So I was having a drink with a friend when she asked… “Are you afraid of death?”. I wasn’t expecting such a question but still tried to offer an accurate answer. After the surprise cleared out, I answered a straight No. But I wanted to give more perspective. So I said to myself, maybe instead of talking about death, the answer lies in life! This is when I realized…
I was afraid not to live!
A few months earlier, I had celebrated my 40th birthday and something clicked in my mind. I started realizing what it was after this unexpected conversation. My inner voice was telling me, “you have less time ahead of you than you had to date…”. “What are you going to leave behind you?”
What’s your legacy?
This simple thought triggered a boost in my creative work. I started taking pictures at age 40, writing at age 44, and producing music at 46. But the big change was in the regularity. For years now, I have been able to do something about my passions at least every week if not every day… never losing the momentum… The compound effect piles up…
This dynamic is not uncommon. Some people have been able to distill its essence better than others. Among them, Tim Urban and Steve Jobs.
Let’s first come back to Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
I’ve seldom seen someone praise death as the best gift for life in such a stunning and yet poetic way. I will not make any further comment for fear of ruining the party… Or you know what? Maybe an illustration will do it! 😉
Now let’s see what Tim Urban, has got to offer us… By the way, ever heard about him? He is among the geniuses and unconventional thinkers of our times. His blog (waitbutwhy) is visited by over a million monthly visitors… one of them being Elon Musk! Among others, he is recognized as an international expert on procrastination. He has come up with a very simple idea that changed the lives of millions!
Your life in weeks
It consists of a calendar with 52 columns (number of weeks in a year) and 90 lines (if you had to die at age 90). Users are supposed to put a checkmark when a week is enlapsed. It seems like a neutral thing to discard a week from a calendar. But when you realize that it’s actually a week of your life that you’ve “spent”… when you see what’s coming inevitably shrinking… It’s a good reminder that you are not eternal. You got to do something!
And it’s not about being hyper-productive… It’s about doing something meaningful… for you, for your significant others, for your community, the human race, the planet…
Doing meaningful stuff may seem self-evident to many but… if the present “you” accepts to spend a significant portion of the day on mondaine things, the transition can be hard.
Your closest relatives will resist. Even yourself will have a tough time coping with the newly formed self-image. Over the years, you have built a perception of what roles you can play in life and which you cannot. Nobody wants to see you embrace a new “posture”. In that sense, you need to…
Date to be you!
To live a significant life… To have a lasting positive impact… You need to dare to be the best version of yourself. This comes with disruption, discomfort… Ideally you should seek this discomfort yourself!
So as a conclusion I’ll share two tips that have worked for me…
If you want to level up your game, you need a “feedback squad”. Those guys are supposed to be blunt experts. It’s not about how nice they will be to you but how useful. You have to go beyond the form to focus on the substance.
Because those guys are supposed to be hard on you, you’ll need to recruit cheerleaders in parallel. Their number one role is to rebuild your confidence. Those guys should respond to what you do just like parents react to kids’ drawings… You see what I mean 🙂!
Dare to be you may be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Knowing we are mortals is a very good motivation. At least this is what Steve Jobs and Tim Urban think… 🙂