Six-Word Memoirs help provide focus and inspiration

six-word memoir

For this: “I love you, Dad.”

There’s a legend that Hemingway wrote the greatest short story ever using just six words:

“For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”

There are many indications that Papa didn’t pen those words or— if he did— was not the first to do so. But the Hemingway attribution persists, as these things often do.

The baby shoes story is illustrative of trying to tell a story with the absolute minimum of words. Generally referred to as flash fiction, the six-word limit led to the idea of the six-word memoir, including a collection published in book form by Smith Magazine in 2008.

Regardless, the point remains: you can say a lot without saying much at all. Which brings me around to my question today.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Or, put another way, when you’re gone, what do you want people to remember about you? 

Recently, my CEO group was tasked with considering these questions and writing our own six-word memoirs. It’s a great exercise that will help you hone in on the things that really keep you going, enabling you to marginalize all the noise and trash that just interferes with clear thinking.

It was also surprisingly difficult to do. In the end, I finally settled on:

For this: “I love you, Dad.” 

Do you have your own six-word memoir? If so, I’d love to read it; share it in the comments below. If you haven’t written one yet but want to try, Smith Magazine has some great examples and good inspiration.

Heartbreak leads to a tiny, lovely tribute from a worldwide community

rebeccapurple

Rebecca Alison Meyer
June 7, 2008 – June 7, 2014

Eric Meyer is an expert in what we call Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which are used to control how things “look” in your web browser. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a legend who has spearheaded the development of making it easier for us to build beautiful things. At Rare Bird, we’re all familiar with his work and some of us have either heard him speak or read his books (or, in a few cases, both.)

A couple of weeks ago, on June 7, his daughter Rebecca passed away. She was six.

Eric and his wife, Kathryn, requested that those who attend the services and are comfortable wearing purple do so in honor of Rebecca and her favorite color. Upon hearing this, a member of the WC3 staff, Dom Hazaël-Massieux, requested that a purple in the CSS color list be named “Becca Purple” in her memory. Eric suggested that it be named “rebeccapurple” instead, because his daughter wanted everyone to call her Rebecca after she turned six, and – after all – she was six for almost 12 hours.

On Saturday, June 21, Rebecca Purple (#663399) was officially added as the 141st color to be recognized by name by all web browsers.

And so, from this tremendous heartbreak, a color is born.

What can Brown do for you?

Scout has her own reasons for liking the UPS man

Scout has her own reasons for liking the UPS man

Char told me a story yesterday that I hadn’t heard before. It goes like this:

A few years ago, my Mom sent the kids a bunch of cookies for Easter. They arrived by UPS truck. The kids were ecstatic and over-sugared for days. Score a point for Grandma (and, apparently, the UPS man, because after this delivery they’d shout “Cookies!” and head for the door every time they saw the UPS truck.)

Funny enough, until you imagine how their little hearts broke each time it just drove on by – or worse, stopped to deliver something entirely NOT cookies. Still, they associated the sights and sounds of the big brown truck with cookies just as they did the sights and sounds of that creepy van with ice cream of questionable value and provenance. (An aside: I’m not sure where they get the die for the popsicles coming out of the back of the ice cream truck, but let it touch anything and it will stain for life.)

Fast forward to this week, when Char is out walking Scout and the UPS truck comes around the corner and stops at a neighbor’s house. Scout starts dragging her in the direction of truck. As the tug of war continues, Scout stops dead in her tracks and sits in the street. It takes some amount of coaxing to get her moving again.

As they continue their walk, the UPS truck catches up. Again, Scout starts pulling in the direction of the truck. Char’s mystified… until the truck stops, the UPS man hops out and says to Scout, “Aw, good girl, so good to see you again…” and tosses her a treat.

Score another point for the UPS man, who now apparently only delivers dog cookies.

(The kids are looking at you, Grandma.)

This is about truth. This is about choice. This is about life before death…This is Water.

In a commencement address in 2005, David Foster Wallace told the graduates of Kenyon College that they were about to face a life of boredom, routine, and petty frustration. He said, “The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what ‘day in day out’ really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. [One of these is that] the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

He then explains that the real value of their education is not in teaching them to think,
but in teaching them how to think, by providing them the ability to make a choice about what they think, and when they think it. He continues:

But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over:

“This is water.”

I could go on about this, but I could never do it the justice that the author did, so I will merely provide the following and encourage you – as strongly as possible – to watch it and then read the transcript. I’m telling you, truer words may have never been spoken and few commencement addresses provide as much real world advice to graduates. This should be required reading in colleges throughout the country.

Video: This is Water

A note about the author: David Foster Wallace was an award-winning American novelist, short story writer and essayist (as demonstrated with applomb by “This is Water.”) His second novel, Infinite Jest, was cited as one of the 100 best novels from 1923-2005 by Time magazine. 

Sadly, he suffered greatly from depression and hung himself in 2008, at the age of 46.

 

 

This is how you celebrate the end of Lent

graceEveryone had a play date yesterday except for Grace. So when Char came home, they decided the two of them would ride their bikes to Huddles for some frozen yogurt. When they rang up the totals, there was a significant disparity in the cost between their cups.

Char said, “Grace, my gosh, my yogurt was only $2 and yours was $6.50.”

Grace looked at her cup of two flavors of frozen yogurt, topped with gummy bears, mini white chocolate chips, and Nerd candy and said, “Mom, I haven’t had candy for 40 days. Don’t judge me.”