10 SEC READING: careful with your work

Illustration by Ken Crane

As a boy, Abin-Alsar overheard a conversation between his father and a dervish.

“Careful with your work”, said the dervish. “Think of what future generations will say about you.”
“So what?”, replied his father, “When I die, everything shall end, and it will not matter what they say.”

Abin-Alsar never forgot that conversation.

During his whole life, he made an effort to do good, to help people and go about his work with enthusiasm.
He became well-known for his concern for others.
When he died, he left behind a great number of things which improved the quality of life in his town.

On his tombstone, he had the following epitaph engraved:

“A life which ends with death, is a worthless life.”

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  1. Rachel says:

    I dont quite understand… A life that ends in death is a life not well spent? what does that mean? Also… the Dervish says to be careful with your work but the father says who cares…? would someone care to explain?

    1. Umer says:

      Hi Rachel, The concept in “A life that ends in death is a life not well spent” is referring to the goodwill created by our acts in life which keep on earning us respect and honor after our death.
      e.g. Hospitals, schools, etc. built in someone’s life keep on earning respect for the deceased.
      Hope it helps.

  2. Sunshine says:

    I love/want/wish that anyone and everyone’s doing good, great, everything for anyone and all of us..but too many does it to be remembered by everyone else. Is it really what it takes to make us care?! Put Your name on something, so everyone can see it?? Or doing it to make yourself feel good about you?! That is not the way this world is supposed to work!!
    I know I do good, I know I do bad. I know what I do and I live with it, I deal with it…..I might try to deny somethings at sometimes but while doing that I know it will catch up with me and deal with ME at a point…and the few times I try to run I know it’s coming back to me. So there’s no point running or hiding. Take it, deal with it and be done with it!
    What the destination is doesn’t matter, we all have a journey and that is what we’re taking (could be called life if u dare to). But as we all know/learn/or get to know, and learn again that it’s the choices during this journey that makes the trip….or do they just make you twist and turn along the way?!

    Stay true, stay happy…but if you feel sad/angry/whateverwhatnot do not push it away, feel it, embrace it as a feeling and let it flow as your body/mind/soul needs it to do. I think we should all live righteousness, but not towards what anyone else thinks…but what you feel. It might be wrong to you, and the person left to you…or that I’m right to the whole world except you and that person left to you. Who knows, it could be the opposite. But I feel good, I feel righteous. I care about you and everyone, i swear, I love you all…but don’t try to make me wrong when I’m not. Stay humble.”¨ Let universal peace come

  3. sajeda says:

    one individuals journey does end with death… those remaining behind cannot be bound to keep on remembering you… yet whatever good you may have done will definitely ensure a “Thank You” from whoever benefits from that good… So definitely it is “Sadaqa e Jaaria” but anonymously given!!! Give such from one hand that the other hand also may not know. When you do good, it sends ripples of +ve signals all around, so the only goal should be to do good in this life and then definitely death will embrace you and in the hereafter you will ensure a double +ve beginning, as life in this world is just a transition to the other beginning.

  4. jackienoriega says:

    un llamado a todas las personas que viven por vivir sin dar algo bueno de sí¬ a los que necesitan no solo podrí¬a ser cosas materiales podriamos aportar ayuda psicologica amistad un consejo a tiempo varias formas de que nunca nos borremos de la mente de las personas con que hemos convivido o tratado en alguna situacion o necesidad. si es el caso de poder aportar con recursos debemos empezar siempre desde la misma familia acaso no vemos sus necesidades incluso de compañí¬a y cariño aun estamos a tiempo mientras tengamos vida

  5. w says:

    bem legal. Ele se preocupou tanto com os outros que esqueceu de si propio, mais certamente deve ter sido recompensado no outro plano.

  6. shine says:

    Is this a coincidence I was thinking about this story and wanted to read it, and see you posted it….love Avantika :)

  7. James Stygles says:

    If you are lucky you get to find and fulfill your mission here on earth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do what you were sent here to do? If you have accomplished your mission then maybe when you pass on they will build a statue to commemorate you or maybe they will speak about you for the next thousand years or maybe someone who loved you will smile for a brief moment when they think of you.

