If your life was boiled down to a sentence…

If your life was boiled down to a sentence…

Recently Dan Pink… author of the best selling booksA Whole New Mind” and “Drive” told the story of Clare Boothe Luce. She was someone who challenged her generation to live out big dreams and to achieve more than what was expected.

For example, she was one of the first female ambassadors for the United States… and one of the first female members of Congress. She was also an accomplished author, playwright and philanthropist.

Well, Dan Pink tells the story of how Mrs. Luce was invited to meet with President John F. Kennedy and as she did… she challenged him with a concept.

The idea was…

“A great man is a sentence.”

For example…

President Abraham Lincoln‘s sentence might have been “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Or… Nelson Mandella‘s sentence might be “He persevered and opened the doors to hope and connection.”

Apparently, Mrs. Luce was concerned that John F. Kennedy was trying to do too much… in too many different areas. And as a result… she challenged him that his “sentence” might become more of a muddled paragraph or chapter.

So… she left him to think about the “sentence” he wanted to live.

The “Sentence”

How about you? Can you identify?

Is your “sentence” feeling muddled?

I know mine sure does some times.

There are days where I feel unclear with my direction… and my “adult-onset ADHD” kicks in. That’s when I start to chase new shiny objects… or start new unrelated (but exciting) projects.

As a result, when Mr. Pink reminded me of this story… and thinking about the “sentence” you want to live… it really challenged me.

I started to ask…

“What is MY sentence?”

Then I started to ask…

“What if I got really clear on this sentence? What could happen?”

Maybe it could help me to filter new ideas. Maybe that sentence could help me make decisions about next steps. Maybe that sentence could guide me. Maybe that sentence could even help me to start thinking longer term.

Heck… internally… I started to even think that getting clear on my “sentence” might in fact help me to think about the legacy I want to leave behind.

(Branding gurus like Drew McLellan and John Morgan might even say that your “sentence” would equal your “personal brand.”)

So… I started the process of getting clear on my sentence:


What are those things that just flow out of you? What are those things that you just picked up easily at school? What are those things that you just seem to grasp more quickly than others?

  • Was it math in elementary school… and accounting in college?
  • Was it crayons in preschool… and a paint brush in high school?
  • Was it working with kids?
  • Was it encouraging others?
  • Was it creating a compelling vision a group of people could aspire to achieve together?

What are some of those things for you?

Ask yourself questions like…

  • What are some of the things I do well?
  • What do I do naturally?
  • What do I love to do?
  • When I’m my best self… what naturally pours out of me?

Look for the words you use to describe those things… they may help you to build your sentence.


Seriously… don’t start by comparing yourself to Ab Lincoln (vampire hunter or president)… let alone your neighbor or co-worker. The size of your accomplishments are not in comparison to someone else.

Nope… the size of your accomplishments relate to who they impact.

If you had an accomplishment that only impacted one child… that’s still important. Or if your accomplishment only helped your department… it matters. If your accomplishment was something you did for yourself… it’s still critical.

So think about some of your key accomplishments and who they impacted.

Then list them out.

These might just help you to get clearer on your sentence.


Listen… unless you die today… which I hope you won’t… your sentence is still being written.

So… give some thought to what your sentence would be if it was written today.

But also give some significant thought to what you’d love your sentence to be… if it was written in 5 years.

Then… start to live in way that would help you to write that sentence with your life.

Join in the conversation…

What might your sentence be? What would you love for your sentence to be? What’s one of your hero’s sentences? Leave a comment and let us know! We’d love to hear from you!

Keep dreaming BIG and helping others to do the same,

Mitch Matthews

PS – At risk of going too long with this post…

I wanted to let you know about my “sentence” as it stands right now.

I’d love for my sentence to be… “He inspires people to dream big and achieve more.”

That may or may not surprise you… but I really dug into this. I looked into the definition of each word and challenged myself on whether this was what I wanted it to be.

For example… with this little exercise… I realized that most definitions for “dream” and “dreaming” have to do more with what we do when we sleep… as opposed to how I define dreaming.

So, in this case… I realized that I would need to better define “dream” for myself… and maybe my generation. Because I believe “dreaming” is where creative thought and innovation start. “Dreaming” is the bigger thinking that happens before the critical thinking and the limitations creep in. Now, do we need to address those critical thoughts and limitations… yes… eventually. But it’s important to start from a place of dreaming first.

Also, through this process I fell in love the word “achieve” again… because the definitions for this include:

  • to carry out successfully : accomplish <achieve a gradual increase in production>
  • to get or attain as the result of exertion : reach <achieved a high degree of skill> <achieved greatness>
  • to attain a desired end or aim : become successful

Yeah… I just like that word.

So call me a geek. But I really like digging into this stuff. Plus, I can also say that I’m starting to filter some of my potential projects and next steps through this sentence this morning… and it’s helping. This sentence is actually helping me to think about where I want to go next and what I need to do… again… to help me move more and more towards living this “sentence.”

So thanks for letting me think… or should I say… dream… out loud!

You’re awesome!

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