The Greatest Of All Time has died. But what he leaves behind is a lifetime of inspiration and, not surprisingly, the Greatest descriptions of how he’d like to be remembered:
From a 1972 interview with David Frost what he’d like people to think about him when he’s gone – this “recipe for life” was his answer.
And another tweeted by J.K. Rowling. The last line would make anyone crack a smile.
And the timeless, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
It was four years ago that my dad, at age 76 set off on a group bicycle trip across Canada. He had planned, trained and packed for it months in advance. What none of us prepared for, was for him to be three quarters of the way through the trip, and get hit by a pickup truck. After many surgeries, months of rehabilitation and years of recovery my dad celebrated his 80th birthday with us this year. He is an amazing, tough, intelligent, generous, man, husband, father and grandpa. We are all incredibly grateful that he pulled through it all, a little worse for the wear, but he is now 80! Our family learned some valuable lessons along the way, which is what drew me into Co-founding GYST with Chanel and Phil.
I wanted to personally introduce our third installment of ‘The GYST of It’ and highly encourage all of you GYST’ers to take some time to follow these 4 GYST Tips for Summer. They will make your summer adventures more organized, and also to prepare and protect your families no matter what happens.
Come on, you’ve got this!
Jessica Ostrow, GYST Co-founder & CEO
A vacation is a top trigger that motivates parents to get their will and estate planning done.
Headed out of town without your children? First, congratulations. Second, don’t wait until the last minute to realize, “Oh sh*t, we never finished our will!”
Almost every attorney we know has received a call from anxious parents going on vacation (or from the airport!) realizing their will or living will isn’t done.
With your estate plans in place, you can head off on your vacation stress free. Well, maybe those TSA lines will be a little stressful…
Do you have life insurance? Our friends at PolicyGenius make it easy to get quotes from all the top providers. Yes, this is a plug for PolicyGenius, but we think they do a great job providing you with the information you need to choose wisely. If you have questions, read our guide covering all things insurance.
Not sure if you need travel insurance? Check out this review of the best travel insurance for 2016, what to look for, why you might want it and some of the best options to fit your travel needs from Simple Dollar.
“Whether you’re dealing with an unexpected illness, a death in the family, or a lost suitcase, all of these scenarios have the potential to cancel or ruin your travels.”
Saundra Latham, writer for The Simple Dollar
Getting all of your account information and passwords assembled in one place can seem overwhelming, but any task will feel easier if you can break it down into simple steps. We have created The GYST Digital Details downloadable checklist, with a sample of accounts and details to track.
GYST TIP: Pick 5 accounts each week to track down. By the end of summer, you’ll have listed over 60 accounts! Imagine if you get your family involved in organizing these for your parents.
We asked each GYST team member to share their favorite travel app with you:
“Wunderlist keeps all my must-reads and to-do lists with me wherever I go.” – Chanel, Co-founder
“When traveling, I like to use Glympse to share my location so family and friends can see exactly when I’ll arrive and know if I’m having car trouble or stuck in traffic.” – Chip, Lead Engineer
“Google Maps has an awesome offline mode that saved my family from being lost in the Alps.” – Jessica, CEO and Co-founder
“At home or away I need to know if the Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons is still as badass as ever, so I always keep HBO Now loaded on my phone before a family trip.” – Phil, Co-founder
GYST TIP: We all recommend Rick Steves’s, Best Smartphone Apps for Travelers, with a list of great apps for every kind of trip.
Have a great tip you want to share with other GYST’ers? Have something you’d like us to research and feature on GYST.com or the next The GYST of It newsletter? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GYST Team
And then try again the next day…
GYST Co-Founder Chanel Reynolds shares her personal story about becoming a widowed single-parent and how she (finally) got her shit together. Learn how taking care of a few core items now can save you a mountain of suffering ‘After’. And if the shit has already hit the fan – a checklist for what to do, find, and organize.
“There are a few simple things I wish I had taken care of before my life went sideways – like a will, life insurance, and some details jotted down.”
On July 17, 2009, my husband José Hernando was hit by a van while riding his bike down a pretty road near the lake, a few miles from our house. One of the stunning and glorious summer days in Seattle that make living through all the winter rain and gray feel worth it. He was set on going for a quick training ride before his last bike race of the season. I wanted him to go to a dinner party with me and our 5-year old instead.
Our last moment together, he was being goofy and adorable, wanting me to kiss him before he left. I refused, twice. We had been bickering about the usual two-working-parents-young-child-no-time type issue. He tried one last time and I couldn’t help smile at him and kiss him back.
