T. Boone Pickens died on September 11 (shortly after his Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated my Oregon State Beavers, 52-36). He was 91. In his lifetime, he gave away more than $700 million, nearly $500 million of which was given to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. He was one of the billionaires who, along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, took the “Giving Pledge”, promising to give away at least half of his wealth to charitable purposes.
He left behind a remarkable “final message” which I want to share with you this morning. It begins with his characteristic humor: “If you are reading this, I have passed on from this world — not as big a deal for you as it was for me.”
At the end of this message, he lists his ten “key principles”, all great, but here are the last two:
- Embrace change. Although older people are generally threatened by change, younger people loved me because I embraced change rather than running from it. Change creates opportunity.
I think of Joel Willis’ sermon a week ago Sunday. “There is nothing more vulnerable than entrenched success.” That’s true for us as individuals and as a church. It’s easy to get comfortable. But there is no such thing as “resting on our laurels” while everything stays the same. We are either growing or we are dying.
- Have faith, in spiritual matters, in humanity, and in yourself. That faith will see you through the dark times we all navigate.
The sermon yesterday was about those “dark times we all navigate.” Even billionaires. If it’s all about you, when you die, it’s all over. T. Boone Pickens had plenty of faults and flaws as we all do, but one thing he got very right. Life is about giving, not getting. It is about making the world better for those who will follow.
The question he asked is one we should we should all be asking, long before we reach age 91. “What is it that I will leave behind?”