I’ve heard the quote, “No one ever wished they spent more time at work on their deathbed” one too many times. I have a beef with it. I understand the intention of the quote and I agree with the sentiment, but it’s dangerous to claim absolutes. A single exception disproves the whole thing. Plus there’s the whole idea of following your passion. If someone is doing what they love, why wouldn’t they wish to have spent more time on it when they’re about to kick the proverbial can?
I found it hard to believe that no one in their dying words had ever expressed a desire to have done more work. Surely achievers like Edison, Einstein, Madam Curie and Mozart would have expressed some small measure of regret for not having been able to accomplish more. I searched several collections of last words and found two examples.
Leondardo da Vinci’s last words were, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
Osamu Tezuka said, “I’m begging you, let me work!” as a nurse took his drawing board from his hospital bed and encouraged him to get some sleep (he died shortly thereafter).
A less clear example is found in Huey Long’s dying words, “Don’t let me die, I have got so much to do.”
H.L. Mencken wrote, “Looking back over a life of hard work…my only regret is that I didn’t work even harder.”
That shows once and for all that some people do wish they’d spent more time working, even on their deathbed.
What can we take away from this little exercise? I don’t know. My only conclusion is to avoid making absolute statements unless you’re absolutely sure there aren’t any counterexamples.