Don’t Wait ‘Till You Die

I have little patience for talk, talk, talk, and no action. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am often reminding myself of my own mortality, and the awareness that I still take many things for granted… Or perhaps I just like to get stuff done and I don’t suffer procrastinators gladly. Who knows?

Some years ago now, a friend of mine got irritated when in conversation I brought up the Stoic practice of contemplating death – I’m sure other schools and communities used similar rituals – to remind oneself of both the fragility and gift of life. He got frustrated and interrupted the conversation. I guess for him I had just become another one of these annoying nutcases talking about death and playing with these grandiose ideas to look cool.

Whatever my friend’s problem was, the fact remains that looking at my own mortality, as scary as it may be sometimes, has numerous benefits. I have written about death before and you can read some of the ideas and insights I shared here, here and here – I recommend you take a look 🙂 . I do find the topic profound and useful, although I’ve got a lot more to learn and it doesn’t make the reality of death less challenging to deal with.

But here I want to relate death to another area which, as a coach, I very much cherish: ACTION.

This same friend was often postponing and procrastinating on his dreams. He did not even articulate his desires as dreams. He was simply getting by, living life as it came, by default. Not much ambition, not much drive. A What-s-the-point type of attitude. Every day looking the same. Flat line. Whenever I’d ask how he was doing, he would reply “fine”. The exact same “fine” that Simon Sinek describes in this interview on millenials. Slowly dying out of boredom. Resolved. Cynical. Living, but not really alive.

Not that I think it’s “bad” to live this way. Everyone can do as they please. But it’s clearly not the life I choose to lead, and given the line of work I have been called to do, I generally don’t want this for other people either. I want to achieve my goals. I want to create my dreams. Not just talk about them. I want to DO, and what better fuel for DOING than the wisdom that my time is finite?

Unfortunately, we often continue to pretend and act as if we’ll live forever and we’ll do that thing, “someday…”.

I speak to too many people who are continuously putting off what they say they want. And the tricky part is: they always have good reasons for it. We all do! Whenever I am not owning up and stepping up to a desire I have that I’m not creating, you can be certain that I’ve got a bunch of reasonable arguments to defend my pitiful lack of initiative in the direction I want. I am blind to the truth, and blind to my own blindness.

We ALWAYS find ways to rationalise our lack of self-leadership, our hiding, our playing small.

Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind that you don’t pursue a desire you have – actually that’s not quite true because I know I love seeing my clients create what they set their mind to… But what I really do care about is when we bury our head in the sands of incongruity between what we say we want and what we actually do about it.

I don’t want people to feel “fine” in their life. I want them to feel extraordinary! Not always joyful perhaps, as life has its ups and downs, but at least inspired, meaning-rich, walking their journey! This is my mission, this is what makes me feel alive. I don’t know why, it just is.

Don’t wait ’till you die to get started on your dream. If you’ve got a chance to take a big step forward towards it, grab it. If a small one, step forth. Be bold and trust that things will work out. Because they do.

Don’t wait ’till you die to invest in yourself. There will be nothing left to invest in by then. YOU are your greatest asset, no doubt about it. The best time to act and stretch yourself is now. It’s the only time you ever get.

Don’t wait ’till you die to say what’s on your mind. To do what your heart calls you to do. To look people in the eyes and say “I love you”.

Please, don’t wait ’till you die.

There Is Nothing Special About You

I remember thinking during my mid-teens that there was something unique in me, an evil self-centred imposteur, a self-absorbed ‘dark side’ which I could hide extremely well in public but which secretly expressed itself in the private corners of my mind. I kept confidential this shameful secret that I was not the “good guy” that everyone seemed to know and interact with, but I was in fact this twisted narcissistic version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide.

That’s how I saw myself at some point in my teenage years and boy did I do some philosophical enquiry to try and figure out if I was indeed Evil or Good! To this day I am still enquiring and researching, but the perspective I have now is much more helpful than it was at the time. The understanding I have come to is that like anyone, I have a part of selfishness and self-interest in me as well as some genuine selflessness and care for others. There is nothing ‘evil’ or wrong about this, it simply is human nature. But the exploration of my old beliefs around my alleged “secret dark and bad nature” led me to another fascinating discovery.

The human mind has a way of making itself feel like a special snowflake, like if there is something really different between us and other human beings. And it usually is – but not always – not a pretty difference. We human beings are experts at making ourselves certain that for some reason, our lot is worse than X, or not as good as X. And because of this special nature of ‘us’, we convince ourselves, like the most skilled hypnotist, that whatever we witness, see and learn about the world, the human condition, success, happiness, love, money etc, will not apply to us.

When in fact, there is nothing special about me and there is nothing special about you when it comes to all these things. There is nothing special that have your fears, judgements, insecurities and thoughts function fundamentally differently than they do in other human beings. There is nothing special about you that have you not be able to tap more into your potential, access more freedom or live a more fulfilling life.

I will admit: you do have some things unique and special about you, for example your fingerprints or DNA. Your brain might look slightly different to mine, and your voice will sound different, and the language you use will be different, etc. But when I say: “there is nothing special about you”, I mean there is no special curse, lack of capacity or ability, or any missing piece in your skull that is responsible for having you not thrive and be a creator in your own life. You have everything you need. You may need to unlock a few resources, fair enough. These resources may take a different form to someone else’s resources, fair enough. But nothing is “missing”. It’s there, inside, available, like it is for everyone else.

How many times in your life have we used the words: “Yes, but…” when presented with a novel idea to create the results we wanted? How many times have we thought: “this is all great and wonderful, but it won’t apply to me because…”? How many times have we replied to a friend: “I understand that it works for some people, but in my case…”?

“Yes, but” is not a useful construct of language. It is not serving any of us. Think about it. When you say “Yes, but”, not only are you effectively cancelling what you just said “yes” to, making your agreement both illusory and – let’s not be afraid of words – totally useless, but you are also reinforcing your view that somehow you are right, and by doing so you lock yourself a little bit more inside your psychological prison. In many cases the “Yes, but” construct is not too bad, or at least not a big deal. It often is used in a debate of ideas that don’t impact you or your life directly. But in the area of personal fulfilment and professional performance, this is a big deal. Because what I have seen most of us do is use this “Yes, but” to justify how we are somehow the anti-hero of a special situation which makes whatever good idea or new option presented previously not applicable in our case.

This means that by thinking we are somehow a special snowflake, we restrict our possibilities and rule ourselves out. We fence ourselves off from the flow life, instead of opening our mind and horizon to something new, different, possible.

If someone else has done what you imagine doing, or is living what you dream of living, then it’s probably a useful idea to choose to believe that you can do it too and that you are no different to them, rather than make up that there is something special about you that will have you fail or not create what you desire.

It sure seems to yield better results. Try it sometime.