What Will You Be Remembered For?

My Grandmother was a piano teacher. She was also a world renowned concert pianist. She was awarded her Ph.D. in Piano Performance from the University of Iowa. She was also a freedom fighter, quite active in the civil rights movement in the south. She was also the author of three books about the life of a blind pianist named Blind Tom Wiggins. She was on the Board of Trusties at Dillard University for many years. She was a college professor at the University of Minnesota for about thirty years and Chair of her department for ten of those.

My Grandmother passed away many years ago. If you asked one of her former students who she was, they would likely say, “Dr. Southall was one of my college professors.” If you asked someone who read her books they would reply, “She was the author of the Blind Tom books.” And, if you asked one her friends from college they’d say, “Oh, the girl who played piano? She was pretty good!”

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a Writer and a Technology Consultant. I find it interesting that most of them then follow up with questions about either one of those things, but almost never both. If they latch on to the “Writer” they will ask what I write and I’ll direct them to my site and tell them about my books. If they latch on to the Technology Consulting part, they usually want to know if I can help them in some way with their Mac or their PC or their Website. I give them a card and let them know I can help. My bet is that if someone were to ask them only minutes after we speak what I do, they would likely only tell you the one thing that mattered to them.

This goes not only for the things you do but also for who you are. People will remember what mattered. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who screamed and yelled and flipped other drivers off from behind the wheel? Do you want to be remembered as the person who never had a nice thing to say? Do you want to be remembered by your children as a harsh, strict, and unforgiving parent? Of course no sane person would want any of these things — we all have had our bad moments and made our mistakes. Yet, if we do such things often we risk being remembered for them.

We are all many things. We all do many things. We will do many more things throughout our lives. Yet, when we are gone, most will primarily remember only one of them. They will pick from the lot and remember you as that. What they pick will, in their mind at least, be all that you are. Therefore, it is our job to ask ourselves with all the things we allow ourselves to do, with each and every one, “Is this something I want to be remembered for?”

This is why it is important to make “No” your default response to most things. Those things that seem like great ideas should get a “maybe” until they earn a solid answer one way or the other. But “yes” should only be given to those things that, if you were gone tomorrow, you wouldn’t mind being remembered for.

Note: This came out of a conversation I recently had with my friend Jeff Sandquist. You can read his take on it here: What Do You Do?


I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

On Kicking Ass

There are times in our life when we simply kick ass.

It’s OK to kick a little ass sometimes. In fact, I argue that it is imperative to kick a whole lot of ass when the demands of life call for one to do so.

Like the revolution, the kicking ass will not be televised. You don’t have to prove that you have kicked ass. The fact that you kick ass will be obvious to everyone who knows you. You can go about your life, kicking ass along the way, and know deep inside yourself how much you kick ass.

That said, it is also OK to be proud of it. When one kicks ass of any amount, it is OK to declare that you have done so. Let the world know of your ass kickery.

In either case, make sure to take time to reflect on your ass kicking. Especially if the asses kicked are in amounts higher than the average. Enumerate and take pride on the number of asses kicked.

Personally, I see little need to take the names of the asses kicked. That will only slow one down. One cannot both kick ass and take names at the same time. One must kick ass, pause to take the name, then move on to the next ass kicking.

Unless one needs to keep detailed records of each ass kicked for tax or expense purposes. If so, then by all means, take names as well. Just be intentional about the trade off you are making by doing so.

Regardless, the reason I write this straight forward message is simple — we need everyone to kick more ass. The world has changed. There are increasingly less instances of both ass kicking and those that are ass kickers than there has been in the past. Ass kickers were once admired and plentiful. Ass kickers were desired. They are less so now. In fact, some believe they are actively discouraged. There are even those that claim our institutions of learning are turning ass kickers into ass kissers. So, those that kick ass are desperately needed in these hard times and the harder times to come. Those that do kick ass need to make themselves known as far and wide as possible in order to inspire others to kick ass. As an ass kicker it is your duty now, for the future.

Now, go forth and kick some ass.


I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

Getting Started (After Only Twenty Years)

There is a science fiction story I have had brewing in my head now for over twenty years. It started as just a very simple idea. A “what if” question. A spark of something. For years and years I brushed it aside whenever it popped into view. I always had, what I felt, were valid excuses for writing it off. Here’s how the dialog would most often happen inside my head…

“I’m not a fiction writer.”

“I’m certainly not a science fiction writer.”

“But, it’s a really good idea.”

“Maybe, it would be good to give to one of my friends that are, accomplished, science fiction writers.”

I would act on this. I would tell it to my sci-fi writer friends in passing. They would kindly hear me out, but express no real interest in stealing it from me. “It’s a good idea.”, they would say. “You should write it.”

“But I don’t know how?”, I would resign.

And, so, back into the the bin it would go. Only to pop back up next week/month/year. But, each time a little bit closer — more fully formed each time it returned. Closer to a real story.

The excuses to avoid it, therefore, had to become even more deft…

“I can see the story but I have no idea who would tell it.”

“Where is the voice of the story coming from?”

“Without a voice, you can’t tell a story.”

I would shove it into the bin again — with force and prudence. Convinced that this idea was beyond my reach creatively. It was not my genre. I had no voice. I only had rough ideas and sketches and major details. But, I had not the talent nor skill to weave together into a coherent narrative.

But the idea keeps coming back. It haunts me. It now wakes me up in the middle of the night. It keeps me from being able to rest. Each time getting closer. Showing me a little bit more of itself.

“Write.”, it says.

A few weeks back it gave me it’s voice. I now know who is telling the story and why. And, last night, It came to me in a dream. The opening scene at least. It was lucid while I was barely so. I saw our protagonist. I knew his motivations. It was a start. It was not the whole story. But, it was enough for me to get the opening lines down first thing this morning.

Y’weh sits on the bench with his face in his hands. He’s tired. Lately, he sits here in much the same position before the work day begins. Exhausted before he has even started. His lab coat feeling like a burial shroud. He’s been at this job for a very long time. And, if he could find another — if he had a choice — he would. But, once you start The Process, you can’t stop the stars. You have to see them through.

It may take me another twenty years to finish. But, today, I finally exhausted all of my excuses — I started.

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