My last words to him were, “Ok, I’ll kiss you, but I’m still mad at you.”
Twenty minutes later it was all over. The accident was really, really bad. It decimated his upper spine and caused an immediate traumatic cardiac arrest. Technically, he died on the scene.
But somehow, José made it to the hospital with the barest of a pulse. Everyone was shocked. The paramedics were so well trained, the hospital so close, the ER docs so amazing, José was in such incredible physical shape. They were able to keep just enough of him alive. And yet, after a time-suspending week in the ER, surgery, the ICU; every possible test told us the same story. He was never coming back. So I made the decision I was most certain he would want. I approved removing medical support and, quickly, he was gone.
I stayed with him a few hours, took all the tape and tubes off and washed his body. Family came into the room to brush his forehead or touch his hand. I had to pick a funeral home. Then, there was nothing else to do but go home and tell our son his dad was dead. At some point I’d try figure out what, and how, I was going to live the rest of my life. Do you just wake up the next day and put on pants and go the store like a regular human? I had no idea. Could I afford the the house? What is probate? How much insurance did we have? What the password to his phone? Again, no idea.
But, there was another thought banging around in my head. It landed there the first day in the ICU when I turned to my friend and said, “Oh my god, I don’t have my shit together at all. And if this is happening to us, what about everyone else in the hospital? And everywhere? We’re all so much more vulnerable than we ever imagined.”
If I could make it out the other end of this alive – I didn’t want anyone else to have to.
So, out of scribbles in notebooks, hours and hours making phone calls and tracking stuff down I learned the hard way about all the things I could have done ‘before’ that would have helped the ‘after’ suck a little less. I had an unbelievable amount of positive support and help from friends. Then, there were also the numerous and wildly messy late nights, very dark thoughts, and more than a handful of moments too unbearable to speak aloud. It was very hard and seemed to take forever, but after a few years I (mostly) got my shit together.
And, that moment in the hospital stayed with me, I couldn’t shake it and knew I wanted to help anyone and everyone avoid the ‘optional’ suffering that comes along with the crappy, sad, and gut-wrenching suffering we cannot. Like death, or diagnosis, or disaster, etc.
A few years after José died, most days I felt almost like myself again so I finally launched a website called Get Your Shit Together (getyourshittogether.org). It wasn’t fancy, but it was true and honest and broke down all the overwhelming stuff into an easy list of all the things I wish I would have done. It worked.
In fact, it really worked. I launched the site on Monday night, and in 24 hours thousands of folks were hitting the site.
And by Friday, it was featured in Ron Lieber’s New York Times ‘Your Money’ Column. Apparently, a lot people read it.
I was beside-myself-excited the message was reaching so many people and was really helping.
The press was very kind to generously share the site.
And then, thousands of break-your-heart-open-all-over-the-floor notes from all over the world started pouring into my inbox.
Having read your story I know I’m not crazy, just stressed temporarily out of my mind. I’ll be sharing your website with anyone who will listen because I would not wish this experience on anyone. I’ll be collecting passwords and using your checklists so that I make things easier for my husband, daughter and myself.
Three years after José died, I found myself talking about the terrible details of his death over, and over, and over again. And pretty quickly, it made me feel like crawling under my bed with a bottle of whatever and a take a ten-day nap.
“This is going to be short as I am now sitting in a hospital room with my husband who suffered a stroke after hitting his head. This lead to Brain Surgery on Saturday. I am in the same boat. My husband was financially responsible for mortgages, rent, car payments, etc… I was laid off 3 months ago. I have no passwords, documents, etc… We don’t know what the future brings us.”
It could have dawned on me more quickly, however, that in my hopes to help people take care of this stuff Before – I was finding a whole lot of people, like myself, who found themselves in a world of hurt After.
And when I had enough time between his death and the beginning of the rest of my life I could see it isn’t just about my story – it is about all of our stories. We all have one, or will. And that’s why Jessica, Phil and I (plus a bad-ass strategic advisor who brought us together) created GYST.com. So, now what? We want to help as many people as possible get their shit together.
A few months ago I went through and laid out as much of what I want to have happen as I could, after I watched a family friend go through a sudden death that no one was prepared for. The whole time my wife gave me the “I don’t want to think about this!” attitude, but I know that if she ever does need it, she will be grateful for it.
Recently, I was asked a (surprisingly) hard question. If I could go back in time and offer some advice that isn’t on the website, what would it be?
The first thing that came to mind is I would lean in close, give myself a hug, and say, “Oh sweetie, if anyone can do this, you can.” Here are a few other tips.
