There’s nothing quite like attending a few funerals and dealing with unsettling health news about loved ones to get me focused on the morbid thought of my own death. And, more importantly, to focus on my own life.
Thanks to Jonathan Fields’ blog (subtitled, “Conversations at the crossroads of work, play, entrepreneurship & life” — topics frequently on my mind), I read this week a great post, “What Lucky People Do Different,” that quoted a 2005 commencement address by Steve Jobs at Stanford University, in which the famously successful co-founder of Apple said:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
Sobering, and inspirational, words.
Thinking about death, something I don’t do every day, is probably a good thing to do on occasion.
As I pondered writing this blog post, I even considered beginning it with a mock obituary of myself — but I quickly decided that doing so would be too morbid. Or, at least, too personal.
But I did start to write that obituary in my head. And I realized that focusing on how I want to be remembered should (even though it doesn’t always) influence how I live.
I’m sure these thoughts aren’t original. They’re just somewhat new to me.
I recall the expressions that we quote when we want to focus on how we live our lives. Like that Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Or that quick reminder that nobody ever said on his deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”
Great theoretical advice. But I wonder how practical it is. I can’t tell my clients I won’t meet their deadlines because I want to spend time with my family — and still have work to do to support my family. And I can’t buy a $173,200 Porsche Panamera Turbo S simply for the thrill — because it’s obviously impractical and budget-busting. Even Jobs recognized this:
I… look in the mirror every morning and ask myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“For too many days in a row.” In other words, some days we simply have to do things we don’t want to do. Because that’s, well, life. But, I can agree that we should be doing the things we want to do. The things that bring satisfaction to us, to our family, to our friends, to our community. OK, that’s sappy. But true, right?
At 43 and in excellent health, I think I have a long life ahead of me. So, I can’t live like I’m dying. But remembering that death is inevitable — for me and for everyone in my world — can be motivational.
This week, it was reported that Jobs has authorized a biography of himself. Perhaps he wants to help write the words that others will read about him, long after he’s gone. While no one will ever write a book about me, perhaps I should live like someone will.
Do you think about death? Do you find it depressing or inspiring? Do you “live like you were dying” — and is it even reasonable to think that we can? What do you think about writing your own obituary?