One of the things that gives my mother the biggest kick, and enables her to forgive my rather unusual career choice, is when we receive messages from people who have been inspired to review and reflect upon their lives when they heard about my own change of direction. One such is Andre Branco from Brazil, who asked me how I did the obituary exercise that first brought it home to me that my life was heading in the wrong direction. (I briefly describe this in the intro video on my home page at

As I recall, my answer was rather vague, along the lines that I just sat down and did it. Andre has taken this to a higher level, and I’d like to share with you what he wrote to me a week or so ago – in case you’re thinking of doing your own life audit.

Warning: this process can seriously change your life!

Over to Andre….


For the last three months, I deliberately squeezed myself between two pressures: the shame of replying your last Facebook message with anything different than what I’m about to say below; and the shame of taking too long to reply.

The first nudge prompted me not to reply until I acted; the second prompted me to reply. So I had no choice but to act.

It worked wonderfully: I’ve “finished” my Dream Obituary.
(I quote the “finished”, since I believe it will always be a work-in-progress document; a wonderful and very well-thought 80/20 nevertheless.)

In a Nutshell:
I want to tell you how grateful I am for the insights you shared with me! Knowing how much you achieved after it gave me the will I needed to take the whole process serious. And now I have a solid photograph of who I want to become in my life, plus actions to take now to start bridging the gap. Nothing could be more important. =)

If you happen to be curious about the details of my experience, here it goes.

The Process:

  • Printed the last message you sent me, describing how your process was, and took it with me to Buenos Aires. (I spent 10 days there on my own, between tango and cycling.)

  • In the 1st Jan, I sat down in a quiet, nice cafe (see photos). I ordered some nice yerba mate to sip and stay focused. I re-read your message, meditated on how far you’ve gone by starting with this process, and dove into the blank paper.

  • Some four hours later, I had a quite exhaustive-but-to-the-point four-page manuscript before me.

  • Although an obituary is something read in third in person, I deliberately and consciously chose to write in first person to highlight to myself that the evaluation might be my point-of-view, not the impression of others. (If people happen to misinterpret my life and intentions in my obituary, that’s less of a problem, isn’t it?)
  • Two weeks later, I typed the draft, corrected some phrasing and regrouped the assertions in five different sections for the sake of clarity and easiness to remember.
  • Just today, after weeks of procrastination, I addressed every single bullet in there with two replies: STATUS and NEXT ACTION. I hadn’t so far thought about the gap between who I want to become and who I am, and the exercise gave me the chance to reflect on this gap and on how to bridge it starting today! The good thing: in some topics, I was either quite done or at least already very on track.
  • Finally, I chose the frequency the document was going to be checked and reviewed, and calendarized it.
  • Although the big picture is in my head all the time, I chose to address (focus on, think about, pay more attention to) one specific topic a week, so I don’t get overwhelmed and am sure to take baby steps, one at a time
  • .…and that’s it. Now, lots of work ahead.

—André Branco
Rio de Janeiro
(right now kinda shielded from the way-too-noisy Carnival going on out there)

I hope you’ll find Andre’s process helpful – and thanks to Andre for allowing me to share.

Other Stuff:

Phew. This has been a heck of a week. About 20 meetings, plus various scheduled phone calls. Lots of really cool stuff happening that I would love to share with you, but it may be a little premature. So for now I’ll post a couple of photos and leave the rest to your imagination.

But be assured, it’s ALL good!

Presentation at Google – followed up with a meeting with Google Ocean folks.

Poring over charts with Captain Vince of the White Holly – the research vessel that helped me salvage the Brocade in 2007 after the aborted attempt on the Pacific. Hmm, where to land between Hawaii and Australia? So many options!

Zemanta Pixie


  • To Andre in Rio de Janeiro,

    I was also inspired by Roz’s obituary exercise.
    On Janaury 1st, I wrote down a “to-do” list for
    2009. Some new goals, and also a continuation
    of other goals. The only one I had not begun
    to work on was my obituary, and only because
    I have found it difficult to begin. I will use
    your process and start again!

    Tracy Krueger, Savage, MN USA

  • The Oceans: Why Should We Care?

    When we throw things away, there is no ‘away’. Nothing has ever been ‘disposed of’.
    Everything goes down, which means down into the soil, the rivers and eventually into the ocean.
    Even stuff we dump into the air gets washed down and ends up in the ocean.
    Because the ocean is one system with the land and air. Earth, air, fire and water.
    Everything comes out of the Ocean and returns to it eventually.
    For thousands of years the ocean seemed endless, so out of sight was out of mind.
    It all went down the plug hole, the bottomless hole.

    Now there are twice as many of us as when I was born.
    Our straight line thinking has treated the land and the oceans as a quarry and a dump.
    Nature makes everything food for something else, but we have systematically fouled our own nest and messed our ancestral waters.
    Frankly the ancestors would say,
    ‘You do not fear and respect the powers of the world, and have made yourselves the enemy of living things which are dying at an unprecedented rate
    under your stewardship, and you do not deserve to survive’.
    However, if we change our ways the damage we have done to the land and sea will begin to reverse and we may live to see this.
    Live to see that the only planet we have, that we fouled, is coming back to life for our descendants.
    That’s why we should care.

    john Newson

  • Dear Roz
    I gave myself the job of writing my mother’s obituary, which I read at her funeral in front of her family and friends. I used an insight at the time of my father’s death, that a person’s true life is their ‘love life’; what they loved and how true that they were to that love.
    This relates to an idea that I read in the spiritual classic ‘A Course in Miracles’, where it says there is only Love and Fear. I have seen that at death, someone’s fears are nothing; what is left is their love. Challenges came along, did we respond with fear or love?
    Deaths teaches us that we cannot gain anything – it will all go. But our good actions flow onwards; those motivated by love.

    Let’s not wait for death – you are right, we should be reviewing like this now.

    John PS. Love makes you happy. Unhappiness comes from fear.

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