Lee Eisenberg's book, "The Number," contains an interesting exercise which I thought I'd share with you. Eisenberg describes his time with financial planner George Kinder, one of the pioneers of "life planning," a discipline that tries to go beyond simply helping you figure out how much money you need, and into why you need it. The climax of his training occurs when he asks three simple questions:
1) Assume you have all the money you could ever need. What would you do with it? How would you live?
2) Your doctor discovers that you have a rare illness. You'll feel perfectly fine, but you will die within 5 to 10 years. What would you do?
3) Your doctor tells you that you only have 24 hours to live. What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?
According to George Kinder, who asks these three questions, the first two questions produce long lists and concern material wants. The third question is almost always about something qualitative, and that is the answer that really matters.
How would you answer these questions?
I noticed that nobody has answered the questions yet. To provoke some thoughts, I'll give you my answers:
1) If I woke up rich, my life would be pretty similar except for three things:
a) I would take a nap every day.
b) I would never wash a dish, mop a floor, or pick up dog excrement again.
c) I might actually blog more often.
2) If I discovered that I was going to die in 5-10 years, I would put two things at the top of my priority list:
a) Spending time with loved ones
b) Writing and otherwise securing my legacy
Of course, I would probably also try to funnel billions of dollars into research for a cure!
3) If I discovered that I had only 24 hours to live, I would miss not being able to help my children grow up. I would miss not being able to see my grandchildren. I would miss being able to spend the time with my wife that we always assumed we'd be able to spend later in our lives. And I would regret all the things that I'd have to leave undone, including a number of things that I hope would have had an impact on making people's lives better (as opposed to just increasing shareholder value).