Everyone is different, and I won’t pretend to know how you can best take care of yourself, or family, kids, house, pets, bills, mortgage, grocery shopping, house-cleaning, carpools, finances or forgiveness – but I do know that these few mantras I said over and over in my head really helped, and others seem to have found them useful, too.
Adrenaline can keep you going for a little while, but then, not so much.
So it may sound a bit cliche, but it is 100% true. You must take care of you or you won’t be of help to yourself or anyone else. The two times in my whole life that I lost 10-15 pounds in one week is 1) when I got e-coli while traveling internationally, and 2) the week my husband died.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Sleep enough. Eat enough. Move your body.
Every day. Consider this your job. Period. That is all.
Letting people help you will make them feel better. Let them.
I grew up in Minnesota, which means asking for help isn’t really part of my vocabulary. For example, I’d almost prefer to light myself on fire rather than let someone carry a bag of groceries for me. The thing about going through a hard time, is that it pretty much totally and completely levels us all. And often we are too sad, proud, overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, or stubborn to accept help. And generally too shattered to ask for it. So please, let someone carry a damn bag of groceries for you.
When it comes to helping, people also/often have no idea how to do it, or even know what to say. Which, unfortunately, can look really awkward or they may even ‘panic-talk’ and say something stupid – ending up not being helpful at all. Which wasn’t the point.
Friend: “Anything at all ok? I’m here to help. You’re not alone. So just call me. Annnnnytime.”
You (option 1): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. (and you never call)
You (option 2): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. Actually, I am finding it hard to keep up with everything. The yard needs to be mowed/dog-walked/kids driven to sports/etc. Could you do that once or twice a week for a while?
You might have to “help them help you.” Please go with option #2.
Organize the shit out of the important stuff. Everything else? Meh.
Perhaps military protocol or the mafia isn’t your default organizing style – but in desperate times you need to know the important shit is covered. Everything else can likely slide for a while. And yes, I watched way too much of The Sopranos a while back.
Whatever you want to call it, there are a few basic categories of ‘stuff’ that needs to get taken care of, if you only have to talk to one person (a.k.a. your “Captain”) then that is way easier to manage.
Here are the general ‘neighborhoods’ of stuff that need Captaining:
Get the elephant sitting on top of you off your chest.
One thing at a time. Baby steps. Or, “Whatever gets you through the night.”, as our friend Frank Sinatra said. Ask yourself what worries you the most or keeps you up at night. What one task will make you feel better or relieved once it is done?
One by one – get it done. Trying to eat the elephant off your chest all in one day is too overwhelming. But bite by bite? If anyone can do it, you can.
My daughter has the stomach flu. The school asked me to get involved with the auction. Work just gave me a big project with crazy deadlines. I couldn’t find a way to fit it into my calendar. Life is tumultuous. We’re busy people working through distractions that compete with the priorities that give structure and purpose to our lives.
Still many of us, despite our best intentions, allow the boundaries around our time to be compromised. Learn about 6 powerful insights from professional experts so you can say “Yes” to the right things and get more done.
Speaking of tumultuous lives, and putting off what’s important, unless you were traveling in one of the last places on earth without cell coverage, you already know about Prince, and like the rest of the world, shed a purple tear over the sad news of his way too early death. And if you’re part of the 98% who are active in the social sphere, then you also likely heard that Prince did not have a will. Shocker right? Hardly really. According to a recent GYST poll, when registrants were asked “What is the status of your will?” 80% answered “Not Done” and 12% answered “Needs Updating” – let’s start a revolution for a whole new band. (And a huge shout out to the 8% of you who answered “Done” – GYST thinks you rock!)
“You say you want a leader but, you just can’t seem to make up your mind”
– Purple Rain, Prince
Last month we interviewed a group of leaders across a range of professional fields. From pragmatic life coaches to empathetic financial planners, from emotionally intelligent social workers to country music lovin estate planning attorneys. Our team traversed the issues of procrastination with these discipline experts and found powerful insights in how they deal with clients. Then we made our own GYST remix of 6 practical strategies to harmonize the noise in our busy lives.
“Procrastination has a negative sentiment” said Owner of My Whole Life Coaching, CJ Liu “We don’t as individuals sit on the couch, and not write our wills because we’d rather be lazy and eat potato chips. No, we avoid things like writing our wills because we don’t enjoy contemplating the idea of death. We have emotional issues that prevent us from our doing rational things for ourselves and our families.” Liu says, “For some people the idea of death is just too painful, so people avoid the pain these experiences bring altogether but, that doesn’t mean people are lazy.” Liu’s advice is to “explore the root cause behind the emotional issues that are causing those the behaviors to be present.”
