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Why The Washington Post Profiled Life Letters

Feb 15, 2024

Late last year I received an inquiry from a journalist who was curious about Life Letters. She was working on a feature article for The Washington Post about how to create goals for the new year with more enduring impact than, say, losing the requisite five pounds or finally going on that bird watching trip (which would no doubt be beautiful). The Post wanted to identify tangible ways for readers to contribute to their own legacies. Today.

The reporter loved the idea of Life Letters as a written expression of what matters most, both as a gift to oneself as well as loved ones and one’s community over time. She also loved the ease and flexibility of how people can craft Life Letters to their “chosen” families or even humankind.

Legacy can be a challenging concept since it is often equated with mortality. This old way of thinking, however, is too limiting. As The Washington Post rightly noted, adopting a legacy mindset has more to do with living purposefully today than imagining a future when we are gone.

What does it mean to adopt a legacy mindset? It’s a lot deeper than simply defining how to pass along your material assets. It’s also about sharing one’s values, life lessons, most memorable moments, treasured family history and more, which many would argue is the true wealth of one’s life. Bottom line: when we take time to reflect on these intangible assets we create a legacy mindset that serves the dual purpose of being a gift to ourselves and the people we care about.

I was thrilled that The Washington Post spoke at length to one of my students, Howard Kaplan, a wealth advisor from Ohio. I’ve never met Howard in person but he took part in one of my virtual Life Letters Workshops. When I challenged Howard to think of a lens with which to share his Life Letter with his wife and daughters, he realized that music could be the connective link. From there, he was off and running, identifying some 42 diverse songs that held meaning to him over the course of his life. Songs like “Family Affair” by Mary Blige, “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift, and “Beautiful Day” by U2.

Naturally, Howard created an actual playlist to accompany his Life Letter. This playful approach made the process of creating the document fun, as did sharing it with his family.

Why postpone sharing the indelible gift of your words? Why wait?

As I told the reporter from The Washington Post, the Life Letter should ideally be shared during one’s lifetime. Why not let it be a cause for celebration?

Circumstances may change over time, but it’s unlikely that our priorities and values will. This is why it’s better to write even a few pages today, knowing that you can always amend your Life Letter at any point. After all, your story is still being written.

Read the entire article from The Washington Post here


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