What do you want to be remembered for?

Henni copyHenning Mankel, author of the Wallender mysteries, died a few weeks ago. You know, Henning Mankell, the Swedish Crime Writer …  It’s interesting isn’t it how we shoebox people with our brief descriptions? – Swedish Crime Writer … bestselling author …

Mankell’s Wallender mysteries have sold over 40 million copies, but Mankell’s life was more than two-thirds over before he published the first of these novels when he was 49; many exciting experiences of his life were already behind him.

At 16 he dropped out of school, left home and travelled to Paris, and then went to sea working on a freighter, an experience he’s said to have enjoyed.

(Henning Mankell, young adventurer…)

Returning to Paris, he worked as a stagehand in Paris, set out to become a writer, and took part in the student unrest of the late 60s.

(Henning Mankell, Bohemian ...)

The proceeds from his first published play financed a flight to Africa, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He was proud of his theatre work – he wrote over 40 plays, and spent many years as the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique. He built up his own publishing house to support young talents from Africa and Sweden.

(Henning Mankell, playwright and theatre director ...)

Yet, asked where his heart was, he would probably have said he was most invested in social and political change. He used the crime genre as a means of critiquing politics, big business, social unrest and corruption. In Africa his outrage at the inequalities of the world grew and deepened. He campaigned against Aids and landmines. He endowed a children’s village in Mozambique and gave much of his fortune to charities he believed in. He sailed on one of the ships that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010 and was seized by Israeli commandos.

(Henning Mankell, committed political activist …)

Always questioning, in almost the last article he wrote before his death from cancer he asked, “What happens to people’s identity when they are stricken by a serious illness? … Have I changed …?”  Knowing the end was near, I wonder what he would have most liked to be remembered for? What epitaph would he have chosen for himself?

(Henning Mankell, himself …)

Autumn sunshine and the dying year – perfect weather for wandering around churchyards. It’s got me thinking about epitaphs – a whole life in a handful of words –

“HERE lies the body of Daniel Saul,
Spitalfields weaver, – and that’s all.”
(St. Dunstan’s, Stepney)
HERE lies poor, but honest Brian Tunstall;
he was a most expert angler,
until Death, envious of his Merit,
threw out his line, hook’d him,
and landed him here the 21st day of April 1790.
(Ripon Cathedral)
A TENDER mother and a kind neighbour
(Stock Church, 1845)

Isn’t that one of the best? I wouldn’t mind that one.

Epitaphs are mostly composed by others, like an end of term report. Not many marks for the next!

HERE lies
Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good Die Young.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia

Geoffrey Chaucer became the first poet in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey when he was reinterred in a grand tomb by one Nicholas Brigham 150 years after the poet’s death. The engraving tells us – in letters the same height as those used for the word CHAUCER – that “BRIGHAM paid for this at his own expense.” thus getting Nicholas Brigham remembered as the person who muscled in on Chaucer’s fame and mentioned money!

Jo Rowling was asked how she would like to be remembered, and she answered, “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

When Hilary Mantel was asked which book she was most proud of, she mentioned neither Wolf Hall nor Bring Up the Bodies, her Booker Prize winning books, but said, “A book I wrote in my twenties called A Place of Greater Safety about the French revolution. It wasn’t published as my first book but as my fifth. I wrote it against the odds as nobody except me believed in it.” She was more proud of her self-belief in hard times than of the fame that came later. Jo Rowley would probably have empathised with that.

The brave young Pakistani woman, Malala, shot by the Taliban, said, “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”

Rosa Parks (famous for sitting down) said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free … so other people would be also free.”

So here’s a coaching question for you and me:

How do you want to be remembered?

And (following your answer), that being so:

What are you investing now on this legacy?

How much of your time?

How much of your energy?

How much of your money?

And – given that information:

What do you intend to do about it?

The fact is, that many (most?) of us don’t spend our time, energy and money on the things we would claim to be most important for us and that we would want to be remembered by. For example, a study was done on teachers who were asked to list 25 value words in order of importance, and then to describe three examples of how they put their number one value into action in the classroom. Most teachers in the study had great difficulty in providing even a single example of how they put their most important value into action. No wonder they were stressed.

Ask yourself the question in your own line of work. How much of your time and energy are you spending on what’s most important to you? Happiness is about spending most time with things that you value most, and least time with what you value least. If you find yourself doing the reverse, you’re out of tune with yourself.

A self enquiry for this week perhaps? November’s a good time to plant bulbs for flowering in the spring. What do you want to be remembered for?

Have a good month,

Go well,


Of interest …


Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You feel a bit stuck – in your job, or a relationship, or in life in general.
  • You’ve some ideas you’d like to follow up, but you never quite get round to it.
  • You lack the confidence to do certain things – including maybe contacting a coach!
  • You guess that coaching is quite a major undertaking – in terms of time, commitment and cost.

What to do?

Jot down first thoughts about your issues and what you want in an email and send it to me, judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk. Then we can talk it through on the phone. If you wish to proceed with coaching, you can start with a single session with no expectation or obligation to continue. Costs are surprisingly reasonable.  If you go for Skype coaching – which works brilliantly – you can learn in the comfort of your own home.

Workshop – Voice of Influence

Gain this important life skill once and for all – the confidence to get up and speak with authority and influence in any context. Is the next workshop going to include you? Email me now to register interest. Groups are kept small. Next workshop February 2016 – I hope to meet you there.

Event – What to Say When you Don’t Know What to Say

A coaching event to watch out for, with Jo McHale. I love the title – it should be an inspiring session – and it’s a great group, open to all: Guildford Coaches at Trinity Centre, Guildford, 27 November, 9.30 – 12.30.  More info and register here.

E-course – 10 Tips For Having a Great Conversation

  • Overcome your nervousness with other people.
  • Find out how to break the silence and get a conversation going
  • Learn how to get on someone’s wavelength in conversation
  • Find out how to make more intimate connection in conversation
  • Learn the secret of enjoying chatting to people.

Over the next 5 days you’ll pick up 10 valuable tips for improving your conversational skills. And over the next months you’ll notice the difference in how people respond!

Other Free E-Courses to Download

* How to Speak with More Authority

* 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP

YouTube video –  the excellent Brene Brown again

Excellent as ever in this short talk about what gets in the way of your doing what you’d like to be remembered by.

Books – The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people. Check out all my books on my Amazon page

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Daily ideas and speaking tips on Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy the tips! Join the discussion!

Comments are closed.