This man read 2000 obituaries in a year for a very important reason

Jessica Brown@Jessica_E_Brown
Thursday 02 March 2017 15:00
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Picture:(TED)

You might like books, or blogs, or perhaps the backs of cereal boxes are more your thing.

Entrepreneur Lux Narayan’s breakfast reading of preference is obituaries.

One day, as he read the New York Times newspaper, he wondered how a person could lead a life that would ultimately end in their obituary being featured in the Times, for people like Narayan to read over their breakfast.

He said in his Ted Talk that he decided to look at 2,000 editorial obituaries over 20 months between 2015 and 2016.

He looked at their words; taking descriptors and feeding them into a language processing programme, which took out all the filler words and left the significant ones.

This is just some of what he found:

Film, theatre, music, dance and of course, art, are huge.

Over 40 percent.

You have to wonder why, in so many societies, we insist that our kids pursue engineering or medicine or business or law to be construed as successful.

He also looked at the average age people in the obituaries section were when they achieved things, and found the golden age was 37. He said:

What that means is, you've got to wait 37 years before your first significant achievement that you're remembered for.

Although, Narayan says we hit our professional peak at different ages depending on what we do:

If you're a sports star, you'll probably hit your stride in your twenties. And if you're in your forties, like me, you can join the fun world of politics. Politicians do their first and sometimes only commendable act in their mid-forties.

What did he ultimately learn?

That these people “made a positive dent in the fabric of life,” and that “they helped”.

He said:

So ask yourselves as you go back to your daily lives: How am I using my talents to help society?

Because the most powerful lesson here is, if more people lived their lives trying to be famous in death, the world would be a much better place.

Watch the whole Ted talk right here:

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More: This woman's obituary says she wanted to die instead of voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump

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