What Would Your Students Say (Part Three)

The last two days, I’ve been challenging you to re-think your work with kids. If you are like me, you need to evaluate why you do what you do on an annual basis. It gives me perspective. It reminds me of the big picture. Today, I close my three-part blog series with a report from Richard Leider.


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If They Had to Do It Over Again…

I heard Dr. Anthony Campolo speak over a decade ago and share the findings of Richard Leider on senior citizens. For nearly 25 years, Leider has interviewed senior citizens, asking them to look back over their lives and talk about what they’ve learned. Here is a summary of his findings:

“I’ve conducted more than 1,000 interviews with people who were successful in their jobs, who retired from leading companies after distinguished careers. Almost without exception, when these older people look back, they say the same things-things that are instructive and useful for the rest of us as we make decisions going forward in our lives.

1. They say that if they could live their lives over again, they would be more reflective. They got so caught up in the doing, they say, that they often lost sight of the meaning. Usually it took a crisis for them to look at their lives in perspective and try to reestablish the context. Looking back, they wish they had stopped at regular intervals to look at the big picture.

They also sounded a warning: Life picks up speed. The first half of your life is about getting prepared and getting established. Then time shifts gears. You hit the second half of your life, and everything moves faster. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and all of a sudden, you’re 65 years old. Looking back, they say, you realize that time is the most precious currency in life. And as they got older, having time for reflection became even more important.

2. If they could live their lives over again, they would take more risks. In relationships, they would have been more courageous. And in expressing their creative side, they would have taken more chances. I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us.” Many of these people felt that, despite of their successes, their music was still inside them. Almost all of them said that they felt most alive when they took risks. Just being busy from business made them numb. Aliveness came with learning, growing, stretching, exploring.

3. If they could live their lives over again, they would understand what really gave them fulfillment. I call that the power of purpose: doing something that contributes to life, adding value to life beyond yourself. Purpose is always outside yourself, beyond your ego or your financial self-interest.

We all want both success and fulfillment. Success is often measured in external ways, but there’s an internal measure of success, and it’s called fulfillment. Fulfillment comes from realizing your talents – adding value and living by your values. Fulfillment comes from integrity, from being who you are and expressing who you are as fully as possible. It doesn’t have to do with your job description or the specifics of your work. It has to do with how you bring your self to your work, regardless of what that work is.”

What are your reflections when you look back on your life? Leave a comment.

You can find Richard Leider at

What Would Your Students Say (Part Three)