How would you summarise your life?

7 05 2009

One life. 6 words. What's yours?


If you had to summarise your life in six words, what would you write? Think about what you would write today – and then what you would like to write in 50 years.

It’s a curious truth that after 70 or 80 years of life, when someone has passed on, it’s almost always the small things, the endearing, even daily incidents and actions that they are remembered for. We remember the little things that stand out. What stands out about your life? What makes it different – what makes YOU different? Each of us is placed in this world to make a difference that only we can make – the others around us have their own tasks to complete. Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we all have a ring that is specifically for us to bear – the others around us have their own to worry about. How are you carrying yours? And how will people summarise your life when you’re gone?

In the new book ‘My Reading Life’, Bob Carr, former NSW Premier, notes some thoughts about time written by his favourite authors:

“Most days resemble other days. They fall in rows, mowed down by the time. One does not regret the loss. But a few glorious days stand out in memory, days where each moment shines separately, like cobbles on a strand. One yearns to repossess them, and mourns their distance.” [Jay Parini]

“To live each day as though one’s last, never flustered, never apathetic, never attitudinizing – here is perfection of character.” [Marcus Aurelius.]

‘I’m seventy-three years old, and all in all I may have lived, really lived, a total of two…. three at most.’ [The prince in Lampedusa’s ‘The Leopard.’]

Ernest Hemingway was once asked to write a story in just six words. He wrote a sad one: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

The world’s shortest story inspired writer Larry Smith who wondered what memoirs people might be able to concoct in just six words. So he began a website [] which, to date, has received 30,000 contributions, the best of which have been published in a book.

The results are sad, funny, inspiring …

 “Was father. Boys died. Still sad.”

“Story of my life: Unintended consequences.”

“Clever with numbers. Not with men.”

“Met young. Got married. Still infatuated.”

“Raised by lunatics. Still in recovery.”

“Not quite what I was planning.”

“I was born. Some assembly required.”

 “Started off normal. Things went awry.”

“Muscular dystrophy. Didn’t see that coming.”

“People lie. Keep trying to believe.”

“Escaped from past to live present.”

“Father died. Mother ineffectual. Succeeded anyway.”

My favourites here are the last three. They are written from the perspective of a ring-bearer – someone with purpose, faith, hope and determination to keep going. I have a plaque on my desk at home that says “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”.

How would you summarise your life today – and how would you want to? What stands out about your life? How will you be remembered?





2 responses

7 05 2009

Great post! Definitely got me thinking!

14 05 2009
Quinton McCauley

Same here – it got me thinking too! Most of these posts are me challenging myself. Readers just get to hear me thinking out loud 🙂

My six words might be… “Young, silly but well-meaning. Improving.”



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