“You only live 26,000 days. I’m going to wear them all out.” — Quincy Jones
My relationship with my mortality has gone from non-existent, to denial, to finally one of companionship.
But today, I’m inspired by my impending fatality, and not in some ominous way. Knowing the days behind will eventually outnumber the ones ahead energizes me to live more intentionally.
I’m in my late 30s now, and hopefully have a long way to go, but I don’t think it’s ever too early (or late) to consider how brief our time really is.
For me, that awareness is an invitation to make as many good choices I can, so when my time does arrive, I can take comfort in what I’ve created rather than dread the time I’ve wasted.
Here are 5 questions my mortality has made me consider…
How can I waste less time?
“Time is a created thing. To say “I don’t have time” is to say “I don’t want to”.
— Lao Tzu
Homer wrote The Odyssey 2500 years ago, yet some of the themes of the ancient Greek play have never felt more poignant.
Those familiar with Homer’s epic Greek poem will recall Odysseus’s order for his men to plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the ship’s mast to suppress his urge to listen to the seductive songs of the island’s sirens.
In Greek mythology, sirens were beautiful but extremely dangerous, using their angelic voices to lure unsuspecting sailors to shipwreck.
Today, we are surrounded by modern-day sirens. Only now, their voices more enticing, their methods multiplied.
Simply put, we have to go to war against distraction.
I cringe when I consider the Breaking Bad binges, the Youtube rabbit holes, and the aimless tweets, posts, and texts I was convinced worthy of my time.
My precious time.
It’s not to say there aren’t times that should be designated for leisure, but that our leisure can be designated in other fashions.
Burying ourselves in a touchscreen is another minute not spent deepening or reconciling a relationship, developing a new skill, being led by our curiosity, exploring, daydreaming, creating, learning more about yourself, the world, and the role you can effectively play in it.
How can I be less afraid?
“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie
The first step in being less afraid is appreciating being fearful was once an integral part of our survival.
Only now, the oonce-threateningcritter staring us down on a prairie is manifested in different ways.
All weigh heavily on an already delicate spirit. And yes, fear is real but not categorically bad. Like a lot of emotions, fear is often placed neatly in a box labeled “Not good.”
The trouble is that most of life is gray, which is unsettling for most people.
When we diverge from any trodden path all hell breaks loose. People are naturally scared of the unfamiliar. Our poise dissipates when the worldview we’ve clung to is challenged.
People start to white-knuckle their way through life, clinging fiercely to ideologies that are fundamentally flawed because they don’t have the courage to get out the building and stress test them.
And similar to anger, good can come out of fear if channeled productively.
Consider the American Revolution and Civil Rights Movement — both movements fueled by anger and used effectively for the betterment of a society.
Nobody picked up a musket, or marched through the streets of intolerance because everything was okay.
Reframing fear as an asset rather than a liability is important. But it’s also crucial fear plays its role. It’s only a supporting character.
Fear is Cornelius.
Francisco at best.
It does not get to be Hamlet.
Because if fear takes center stage it stifles, then inhibits risk-taking, evolution, creativity, and a life fully realized.
How can I be a better person?
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Each morning when I walk out my front door, I ask for guidance. Specifically, for the strength to make good choices.
To think before I speak.
To act in accordance with my values.
To treat everyone with respect, dignity, and kindness.
Some days, I fall short.
Some days, I don’t.
But, each day I stay true to the belief that decisions, good and bad, compound over time and weave together the fabric of a life.
I try and slow down.
By doing so, I have a fighting chance of interrupting stimulus and response with a thought. And with that thought, I can hopefully formulate better choices.
Choices that nudge me to honor my parents with my actions.
Decisions that help me refrain from judging others.
Personal agreements that allow me to be more patient.
And again, I often fail.
But with that awareness, I understand the importance of not distancing myself from those whose lives and past aren’t in harmony with my own. Instead, I try and lean in. I make an effort to double-down on compassion.
I try not to assume I know more than anyone else or be arrogant about the little I do know. Any wisdom I possess is not better, just different.
I want to rise above my ignorance.
I want to be better each day.
And it’s the striving that gives my life meaning.
How can I stop wishing I was someone else?
“You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” — John Mason
Since the age of 11, all I cared to be was an actor. I wanted to make a living telling stories.
And so, I did everything someone in pursuit of such an absurd endeavor was supposed to do.
I read lots of plays.
I saw lots of films.
I went to a fancy drama school.
I signed with a big-time agent.
I appeared on some popular TV shows.
But these “victories” were only peppered into an experience mostly filled with struggle, rejection, and at times, humiliation.
Yet, I kept going.
At first, my persistence was fueled by stubbornness. I was going to fulfill my dream at all costs. I’ll show them, I thought.
But gradually, I realized I was only staying the course because I was too afraid to admit I no longer wanted this life.
My heart knew it was being duped.
So why then did I still envy the actors who’d reached the pinnacle of their careers? The ones who landed a coveted series regular role on shows I’d dreamt of appearing one. The storytellers who actually got to polish off that Oscar acceptance speech every actor practices in front of the mirror.
It took a while, but I finally realized it wasn’t their life I wanted, but their significance.
However briefly, they mattered.
What saved me, was the realization my ego had been running around completely unsupervised.
I started to appreciate I couldn’t have what wasn’t intended for me, and what was for me wasn’t for anyone else.
I spent years pushing on a door that read, “Pull,” muscling my way to a place I no longer wanted to be.
I discovered willfully chasing a goal without taking inventory was blinding me to other paths that may have been better for both me and the world.
In the end, I learned there’s nothing more interesting, original, or courageous than being yourself.
How can I use my creativity to solve problems?
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” — Vincent Van Gogh
Creativity is imagination in motion. It’s getting out of your head and taking your thoughts on an unchartered exploration.
It reveals itself in mathematics, acting, writing, singing, starting a business, parenting, serving a community, mentoring, and much more.
And when we refuse to allow our imagination to sit idle, our creativity produces interesting outcomes.
It took me years to figure out I wasn’t just an actor but a problem-solver.
So were all of my fellow storytellers.
The next time you see a movie, realize what you’re really watching is a small miracle.
Consider all the problems the artists had to figure out in order to create the world you are participating in.
The truth is, we all wrestle with conflict every day.
How do I pick up and move to a new city?
How do I push through my insecurities and put pen to paper?
How do I start a business with no resources or experience?
How do I reconcile a relationship when I’ve already tried everything?
Creativity. Creativity. Creativity.
When you act on your imagination, you also find ways to offer value beyond your own needs.
And by using our creativity you can make meaningful connections to the world that help improve humanity.
Creative expression is about much more than molding clay or writing pretty prose.
It’s about finding moments of insight and sharing them so others can mold then integrate those ideas into their own human experience.
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