How often do you think about your hopes, goals and dreams?  If you’re like me, the pace of life is often moving too fast to take the time to think about what’s most important in life.  To remedy this, artist Candy Chang sparked one of the most influential social media campaigns of 2015—Before I die.

According to Chang’s TED talk about this project which has been viewed over 4.3 million times, this campaign started as an effort to enable the people around us to improve one another’s lives even as society becomes more isolated through the ever-present focus on technology that we carry with us everywhere.

This particular campaign started in Chang’s hometown of New Orleans where an abandoned home in Chang’s neighborhood become an impromptu location to bring the community together instead of simply being an eyesore for all neighbors.   In 2009, Chang lost a very close friend that was a mother figure for her which lead her to think deeply about death and her gratitude for life.  However, because of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, she often fails to think about how much she appreciates her life.

With the help of a few friends, Chang turned the abandoned house into a chalkboard with countless prompts stating, “Before I die I want to…”. Attached to one of the walls was a small basket with brightly colored chalk for passersby to use in completing the phrase plastered across the chalkboard.

Some of the most memorable and influential phrases that were filled out included: (1) I want to be tried for piracy, (2) I want to sing for millions, (3) I want to plant a tree, (4) I want to hold her one more time, (5) I want to be someone’s cavalry, (6) I want to be completely myself.  In Chang’s own words, “this neglected space became a constructive one and people’s hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud,

In Chang’s own words, “this neglected space became a constructive one and people’s hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up, and consoled me during my own tough times.  It’s about knowing you’re not alone. It’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlighting ways.  It’s about making space for reflection and contemplation and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.”

Since this simple art feature was first created in New Orleans, social media quickly spread the colorful images across all corners of the world.  Chang has helped individuals who were inspired in other countries create these installments in their own communities ranging from Kazakhstan, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and beyond.

I’ll end this post with a few questions for you…

  • Why did this campaign work well and spread so quickly?
  • How could a business leverage the efficacy of this campaign?
  • What do you want to do before you die?


TED Talk: Candy Change – Before I die I want to…