So here you are on your last day on Earth. As your spirit floats upward toward the heavens (or downward toward you-know-where, whatever…) you look down on yourself and think, “Damn I’m dead. Is that milk in the fridge still good?” And then suddenly everything goes black. You hear nothing. You see nothing. All that is left of you is the legacy that you left behind and the contents of your bowels which you’ve just emptied right there on the hospital bed. Nice job, big guy; what a shitty last impression.
So here’s the question: if you had to choose one, would you rather be forgotten or hatefully remembered?
Venezuela‘s dictator-in-chief, Hugo Chavez, died recently after a lengthy battle with cancer and an even lengthier battle for the hearts and souls of his people. Depending on whom you ask he will be remembered as a liberator and a champion for the poor or as a cruel, power-hungry autocrat unwilling to put the nation before his own desires.
Now, I don’t even speak Venezuelan, so it’s not for me to say which is accurate. It’s true though that we all face a crossroad at some point in our life where we have to decide what it is we stand for. Is it more important that people know you than like you? What are you willing to do to have your 15 minutes?
Ok so now that you’ve decided you can’t just chill and you actually need that moment in the sun, I’ve got some ideas for how you can make your own lasting impression.
- Be a dictator. Mr. Chavez is dead. Elections are in several weeks. There’s still time to get down to South America and enter your name in the ring. If that isn’t possible for you, consider the ways around your home or office that you might take shit over and piss everyone off. Hijack that project and insist you get your way. Take all the sticky notes from the lounge and sell them to your co-workers. Demand that your kids go to bed five minutes before their favorite show ends. Whatever feels nice and dictatorial to you — do it! Note: if you don’t have the stomach to be a full-blown dictator, any level of work as a politician will suffice.
- Audition for a reality show. Here is where talent (as conventionally assessed by the ability to, you know, do something other than being willing to do anything) is optional. If you have the desire and the free time, this could be just your ticket. And the beautiful thing is no matter how good, bad, sexy, dirty, outrageous, relatable, witty, gossipy, or endearing you are, you’ll have haters out of your ass to keep your terrible memory sustained.
- Kill your spouse for the life insurance policy. So this one takes time to plot and develop, but if you can pull it off you are made in the shade. Pick someone significantly older and sicker than you. Be careful; if it’s too obvious people will be talking before you’re able to find a country with a lax extradition policy. You’ll get dirty looks from sugar daddy’s family until you eventually join him underground and you may even get your own story on the Investigation Discovery channel which only features juicy murder mysteries. Either way people will be talking about you and that’s all that matters, right?
- Start a religion. It doesn’t matter what kind. From L. Ron Hubbard to Jesus himself, telling people the path on which they should walk is a surefire ticket to immortality. Take some time to develop a good story; maybe even draw a picture or two. Make sure that you can answer what happens to us when we die, why bad things happen to good people, and how large an offering will be necessary to appease an angry and broke god. Take some liberties with the origin story. Include magic, metaphor, and hyperbole. Most of all, make sure that the path to salvation is clearest for those who look/think/act just like you. If you can get Tom Cruise on board, awesome! A sex scandal is optional.
- Take yourself VERY SERIOUSLY. There is no better way to win friends and influence people than by not being able to laugh at yourself or the things around you. Step on other people’s jokes. Insist that everyone in the office stays until exactly 5pm. Beat other people over the head with the stick that lives in your butt. (For those of you who may fit in this category, Wikipedia “sarcasm”). The legacy you leave behind will be as warm and lovely as you have been.
The choice is yours, my friends. Will you be like Hugo when you go?