Posted by: Brian Andrew Davis | June 26, 2012

Dash Management

“Begin with the end in mind.”

These words from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have an extremely grave meaning, but a meaning that has the potential to unlock a key to living powerfully and intentionally: consider your death in order to start really living.

While working with IMPACT 360, Bethany and I and the rest of the staff took our students on an interesting leadership development day where we walked out into a graveyard and had the students study the tombstones: the inscriptions, the names, the dates, etc. When we gathered back together we discussed what they saw. It turns out that all tombstones have one thing in common: the dash. That tiny little mark between the birth and death dates that signifies the entirety of a person’s life. Oddly enough, it’s also the only thing that person could control…not their name, not their birth date, not really their death date.

The question came down to this: what do you want to be said at your funeral? What short sentence do you want on our tombstone? What do you want others to remember you for and say about you once you’re gone?

With these answers in mind, you’re ready to begin managing your life and building your legacy: you’re ready to manage your dash.

Last month, all Chick-fil-A’s Interim Managers have started a coaching program with Building Champions where a coach helps us work on being more intentional with business and life. As part of this program, we use a tool called the “Life Plan” that helps us identify the things in life that are most important to us: our “life accounts”. I took a day a few weeks ago and went to Snowbird Ski Resort to get away, consider my life, and work on my life plan. As part of this, we also got a chance to write our own eulogy (yes, I got to be a eugoogolizer):

Brian was a passionate follower of Jesus Christ who found ways to make himself, others, and our world more like the Kingdom of God. He used his time, resources, words, and efforts to develop others and make them everything that they could be. His passion for true friendship allowed him to connect with others in genuine ways and to connect people with others. His marriage to Bethany was an example of the way Christ loves the church–he sacrificed for her, wooed her to himself, and was always there to listen and simply be with her. He was a father who loved his children tenderly and led them as they started an exciting adventure: a life led for God’s glory. He helped to tie his family together by providing vision and helping others clarify their roles and passions. He was an intentional friend who was fun but not afraid to challenge others when they needed it. He was a Chick-fil-A Operator who made his team better by selecting the best and making them even better. His creative efforts inspired others and helped people see the truth of God’s design for this world and this life.

I literally got to choose nine life accounts that are important to me and think deeply about each category:
1. God
2. Bethany
3. Vera / Future Children
4. Extended Family
5. Friends
6. Chick-fil-A Career
7. Staying Healthy
8. My Writing
9. The Outdoors

For each category, I wrote out an ‘end vision’, or where I’d like to be 20-30 years from now in each category. Based on that, I wrote a ‘purpose’ for each one: why is this important to me and what role does it play in my life? And then the most nitty gritty but all-important part: the disciplines. How can you make this happen on a daily / weekly / monthly / yearly basis? How will you spend your time and money and what will you do to make this a reality? For some practical examples, this looks like a daily quiet time, a monthly intentional check-in for Bethany and I’s marriage, planned adventure activities to be outdoors, and carving time for writing out each week.

View from the hike I took while working on my life plan (at Snowbird).

Is this over-the-top intentional? Yes. But in order to get where I want to go in all these areas, I’m going to have to be. I have created quite a mountain to climb, but my hope is that after the years I spend climbing it, the view at the top will be spectacular. And hopefully I’ll enjoy the hike up as well! This kind of living is intentional, but it also makes living life simpler: I follow my plan. I no longer have to wonder where I will end up–if I follow this plan (“if the Lord wills”, James 4:15) I will end up exactly where I intend!

For me, this has meant an overhaul of my schedule. I have started “scheduling my priorities” instead of “prioritizing my schedule”. My google calendar now has six colors and several repeating events. I have planned times to call friends / family. I have started waking up at 6:30 AM even though our Chick-fil-A doesn’t open until 10 AM. Bethany and I are working on making my schedule a priority which is hard for both of us sometimes. Despite the growing pains, I am enjoying knowing where I am heading with this, and if there’s any chance I can truly live a life like that eulogy states, I will feel very blessed and have lived a very fulfilling life.

After all, on this side of existence, that dash is all we’ve got.

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