said about stoicism in a recent email.)

    Though I struggle with my own spirituality and Christian faith sometimes, I believe to be true the message of God’s forgiveness, personhood in Christ, and path to wholesome earthly living and forever living (beyond our human finite life) as shared through the ways and teachings of Christ. If this is true, it definitely turns “death” as we know it, on its head. The death of our human bodies is the beginning of living in a new way, and it does not end.

    Anyway, I just wanted to pass along for consideration something that isn’t always considered (or verbalized) when we think of “beginning with the end in mind,” or the finality of death.

    Thanks again for sharing your meaningful experiences and knowledge.

    Peace, John in the UK

    • Victor Cheng Jun 3, 2014, 12:49 pm


      You and many others have raised the topic of spirituality and life after death. I think that’s absolutely a fair question, but one I personally don’t feel at all qualified to discuss. I would like to think that regardless of what one believes regarding life after death (or lack thereof), that making the most of life on earth is a worthy of our efforts.


  • Devang Shah May 30, 2014, 2:53 am

    Hi Victor,

    Great post. And believe it or not, I went through the same chain of thoughts about month and a half ago. My father’s mother passed away in 3rd week of April. She had literally raised me from zero to eighteen, when I decided to fly away.

    Between my eighteen and thirty one, I paid her regular visits and tended to her when she was in hospital multiple times. But, i still feel i dint do enough. She died in Mumbai, India and I was in Brussels, Belgium then. So, distance dint really help. I had seen her just a week before she died, so was partly content that I saw her when she was knocking in the death door. I must say that in little murmurs she clearly told me that I wont see her again. Bbt that’s not the point here.

    What moved me were the series of events and comversations that I had with my near and dear ones after she passed away.

    We, as humans, are not the oerfect ones. We do end up hurting few people along the way. And she had also hurt a few. But, in every conversation that i had with my mom, aunts, cousins, dad’s friends, etc. they all remembered the good deeds of her. They fondly remembered how she had touche their lives in a little way and but had left a mark on them. And when she passed away, all these people showed up at her prayer meeting.

    My grandpa passed away 30 years ago. In last 30 years, she worked selflesssly only for her children and grand children, cousins and numerous others. She was a pro at building and nurturing social bonds. She has gone to the extent of feeding and educating numerous nephews and nieces along with her own 5 kids. She had the will and drive to serve others.

    While listening to the people who called me to pay condolences, I ws left wondering with the same thought that you have put in your post. What do i want people to remember me as. I am young, 31 year old, working in IT COnsulting company, making decent money for myself. I still have a way to go. And i instantly decided that I want to be remembered for my social worth and not my financial worth. In today’s times, social worth may easily be calculated by the weight of my online social networks, but I believe you understand what I mean here.

    I still dint have my 200 word obituary note, but slowly and steadily, ideas are percolating in me as to what I want to achieve out of this life. I have the dream of becoming a CEO of a large IT company before my 40. I might make it there. But, thats not how I want to be remembered. Its just a pit stop to my destination.

    This post resonated a lot with what I have been thinking. My thoughts may not be too organized here, but I just felt like letting it out. In a different way, it just helped. We all need our closures when someone very near and dear passes away. When you live away, you have to find your own closure. This post may be was mine.

    Looking fwd to your next one.

    • Victor Cheng Jun 1, 2014, 4:36 pm


      First off, I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your grandmother lived a full life that touched many others.

      A friend of mine says that when someone we love passes away, they leave those who survive with a gift – a reminder of what is important in our lives.

      It sounds like that was true in your case. Best wishes in your journey.


  • Krissia Nov 5, 2014, 6:59 pm

    Hi Victor,

    It’s very interesting what you’re doing here. I can’t help but notice most of your recent posts have been about getting your readership to reflect on more essential and grave topics such as life and death in this one, in order to build more valuable (in the longer scheme of things) character building traits. I suppose this is welcome especially for those where “acing the case interview” and other school exams are indeed life and death situations. Anyhow, just wanted to say I get what you’re doing, and I’m glad you’re being bold in writing these kind of posts as I don’t think kids or young adults get schooled enough on these things. I also like how you incorporate “exercises” for your readers since most are probably scholastically inclined. I wonder how humorous your posts on “how to get street smart” would be. lol

  • Luis Gáfaro Apr 5, 2015, 3:52 pm

    Dear Victor

    Today I was flying from Cali to Bogotá (Colombia) and I read this post. I dont know why but after I finish reading I just felt that I wanna thank you for sharing your thoughts. This kind of readings is what allow us to think beyond the day by day scenario. Unfortunately we don’t take the time to stop the rush and make the proper questions about out life and what we do with the precious time that we have.

    Thank you again Victor,

    Luis Gáfaro

    • Victor Cheng Apr 7, 2015, 8:37 pm


      You’re quite welcome.


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