A friend stopped by this afternoon, and philosophy happened, as it is customary for us to do.
In considering the Meaning of Life, we got into the exercise of looking back on one's life, and looking forward to the balance of one's life and summing it all up by choosing the words one would want on their tombstone.
How would you write your epitaph? Try it in a maximum of 12 words. It's an interesting exercise to consider your entire life, being, personality, hopes, dreams, and ambitions, achievements... in only 12 words or less.
I took a shot at it and came up with something like: "He Lived Life On His Terms, One Perfect Day At A Time" without thinking about it at all, and it just happened to be 12 words exactly. But about an hour later I started changing things, of course. The first 6 words seemed to be too self-centered, so I improved it to be "A Giver, Who Lived One Perfect Day At A Time." And only 10 words, so much more economical to carve into stone. There's a win-win! But wait, there's more: "Loved Helping Others Succeed. Planning New Adventures To The End."
The exercise continues for a lifetime, as we evolve and refine our raison d'etre. Maybe you would prefer humor, such as "I Knew This Would Happen" or, as the comedy legend W.C. Fields is said to have wanted on his grave: "I'd Rather Be Here Than In Philadelphia." I was born and raised in Philadelphia, so I can relate to his thinking.
Why 12 words? Why not 10 or 20? Is there some ideal number of words for an epitaph? Should it be written in the third person or the first person (He vs. I)? There's a lot to think about when you try to condense a life into a few words.
But it's easier than a vanity license plate! In California you get a maximum of 7 letters and/or numbers, and of course it must be Unique! I like getting a new license plate every once in a while, after I get inspired by some new project. Here's the latest one. DBLM.COM is the URL to this blog, for now, but I like changing things a lot, so the plate could change anytime.
Learn more about the DoubleM Audi at
Is it weird that I have a collection of old vanity plates? Probably. But I figure that getting a new license plate is cheaper than getting a new car.
An epitaph, to me as an entrepreneur, is really a subset of an Elevator Story, which is a subset of an Executive Summary, which is a subset of a Pitch Deck, which is a subset of a website, which is a subset of a Business Plan. Each is a bit of copy/content of different lengths, starting with the shortest, most focused elements, and increasing in length as needed to get the customer/investor/new team member, whoever, to say YES.
The DoubleM Hierarchy of Content:
Company Name - short, descriptive, memorable, ties in with logo, same as product name
Vanity Plate - 7 letters/numbers, available in most states, via online DMV
Epitaph - 12 words max. Looking back, how does this fit into how you want to be remembered?
Tag Line - short phrase describing the business
Value Proposition - brief description of why you bring value to the customer/user
Elevator Story - 30 - 60 seconds
Executive Summary - 1 page
Sales Presentation - pitch scripted, slide presentation, 10 slides minimum, 10 - 20 minutes, +Q/A
Business Plan - a collection of projections and requirements, for marketing, sales, personnel, distribution, legal, financial...
Web presence (site/blog/store) - buy, request info, FAQs, support, news...
The more clearly, congruently, and persuasively you can write each level of the hierarchy, the more likely you will succeed, all other things being equal.
These elements of content should be continuously improving as your business evolves. Try to move through the hierarchy in order, from top to bottom. You want to get something down for each one so that each element is developed from the preceding one.