“People are too busy living their lives today to take time out and plan for their not being around tomorrow” says Karen Ramsey, Certified Financial Planner, Founder and President of Ramsey & Associates and author of Everything you Know About Money is Wrong “they need to go to the grocery store.” Ramsey’s point is valid.
In a recent GYST poll, over 46% of respondents ages 25-54 claim they are “too busy” when asked about why they haven’t completed their will or living will.
Referring to issues such as blood pressure, weight or financial stress, Ramsey says, “change is hard but, when the fear associated with not doing something becomes higher than the pain of doing something, that’s when you’ll see people modify their behavior.” Ramsey’s advice, “to understand the causes of procrastination reminds us to explore better ways of controlling our impulses and knowing the limits of when it’s best take on a new responsibility for the school auction to managing the urge to buy something we find on the internet that doesn’t work with our life’s priorities.”
Shonda Rhimes, award winning television writer and producer, in her recent book: “Just say Yes,” shares how to say “no”.
“No is a complete sentence. I’ve heard that cliché over and over. So I decided to treat no in the same way I treat saying thank you. Say no and then don’t say anything else. I come up with three different clear ways of saying no …
To understand the source of procrastination it’s important to appreciate the challenges that come with competing priorities. Erin Galvin, LICSW, HR Manager for Pagliacci Pizza, explains, “people are complex, where does a task sit in terms of importance to that person?” Galvin emphasizes the need to study a person and their ambivalence toward a meeting or task.
“Procrastination sounds like a judgement but, most often people have a rational or emotional reason for not to doing something.” – Erin Galvin
Galvin, a student of Motivational Interviewing (MI) says, “a person might be willing to go have a conversation about end of life with their family but, conclude that they don’t have the ability to engage their family in a conversation and decide that they are not going to go through with it.” Galvin’s advice is to “take the time to explore blockers that appear to be in the way with someone who, ideally, is not invested in the outcome.”
“Sometimes people just don’t know what to do,” say Liu. “ For example, if I say, ‘put together a networking plan’ and then when I meet with them next time ask to take a look at their networking plan, and there is no plan, it’s as if they’re stuck. This isn’t because they’re procrastinators. It’s because they’re like teenagers who are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to create that plan in the first place.”
Liu has a solution for those who are stuck, “I find the easiest way to help clients is to break it down for them and offer simple suggestions. Things like, start by making a list of people you want to meet, create a list of questions you want to ask those people, have a clear agenda along with a clear set of deliverables you can send in an email with a clear call to action and next steps. So when you give a task like putting together a networking plan, it’s important to understand that for many it feels like a herculean task each with five small tasks embedded inside each big task.
The problem isn’t that people are too busy or too lazy and procrastinate, most often it’s because they’re just are too afraid to ask questions like, “I am struggling with where should I put the call-to-action – should I place it at the beginning or end of the email?” Liu says, “when a person is asked to create a plan, they not only don’t know what the big tasks are, but they also don’t know the 25 little embedded tasks within each, so they often just give up.”
Liu’s advice, “make people comfortable admitting what they don’t know and start by helping people parse things into little tasks.”
“Many of my clients” Liu says, “buy books – they read them, they try out the strategies and say, ‘I tried it and it’s not working for me. I give up.” Lui says the problem is not that an author like Stephen Covey is wrong. It’s that people haven’t figured out a way to apply the thinking in the books a way that works for the natural way my clients like to get things done.” Liu likens it to learning to teach right-handed people to switch and write with their left-hand. “It’s just not natural,” says Liu.
Liu’s advice, “start experimenting by doing what you know.”
Liu says, “If you don’t like working out by yourself, don’t force yourself to go to the gym for exercise – you’ll resent it. Instead find something you like doing, say like hanging out with a friend and choose an activity you’ll both enjoy, like dancing. This way you get exercise, have time to hang out with a friend and do something that hopefully you and your friend both think is fun.”
Tim Burkart, Estate planning attorney, and member of the American College of Trust and Estate Council, says, “Doing your estate plan is one of the things that responsible people do and is similar to retirement planning or making sure your home is properly maintained.” A small minority of people are superstitious and fear that if they sign their Will, they will die shortly thereafter.” Burkart adds, “my clients are busy people with active families and professional careers.” Speaking about the challenges people have with getting their documents in order, Burkart says, “My clients often don’t’ feel like taking time away from work but, in the end it’s just what reasonable people do to protect their assets and their families.” Burkart reminds that one of the more common conversations that slow people’s decision making process down is the conversation around that of guardianship for minor children.
Burkhart advice, “get started – it’s a maintenance plan for your life.”
