Ok, I forget the quote. But it went something like, "It's not what you do NEXT that's important. It's what you do LAST.”
Lots of ways to interpret this, but I hear it as: What are you going to leave people with when you exit the stage? What final contribution do you intend to make? What are people going to remember you for?
This applies to organizations as well as individuals. And of course to musical acts.
The Beatles' final recording was their Abbey Road album. (The acrimonious Let It Be sessions were released after Abbey Road, but they were recorded before.) The Fabs sensed their days were numbered so they decided to put their bickering aside and pull it together for a grand finale. Their farewell message was their last song on the LP in which they sang, “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Concluding their band career with their biggest-selling album, their most joyful recording, and some of their most uplifting lyrics was no small accomplishment. John Lennon had said years earlier that they would decide when to call it quits (and not the fickle public). They delivered on his promise. A textbook case of "going out on top.”
Other musical acts had the wisdom to do the same, including Cream, Simon & Garfunkel, The Band, and The Police. Cream left us with a treasure of live recordings by the first (and arguably the best) hard rock band we've ever had. S&G left us with their monumental Bridge Over Troubled Water album. The Band left us with one of the finest rock docs ever, The Last Waltz. And The Police left us with their most popular album ever, Synchronicity, which included their biggest hit, “Every Breath You Take."
Also, there were the greats who died at the top of their game, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, and Kurt Cobain. (By "on top” I'm referring to artistic and commercial success, not a state of psychological maturity!)
I know I've been beating this drum for awhile, but in business the questions above are critical ones to be asking yourself—certainly as an entrepreneur but especially if you represent an organization or enterprise. What is the ultimate contribution you want to make to your community—and to the world?