He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it; Who has left the world better than he found it, Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; Whose life was an inspiration; Whose memory a benediction.

  • Bessie Anderson Stanley (1904)

Two weeks ago, my father-in-law passed away. It came as a shock to all of us. In some ways, I think we’re all still trying to get our heads and hearts wrapped around it. As Tony and I have been talking about him over these last days, this poem has continued to come to mind. While most of you know the abbreviated version, “Live well; laugh often; love much” or what I call the cliff notes version, “Live, laugh, love,” I think it is only in reading the entire poem that we come to fully appreciate the depth, richness, and complexity, of a human life.

The truth is that each of us has gifts that we can bring to the world. One of my father-in-law’s gifts was to “rescue souls.” Whether he was adopting a rescue animal, championing an underdog, or making sure I knew I still had a dad I could count on when my own father passed away 22 years ago, he put his whole heart into making each of us feel cherished. Over the past few days, we’ve heard such great stories from nieces and nephews, kids on the baseball teams he coached, colleagues, friends, and more, about the acts of kindness that made another’s day just a bit better.

What does success, or a life well-lived, mean to you? Do you know what your gifts are and are you stepping into them? Taking some time to reflect on these questions can help you ground yourself in your values, motivations, and priorities. It also allows you to look at those areas in your life where you are aligned with that vision and those areas that may need a bit of recalibrating. And those gaps that you find? Well, they aren’t a reason to blame or shame yourself. They are simply a chance to course-correct. Each day, each interaction is an opportunity to try again.