  8. Shreya Damani says:

    Amazing epitaph! Inspiring.

  9. Father (here) was dead while he was alive, like many today….

  10. Amali says:

    I need an advice… I fell lost not sad just lost, I know that everything I need is inside my and that I should remember the past, think about the future and live vividly the present, but I still feel lost. The road I’m taking is a long road and I have to walk otherwise I might fall, but now everything is blurry and I cant see where this path is leading…

    1. Maricarmen says:

      Bueno,a mi me pasa lo mismo…y te entiendo…no se si te servira de consuelo,a mi me sirven varias cosas y aunque parezca una tonteria entro a las paginas que mas me entretienen de facebook y paso el tiempo aprendiendo cosas muy interesantes y de paso intento hacer amigos,si te apetece soy Maricarmen Buendia,animate,charlamos.

    2. breezy says:

      well, if it is case… then you must be genius, who thinks she’s lost….

    3. Laura Maria says:

      Hello Amali, my name is Laura Maria. Sometimes it is like that we can’t see where exactly our path is leading. Try to focus on small things that you like and go and find them. I don’t know, maybe you like to walk in nature or read a book. Sometimes it is really important only what you do in the moment and in the moment you will find a new direction to go and head for. And you will feel better again. I trust in that. Try it out!
      a good and pleasant sunday to you

    4. Hanan says:

      I have to say I feel the same at times! But through reading many of Mr. Coelho’s books, I realized that my feelings are a reflect of my fear, my fear to explore myself more, to “dare” to look further, to ask more questions, and to walk more roads! We feel lost because we know we are not fulfilling the reason of our existence!
      It is a long path, and a risky one, but once one knows what is the purpose of his being, he’ll figure his path out.

      I hope I helped.

      Best regards,

    5. Amali says:

      Thank you so much all of you for the advises I really needed .. I guess now I have to keep focusing in my goal and enjoy the view even if is a blurry one…

  11. katie says:

    well …
    so often, when I am “so close to give up” & start to relax, you bring a post that kicks me & tells me to get up again …lol

  12. Jana says:

    The very truth…thanks :)

  13. procuro dejar mi espacio bonito agradable para que lo disfruten otros y mi trabajo no sea en vano. Creo que se traza un camino. Gracias por hacerme crear una conciencia.

  14. Debe de ser muy bonito poder morir y dejar algo bueno en este planeta. Porque asi cuando nos recuerden las personas siempre van a pensar en lo bueno o malo que hayamos echo. Asi es que vamos a tratar de que nos recuerden positivamente ¡¡¡saludos¡¡¡

  15. Yeray says:

    Apuñalando la muerte estando vivo convierte nuestros miedos en experiencias que algún dí­a puede servirnos para algo.Yo prefiero vivir con miedo antes de apuñalar la muerte.

  16. Maria Caixeiro says:

    «Uma vida que termina com a morte é uma vida ní£o muito bem gasta.» A morte ní£o é um fim ,pois se fosse ,se tudo acabasse ali, naquele momento, a vida ní£o teria sentido e o Homem ní£o se sentiria incentivado a aperfeií§oar a sua existíªncia.Se a morte fosse o fim ,a vida seria «além do absurdo»Paulo, tudo termina, tudo recomeí§a…e as nossas obras darí£o testemunho de nós e receberemos o retorno conforme o merecimento.«Conforme semeares assim colhereis »É uma regra simples –faz aos outros o que queres que te faí§am a ti…Deveremos lutar pela realizaí§í£o pessoal, pelo sonho,o sal da vida,saber construir com muito AMOR todos os nossos dias,neste mundo material, para continuarmos felizes noutra dimensí£o!!! Adorei esta reflexí£o MESTRE.

