Tick-tock, friends. It’s 2016 tomorrow.
Lately I’ve been getting up early. I go for a swim at 5:30 a.m. and then come to work to make my breakfast on a hot plate that I smuggled into the Centre for Social Innovation here in Toronto. I’m not sure the hot plate is allowed but my workplace is a home for rule-breakers so I feel like the fact that it’s probably not allowed is what actually makes it allowed (I think that makes sense).
I keep this routine because I understand I’m running out of time.
It’s been an amazing year for my campaign to get climate change labels on gas pumps. Three years ago it was a doodle on my desk. Now it’s being endorsed by city and town councils across Canada and being passed into law in several west coast cities. I’m generally too immersed in the project to pause and look at it but I recently did and thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool. These are global firsts.” You can read my latest update on the campaign at the Huffington Post.
And they are just firsts. We have volunteers across Canada that are taking time to visit government websites around the globe to copy and paste politicians’ emails into a massive database we’re developing. In early 2016, I plan on sending an email to thousands of politicians around the world to share the idea and encourage them to pursue it in their own jurisdiction. Over the next couple of years, I see the idea taking root in countries all over the world.
How did this all get started? It was an acute awareness of my own mortality. An understanding that my time here is running out.
Several years ago, I lost my father to cancer. A year after that, one of my best friends and roommates at the time was also diagnosed with cancer. When I wasn’t spending time with him, I’d spend time with my girlfriend who had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately, my friend is now cancer-free and my ex is now expecting a child with her partner.
It was a challenging period but it left me with an important perspective on this experience we call life — and I was reminded of it three years ago when my grandfather passed away. Just before he passed, I was fortunate enough to have a phone conversation with him that ended in him advising me to “do what you love.” They were the last words he ever spoke to me.
A couple of days after his funeral, I found myself alone in the cemetery in the small town in Saskatchewan where he was buried. I recall standing there, looking down, and seeing my grandfather, my father, and an empty patch of green grass beside that. I knew that that patch of green grass was my fate and I understood that it was inescapable.
There was something about standing over their burial spots and that empty patch of green grass that really drove this home: The only thing I have to figure out is what to do with the time I have left.
There’s a quote I like from Steve Jobs that you’ve probably read before: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
It resonates. And I really had nothing to lose.
No partner, no kids, and a profession that felt like a poor fit. So, with a modest savings and the privilege of owning a mortgage-free home to leverage as a monetizable asset, I abandoned my law practice and launched a small non-profit with a simple idea to change the world.
For the past three years, I’ve been renting out my home while living in a small basement apartment (and, more recently, a small room in a shared home), so that I can have a passive income that affords me the opportunity to volunteer full-time on this project. It doesn’t quite balance the books (thank you, VISA and Future Rob), but it got the thing off the ground. Two weeks ago, the Centre for Social Innovation recognized the project in its list of “15 CSI Members changing the world in 2015”.
I’m in my thirties now. I might live to be 95 like my grandpa (in which case, I’ve got roughly two-thirds to go), I might live to be 63 like my dad (in which case, I’m over the half way point), or I might get hit by a car while riding my bike later today and not even make it to 2016.
The point is, I’m running out of time. We all are. The question to ask yourself is, “What do I do with the time I have left?” My answer was to try to accelerate the world’s transition off fossil fuels. Why? Well, we’ve really fucked things up with climate change and the clock is ticking on that front for all of us.
What will your answer be? Here’s a list of three ideas.
- Hug someone today and tell them you love them. Hold them just a few seconds longer than you normally would. They might not be here tomorrow.
- Set aside an hour today to reflect on who/where you want to be on December 31, 2016. Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and close your eyes to really “be” in that space. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What are you telling people? What are people telling you? What else do you notice? Immerse yourself in that experience and, when you’re truly there, recall all the steps that you took in 2016 that got you to that moment. Consider using that info to map out your game plan for the 525,600 minutes in 2016 that are going to start ticking away when you wake up tomorrow. Consider also asking yourself the deeper question, “Will my game plan make the world a better place?”
- Shameless plug: Go to my funding page to pledge $1, $2, $5, $10, $15, $20, $25, $50, or $100 a month in 2016 so that I can hire someone to help me change the world. My credit card is almost maxed and the people at VISA are getting dangerously close to shutting down my climate change party.
Have an amazing 2016, friends. I love you all!