Our updated checklist now includes: wills, living wills, life insurance, emergency financial planning and community. Each breaks down the task into a series of steps and gives you an easy way to get started. There are reviews of services, lists of attorneys and guides to help you learn more about these topics.
Having someone hold you accountable can help you along the way. Think of getting these plans in place as a goal and who you could share that with that will help you be successful.
Start researching which option is best for you to create a Living Will/Advance Directive.
You digital details are all of your accounts, numbers and passwords, but getting them all sorted out and organized can seem overwhelming. In fact task is just like what Lui describes, one task with a lot of smaller tasks embedded. Solution, just break it down and knock off a few of these at a time. Learn more in this article.
Talking about grown-up stuff can feel like a bit of a bummer, perhaps this is why we are so successful at procrastinating many of those big, important things. So, check out the 9 things you really, really should do to get your shit together, and still keep a smile on your face.
1. It’s never too early to start planning.
2. Think about the consequences. Chances are good they will suck way more than actually getting your shit together. Take it one thing at a time – lather, rinse, repeat.
3. Get insurance. Get enough. When stuff goes wrong, you don’t want everything else to fall apart, too. Insurance can help cover your vulnerable spots.
4. Write your will and say who gets what, and when. There will be less fighting, confusion and lower probate costs. You know, just in case you can’t actually take it with you…
5. And, of course, your living will. End-of-life wishes are specifics you want people to know, not guess.
6. Pay attention to the details. Make sure access to accounts and important documents can be located. And maybe you’d prefer other things *don’t* get found.
7. Talk about death ahead of time. Talking about it won’t actually kill you.
8. And when you do, tell the truth. Especially with kids. Be kind, but be honest.
9. But most importantly, it’s never too late to start planning.
Written by Chanel Reynolds, Co-Founder of GYST and Founder of getyourshittogether.org.
The most important thing you can do for National Healthcare Decisions Day is complete your living will. Here’s all the must-have information to get it done.
First on your list: Read our review of 5 online options from free to $50 to find the right one for you.
2. Get the basics in 3 minutes and watch a Living Will 101 video by GYST Co-founder Chanel Reynolds or read the GYST Guide to Living Wills article.
3. Prepare to have the conversation with the important people in your life, there’s some excellent advice in The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit and this wonderful video by the end-of-life and overall badass Ellen Goodman.
4. Invite the conversation, in fact, why not Have Dinner and Talk about Death. Michael Hebb and his brilliant team have made it easy, and lovely, to organize.
5. Have a think about the growing Death Positive movement. Yes, it’s a thing. Incredible trailblazers, artists, doctors and advocates are working passionately to make end-of-life (also called Death) better for you and all of us. Here’s just the tip of the iceberg:
Atul Gawande: Read Being Mortal, it was a game-changer for me (get tissues).
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky: Founder of the Trauma Stewardship Institute and essentially, at some point in your life, you’ll really need what she’s got.
Megan Devine: Founder of Refuge in Grief and author of the most helpful article I’ve ever read – How to Help a Grieving Friend: 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do.
And lastly: Sharing is Caring. So please spread the love. Ask, tell, show and share with your friends and don’t forget to add #NHDD
Written by Chanel Reynolds, Co-Founder of GYST and Founder of getyourshittogether.org.
Given you are reading this, let’s assume that today is not the day you’ll die. Someone will, but chances are good it (likely) won’t be you. So, what are you going to do with these 24 whole brand-new hours ahead of you?
Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of what we already know:
2. When overwhelmed, get some focus.
3. And focus on what really matters to you.
4. Make the life you want, every day counts.
Eric was a supporter of GYST and recommended it to his friends who were having children or getting married. But, it took Eric and his own wife a few years of telling each other what they ‘should’ do before they really did anything about their own wills.
When Eric first learned about GYST Co-Founder Chanel Reynolds on National Public Radio he immediately went home, printed out the GYST list of important things to do and began recommending it as a resource to many he knew.
“I realized recently that I’d been giving people advice but, not following it myself. I had a relatively simple estate, I didn’t feel like I needed a lawyer. Reminders from GYST helped me stop talking and start doing.”
Like a chore needing to be checked off the list, Eric needed an easy tool where he could follow a series of steps, complete his own will in one sitting, print it up, have a couple witnesses sign it, and send copies to his named executors and guardians for his children.
“Just do it. It feels great for my wife and I to be done. We feel like we did the responsible thing – protecting our family from one less hassle in the event of our death.”
Tell us your story. Email us! We’d love to hear from you.
Next: Go to the GYST Checklist.