  17. Wonderful advice, thank you dear Paulo

    1. Vanessa says:

      Hi Ric,

      nice to see you here again!
      I agree with you here, it reminded me of James Redfield’s book “The Celestine Vision: Living the New Spiritual Awareness”.
      A life spent should be spent to leave an improvement of some kind.

      take care

    2. Ken Crane says:

      Hi Vanessa,

      I was just reading the same book few hours ago.

  18. Magda Elizondo says:

    Justamente por eso recuerdas a una persona, por todo lo que hizo en vida, por sus obras siempre será recordado.

  19. r. Scrimes says:

    The tombstone for many may read: “A life not well spent is life which ends with deaths.”

  20. aditya says:


  21. What an inspirational tale, Mr. Coelho. And what an amazing way to explain it!!!! As the Pakistani Poet says,

    ” Aisa kuch kar kay chalo ke yehan bohat yad raho”

    Translation: Make sure to do somethning to be remembered when you leave.

  22. Jack says:

    Something all of us should keep in mind. Too often in my own life I forget this concept in the hectic daily routine. Thank you for the reminder.
    I do wonder at Mr. Crane’s use of crosses to illustrate a story about people who probaly are Muslim in faith. It just seemed a little jarring to me.

    1. Nadeen says:

      Hello Mr. Jack,
      why do you find it`s a jarring thing if Muslim people
      do this??

    2. Heimo Kruschinski says:

      I find it staggering that it seems there are problems. One can create problems where none exist. God is not interested in tombs, especially not on illustrations of tombs. With all due respect, I would not worry about such things.

      I wish you all a wonderful night

  23. fatima says:

    that’s true,Islam talks about countless things that will carry on your account even after your death like schooling a child,every penny he earns due to his educational advances,you will be entitled to a share of your good deed and for however long the betterment of your act is evident it is as if you are alive and repeating the good deed every day..

    1. Asarulislam says:

      Well said Fatima Beti. You sure know the secret of life as given to us by The Quran.

  24. Corinne says:

    belle leí§on, mais il n’est pas faux non plus : “Le mal que font les hommes vit après eux. Le bien est souvent enseveli avec leurs cendres” ( Shakespeare).

    1. Corinne says:

      ce n’est pas ce que j’ai voulu ecrire sans doute un problème de technologie ! ” Le mal que font les hommesvit après eux. Le bien est souvent enseveli avec leurs cendres” Shakespeare.

  25. Magnus says:

    I read stuff like this, and I think “YES, this is how I want to live my life. But it back fired. I just felt increasingly lonely and got pissed off no one returned the favour.
    I guess the answer is in that I forgot to live like that towards myself, being too self sacrificing.

    1. Vas says:

      Being good includes expecting nothing in return…. If u r expecting something in return it becomes business but not life…

    2. barbara says:

      And sometimes you have to be patient, because as they say what comes around goes around, and sometimes karma is a bi*ch! Literly!

    3. SJ says:

      Here I just remember the complete explanation of “The Favor Bank” as Mr. Coelho says in his book “the Zahir”

    4. Vanessa says:

      you don’t need to forget about yourself when you want to do good elsewhere Magnus.

      When you’re happy, it becomes contagious, so whatever you do then will spread it :-)


    5. kardo says:

      the same thing happens to me alot when i try to be good to everyone,i find out that its not worth it becasue not all apreciate what you do.sometimes i think its just not worth it.

  26. rehan farooq khan says:

    “A life which ends with death, is a life not well spent”
    wow what a quick and smart reminder to all those whose are diving deep into the ocean of their busy life which seems to have less meaning as soon as it is over.
    good deeds always remain as there is a concept of SADQAE JARIA in islam.

    1. Vas says:

      Liked your comments

  27. Mahi says:

    A great lesson indeed :)

  28. Anabela Cardoso says:

    Abin-Alsar’s father was already dead and he didn’t even know…

  29. Lata sharma says:

    Quite right. Death is not an end. It is the continuity of journey with a new face and a new name towards the same destination.