One of my friends Devan said a story of how one of his co-workers (62 years old) was planning his retirement. He then suddenly died of a heart attack.
He put off living until his (planned) retirement. Now he is dead, and he was stripped of the privilege of truly living.
Don’t plan on retiring
The problem with retirement is that most people treat it like the golden ticket. The idea is you stick with a job you don’t love for 40 years, and one day, you can finally do what you’ve wanted to do in life — travel, see the world, pick up hobbies, and follow your passion.
The problem: who knows if you will die before you retire? If you get cancer, a heart attack, or get into a car accident?
What if you find out that you have some sort of genetically-inherited mental disease? That by the age of 55, you will literally lose your mind?
You might also live until retirement (let’s say 65 or 70) — but are you guaranteed to have the physical strength to travel? Do what you want? Or the mental strength?
Don’t delay your happiness
Why delay your happiness into the future?
Treat today as if it were your last day on earth. Because you literally cannot plan if you will be alive tomorrow.
You might choke and die in your sleep. Tomorrow you might get hit by a car (while texting and driving). You might have an allergic reaction to some cashews (without knowing) and die.
But what can you get accomplished in a day?
For me, the easiest way to live life is treating each day like an entire lifetime (learned from Seneca in his book: ‘On the Shortness of Life’).
You can get a lot accomplished in a day.
You can have meaningful conversations with your loved ones, and express your love for them via words and actions.
You can go out and make photos which are personally meaningful to you, and publish them online.
You can write whatever is on your mind, and publish it on your blog and share it over social media.
Do what is easy for today
It is hard to live for the future. Nobody can plan the future, because nobody knows what lies ahead.
It is hard to write a book. It is easy to write a paragraph or chapter.
It is hard to put together a photo-series. It is easy to take a few photos.
It is hard to show someone how you really feel about them. It is easy to give them a hug, share words of appreciation, and give them a soft kiss on the cheek.
Who is to blame?
Who is preventing you from living right now?
You delay your creative projects, because you need to stay late at the office to finish some last-minute emails. You want to write after work, but you’re exhausted after a long day, and just want to veg out to Netflix.
You want to travel more, yet you get roped into unnecessary social obligations on the weekends.
You want to become the best version of yourself, yet there are others you allow to bring you down with their negativity.
Don’t blame yourself for not living. Yet at the same time, take responsibility.
If you don’t steer your ship in life, someone else will snatch the steering wheel from you. They will dictate what direction to take your life. And before you know it, they will steer you into an iceberg, and you will perish before having worked on anything truly meaningful to you.
How do I apply this to my life?
Some things I do to live like everyday were my last:
- Writing: I write as much as I can, and I schedule blog posts into the future (1 blog post a day), so even if I died today, the blog posts would be posted.
- Photography: I photograph as much as I can during the day, of what is personally-meaningful to me.
- Speaking: When speaking with others, I never say anything I would regret if it were the last time I saw them.
- Cindy: I never go to bed angry with Cindy. I always try to resolve any arguments we have before going to sleep.
- “Regret Minimization Framework”: I embrace a “regret minimization framework” (learned from Jeff Bezos) — live today as if I were 90 years old, on my deathbed, and looking back on my life. That means I try to do things I might regret not doing. And I would not do things I would end up regretting.
Conclusion: Don’t wait for the grim reaper to knock on your door
During the last 5-10 years of Steve Jobs’ life — he was the most creative. Why? He knew he had cancer. He couldn’t waste a single day.
Why is it that we need a death sentence before we realize how much time we’ve wasted? Not only that, but why do we plan our retirement and future like it is a certain bet?
Nothing in life is certain. So live immediately. Make the best of today. Imagine if you were going to die, what would you want to do, say, and not do — to make the best of today?
Learn more: Life Lessons >