You Won’t Live Forever
For most of my life I acted like I was going to live forever. I wasted too much time trying to impress people who didn’t care about me. I spent too much time working. I yelled at my kids. I let fights drag on for days with my wife, and a lot of times I took her for granted.
Basically I acted like time wasn’t scarce. But now I know just how scarce it is. In my case I might have just a few years. Ten years would be close to a record for someone with my type of cancer.
Which means if I’m going to live my best life I’d better do it now.
I’m still trying to figure out how to live. I was before and I am now and I expect I always will be. Ray Dalio, in his book Principles, argues that the purpose of life is to intentionally evolve, to become a wiser and better person. I am trying to do that, by reading and thinking and writing and talking things through with people I love. I’m trying to get a little bit better every day.
I am trying to repair my relationship with my wife. This is my most urgent and important project. It is not easy and it often feels like two steps forward and one step back. But I am trying to apologize for things I’ve done in the past and trying to not let my pride and stubbornness get in the way. I am trying to treat her like I would like to be treated.
I’m trying to be a good dad, and to appreciate the time I get to spend with my kids, and to teach them everything I can while I’m still here. I never raise my voice with them anymore. I want them to remember me as someone who was loving and kind and who always believed in them and always loved them no matter what.
I call my parents and my sister and my mother-in-law every week or so. I am going to build a woodshed with my dad because that is when we are happiest together, when we are working on a project. And I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with my best friends. But I’m letting relationships go with a lot of acquaintances. Time is too scarce to spend it with people who don’t really know me or care about me.
I’m working, enjoying being good at my job and trying to get better. I’m not saving the world, but I am happy to be doing something that I enjoy and am good at that fits my personality.
I’m enjoying my hobbies: Playing golf, learning the piano, reading (this year I am re-reading some of my all-time favorite novels), hiking, cooking and eating. I try to meditate and pray and exercise every day. I try to avoid alcohol two nights a week.
I’m trying to let go of resentments. After I was fired from my last job I harbored grudges against several people who I felt had wronged me. I am trying to meet with those people to help me forgive and move on.
I’m trying to remember to be grateful and enjoy the moment. I’m trying to remember that “You are lucky today — you woke up above the ground!” as I once heard a Baptist minister preach.
At some point the party will be over for me. What legacy will I leave behind? My kids. The memories that my friends and family have of me, and the things they learned from me. Do I wish I were leaving behind something more tangible? A company, a novel, a Wikipedia page with my bio, a million Instagram followers? Not really. What good would those things do me?
When the end does come, what will I be most proud of? Some of the things I did that took a lot of effort and practice, like getting my first job out of college, getting into business school, learning to hit my driver, learning to play a difficult Chopin piece on the piano. My writing, my drawings. Some of the people I helped along the way in my career and in my non-profit work. But much more importantly: The example I set for my kids. My relationships with the people I love. The perspective I gained on what it means to live well.
Your life is a feature film and you get to write and direct and star in it as you go along. And you still have time to do that, and I still have time to do that. What an incredible gift.