Treat Every Workday Like It Was Your Last Day on Earth

Originally published on April 16, 2018 on LinkedIn

There is a saying, mentioned by greats including Steve Jobs, and Ray Charles — “Live each and every day, like it was your last day on Earth”…

The idea of living like it’s your last day, means that whatever it is you want to do, see, hear, taste and experience, that this is your last chance before you go. Your last hoorah, your final opportunity, the last bathroom break before a long road trip. The finality of knowing that you get no more chances, and thus succumb to the feeling of all-or-nothing, can be somewhat defeating, yet it can also open your eyes to the realization that because you have little or nothing to lose, then why the hell not? Go for it! Take the plunge, do what you’ve always wanted to do, say what you’ve been dying to say, and go for broke. But if asked whether you could do the same thing at work, most people would cringe at the notion, because the thought dealing with bosses and coworkers the day after you did what you did, would be like showing up to work the day after a drunken incident at the company holiday party.

But treating anything like your last day, be it work life or personal life, doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair, because you can revamp your attitude inside, without changing your actions outside. By doing some updating with yourself, to change the way you see and react to things, can make for a totally different, and more rewarding work and life experience.

My friend Doug is an accomplished writer and engineer. He is also one hell of a bike rider. He can easily do a 100 mile ride in a day, and keep an average speed of 23 mph the whole time. When I met Doug, he was your normal, average guy who worked for a living. He didn’t have any particular beliefs, or hobbies that he followed, nor did he think about anything in particular, except for work and bike riding. One day, he mentioned to me during lunch, that he felt life droning; like life was a series of eight hour tasks, five days a week. He was successful and good at what he did, but he didn’t get the sense of reward that most people want from a career.

Doug made the decision to work every day like it was his last day. Going for broke, he did things that would normally scare him.

He began to speak up and openly at meetings. He would greet people with the confidence of a company CEO. He smiled all the time, even when there was no reason to. He always said (positively) what was on his mind, and he avoided being critical of others. He cracked jokes and made people laugh more. He offered to help everyone and anyone who would accept his offer, asking for nothing in return. He made every effort to offer advice and insight, and share his experiences, knowledge and skills with anyone who would listen or accept. He made more effort to contact friends and relatives, making sure to savor every moment with people, and he made it a point every day to offer words of encouragement to others. Some people would get annoyed by Doug, but he didn’t care… if it’s your last day, why worry?

For those of you who know me, Doug is where I learned this from.

By doing things that we might not normally do, unless we felt it was our last chance, we give ourselves the license (and permission) to go out into the world full bore, no holds barred, with less worry about how we might fail. Keep in mind that we are humans, and as such we are not perfect, so guess what — we fail every day anyways! So why bother holding back the things that we would want to do on our last day? Instead, find out “why” we aren’t doing those things, and then find a way to do those things without offending or making others uncomfortable. Think positively, and act passionately and purposefully.

Sure there are limits. For example, swinging from the front lobby chandelier, or filling the boss’ car with potatoes, might sound like a fun last day thing, but rest assured that it would definitely be a career-limiting move.

Think instead about the things Doug did, and about the things that I try to do every day. Think about how Doug enhanced his work and his personal lives, by opening himself up to the things that he normally set aside. Think about all the people he made smile? About all the people he helped? About all the people he affected positively each time he did something? And think about each of those people, paying it forward? Now you see where this goes.

Living your life and doing things that you’d do on your last day can be a fulfilling, life-restoring event. By putting aside the perceptions and paradigms that prevent you from being a better version of yourself, you are robbing everyone that you interact the ability to reap the rewards of your positive efforts. Why put aside today, something that could make the world, your world, a better place to be?

Don’t put off today, the things you’re saving for your last day on earth…

… because your last day only lasts 24 hours — but between then and now, you’ve got plenty of time to do what you’ve been saving for last.