I’m Mortal. What’s your superpower?
Being Mortal means always knowing whether or not you’re really living.
In science fiction, immortality is often depicted as the ultimate superpower — you never have to worry about dying. Well, I’m here to tell you that being a Mortal is even better — you never have to worry whether or not you’re really living. I say this because I’m lucky enough to know when I’m going to die. Let me teach you how to be Mortal.
I was born with complex congenital heart issues. The doctors told my parents I might not live though my first night. They were then warned that I might not make it through the first year. Remarkably, my situation stabilized after my first birthday and other than getting easily winded when running, I had a fairly normal childhood. I had no hospitalizations, no surgeries and never needed any kind of heart medication.
Year after year, at my annual checkups the cardiology team would say the same thing:
“If we were to build a heart the way yours is built, it would never run — so we have no idea why you’re sitting there and doing so well.”
There are at least three major structural issues with my heart. Any one of them should cause huge problems and individually each of them can be fixed, but in my unique situation the three issues work together, like the sides of a triangle, to provide an incredibly solid result. Since the doctors don’t fully understand why it works so well, they opt to simply leave it alone. Once a year, I go for a checkup and after the usual scans and head-scratching, the medical staff wish me well and send me on my way.
That is, until I turned eighteen. I live in Canada where you’re cared for by a network of paediatric specialists until your eighteenth birthday, then transferred to the adult system. It was at my first visit to the adult congenital cardiologist that things shifted. I was there for my standard annual checkup and had gone through the usual array of tests and scans. I sat down with the cardiologist and for some reason he decided to tell me when I was going to die. I will never forget the words:
“The heart is a muscle and like every muscle, it will give out in time. Because of the way your heart is built that will happen much sooner. We hope it doesn’t happen until you’re thirty.”
I was eighteen
At eighteen I was all set to start living my life. I had just been accepted to university and couldn’t wait to move out of my small hometown. Suddenly I was being told that I’m past middle age.
I had two distinct reactions. One, as you might expect, was very emotional. The other was cooly logical, almost detached. These different points of view played themselves out in the form of a peculiar inner dialogue.
The emotional inner voice was angry: “It’s not fair!”
The other inner voice responded: “Of course it’s fair — everyone dies. You’re no different.”
“But thirty is too young!” cried my angry voice.
And this is when the logical, detached voice asked me the question that would stick with me for the next six years:
“How old is old enough?”
“If the doctor called you up tomorrow and said he made a mistake — you’ll live until age thirty-five… does that feel better? What about forty? …forty-five? …fifty? Just let me know when it’s ok.”
I couldn’t answer. Well, if I’m being totally honest, my eighteen-year-old smart-assed self, had a quick answer: “Eighty! Eighty is a good age to die!” (Afterall, at eighteen, eighty seemed like an eternity away.) But the logical voice had a quick rebuttal at the ready: “Really? Let’s go ask a seventy-nine-year-old if eighty is a good age to die.”
What about YOU? How would you answer that question? How old is old enough? What is a good age to die?
The inherent discomfort of this question is what drives people towards immortality thinking. I’m not just talking about the people who are trying to biohack their way out of dying, I’m talking about people who know that they only have a limited time on the earth, but choose to act as if that’s not true.
These people sell themselves lies like: “There’ll be enough time.” and “I’m sure I’ll have more time.” Buying into these lies is exactly what has them up late at night wondering whether or not they’re really living.
For six long, difficult years I struggled with that question. I wrote about those years in my first book What’s Your Expiry Date? Embrace Your Mortality — Live With Vitality and I also wrote about the breakthrough that changed everything.
One day, I was in a particularly bad mood and thought to myself: “You know, it might not even be my heart that kills me. I could get hit by a bus.” And rather than allowing that thought to spiral me downward, the logical voice chimed in, loud and clear, and said: “YES! And so could everyone else!”
That’s when I began to realize that I’d been given a gift. For six years I was seeing my prognosis as a death sentence. But now, I could see it for what it truly is: a wake-up call! I was being invited to choose the superpower of Mortality.
It’s not a death sentence — it’s a wake-up call!
So back to you… are you living like you’re Mortal or immortal?
You can choose to start your life as a Mortal tomorrow morning. If you want to kickstart it, check out my free audio program called Daily Direction. Or read my article about how I start each morning by having a coffee with death!