The Deathbed Thoughts of an Entrepreneur

So you are one of those hard-core, hard-driving, workaholic entrepreneurs, right? You’re a winner! I get it. And I applaud you, or at least I would have applauded you years ago. In fact, I would have done the “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” hand wave dance for you back then. I might even have tried to kiss your feet. But today? None of that. Today, in fact, I feel sorry for you.

You see, I was that guy. Years ago, I was dead set on winning the entrepreneurial game. I wore the title ‘workaholic’ like a badge of courage. But one day, on a very nondescript day, I had an epiphany. It all clicked for me. On the day I die, I won’t be saying I should have worked harder. I will be asking myself if I lived life to the fullest. I will ask myself if I fulfilled my life’s purpose. I will wonder whether I loved my family and friends unabashedly.

Perhaps it was the Sam Walton story that helped me to see the error of my ways. He was a guy that I idolized for his business success, and today I still aspire to learn from the final words that he spoke on his deathbed.

Sam Walton, by any measure, is considered to be the ultimate entrepreneur. He took a small general store, revolutionized the retail industry, and built his business into the world mega-corporation that Walmart is today. During his lifetime, he was in regular contention for being the richest man in the world. I mean, the man made a five-and-dime into a world power. Yet it is what he said on his deathbed that should give us all pause.

His final words, uttered prior to his death, were “I blew it.”

How could that be?, you ask. He was a full-time, always-there business man. But that is where the problem lies because, when it came to the rest of his life, he was never so dedicated or “there.” He was never there as a father, husband and friend. He had the wealthiest pockets, but he had the poorest soul. And, in the last minutes of his life, he realized where he had failed.

I wonder if the same would be true for a man or woman who dies, having lived the richest life with family and friends they loved, yet didn’t have a business success story. I suspect that they won’t say, “I blew it.”

Here’s the hard truth: you and I are on our deathbed. Of course, I hope I am being figurative here, not literal. I hope you and I still have time. But I can guarantee you that we will eventually experience it. We are all going to die. And for all of us it will happen sooner than we want, if we don’t start working on the life part way more than the entrepreneurial part.

Sam Walton left us with the greatest entrepreneurial lesson of all time. It is better to have an incomplete business life than an incomplete human life. Keep that in mind as you work on your business. It may be important to you to have business success and reach goals, but it is more important to build loving and meaningful relationships.

On your deathbed, it is the people you loved and with whom you built relationships that will be there, providing you comfort, not a business or a bank account. In the end, they are what will matter, not how big your company is, or how much money you have stashed away in the bank. And Sam Walton is proof of that.


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