The Joseph Group

Start at the End and Work Backwards

May 17, 2024

To Inspire:


In 2023 a 15-year-old fan of billionaire William Buffett approached him at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting and asked a simple question, “How do you avoid mistakes in life?” And while this very much seems like a big, complex question, Buffett had a short and simple answer, “You should write your obituary and figure out how to live up to it.”

Thinking about your legacy and what people will say and think about you after you’re gone is certainly much easier for a 90+ year-old than a 15-year-old. But Buffett’s idea of starting at the end and working backward has a long history, going all the way back to Greek and Roman philosophers.

More recently, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos left a successful, lucrative career in banking to pursue his idea of an “online everything store.” After talking it through with his wife and current boss, the deciding factor, according to Bezos, was “regret minimization.” “I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have,'” explains Bezos.

(As a side note, science backs up his intuition that we regret things we didn’t do far more than things we tried that don’t go as planned.)

Steve Jobs took this idea so seriously that every day he looked at himself in the mirror and asked, “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?”

All of this boils down to this question – what are we doing with our time? In the words of William Penn, “Time is what we want the most, but what we use the worst.” So much of our time now is filled with the busyness of modern life and distractions like television and smart phones.

It can be tough to think about the end of our time here on Earth, but instead of avoiding it, we should use that awareness to help us find focus and work to spend our time in ways aligned with our beliefs and our purpose.

There is a bit of Mary Oliver poetry I think about often, and I’ll share it here in the hope it inspires you as it does me: “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”






Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications



Source: Stillman, Jessica. Steal Warren Buffett’s Reverse Obituary Trick to Avoid Regrets. Inc.com