The only person who can define happiness and success for you is you. The only person who can define meaning for you is you.

Happy Ending

Extraordinary Lessons to Improve Your Business

By Tom Welch

You’ll like this simple, coaching exercise. It will sharpen both your life and leadership perspectives and give you some actions to work on into the end of this year and the beginning of next.

Two recent events got me thinking about this exercise. One was a phone call I received from a Board member of Women Executive Leadership. This organization’s mission is to increase the number of women serving on corporate boards and in executive suites. She asked if I would consider addressing her members to offer them some insights gleaned from my years of hiring and coaching executives.

The other event was a speech I gave at an auditorium full of National Honor Society students. These future leaders listened to me talk about success and happiness and what it takes to travel those paths in life.

So, with these two organizations and their widely differing objectives, why did the two events both lead me to think about the exercise I’m about to give you? It’s because the members of each group have decisions to make about their lives.

The women think that they would like to advance themselves into C-level executive jobs or board director positions. They believe that they have value to add, that they deserve more of those jobs and that those positions will bring them closer to satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness. In some cases, that may be true. In others, not so much but how can they know?

The students are also searching for answers. What are the right courses to take? What will I have to do to catch the eye of my favorite college or university? What professions should I be thinking about?

As a leader, you face decisions on a daily basis both for yourself and your business. You also have a leadership responsibility to help your people with decisions they need to make. So, since decisions never go away, here’s something that may help you as you continue to make them over and over again.

In a conversation between executive coach and author, Marshall Goldsmith and Center for Creative Leadership president, John Ryan, Goldsmith recommended the following idea. He said to imagine that you are 95 years old and getting ready to die. Just before you take your last breath, however, you are given a wonderful gift….the chance to go back in time and talk to the very person you are right now.

What advice would come from that 95-year-old you, who knows what’s really important in life and what isn’t, what matters and what doesn’t, what counts and what doesn’t count? What advice would that wise old person have for you?

Answer that question twice. The first time is about professional advice because the old person wants you to be happy and successful in your job. Your second answer should be personal advice.

Give it a go. When you’ve answered both questions, whatever you are thinking, go do it!

Not to influence your thinking, but when this question was asked of senior citizens who were actually dying, three themes became evident on the personal side.

1. Be happy now.
2. Friends and family matter the most.
3. If you have a dream, go for it.

On the business side, the advice was not much different. Two thoughts were prevalent.

1. Have fun. Life is short.
2. Do whatever you can to help people.

The only person who can define happiness and success for you is you. The only person who can define meaning for you is you.

So, remember what the 95-year-old you is advising….and go do it!

Tom Welch, America’s Career Coach, is a leadership and peak performance expert. He is an executive coach to global leaders who want to accelerate business results. Tom helps people and organizations excel. Contact Tom at or visit

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