One year ago while I was busy helping build a Minnesota casino with my older brother, I noticed one of the other workers in the building was rather unique, for a construction worker. What made him stand out most was his age. I would bet $100 he wasn’t younger than 60. Yet, draped in non-descript, wrinkled pants and stained shirts, he resignedly ambled about the halls with the other workers in his group, albeit half his age. Skin reeking of foul smoke you had to choke and turn the other way when he passed. His shoulders had sunken into his back, and his neck was nearly horizontal. Somewhat hunchbacked from years of manual effort, his default pose was gazing at the ground near his feet. As I observed him bend and struggle alone to lift a number of 2x4s from across the casino floor where I was working – my heart bled a little.
Im going to call him John. He was your age too. Had the same doubts and hopes and dreams and fears as you. He tried the best he could, every moment, with what he had and what he knew. He thought, as validly as you or anyone, that life would evolve into a happily ever after. An expectation he could afford to be fulfilled. He’s lived every day you have and every day you will have. He lived your yesterday, your today, and your tomorrows.
You want love. Success. Intoxicatingly beautiful women or irresistibly masculine, handsome men that cant wait to spend more time with you. Security. Peace of mind. Fulfillment. You have as good a chance as anyone, you think. John probably thought he had better chances, because isnt that what we all think? In the back of your mind, somehow, your personal life experience and your innate untapped potential, your natural charm and skills, will ultimately give you enough edge as you move through life, and hence you need not worry too much. All those things have done a good enough job so far haven’t they?
Time is irrelevant. Time is a loose way of accounting for things we know we’ve done and approximating the amount of things we may still do. Death happens to old people, right? Death happens in hospitals, car crashes, natural disasters. Death happens to people, old, sick, & diseased; not healthy or young, like you. Death happens to living people. Constantly. Should this be depressing? Maybe, but flip the telescope to look at it the right way. Nothing could be more freeing. Realizing this moment not only belongs to you alone, but that you chose to fit in that thing you wanted to do or be with that individual rather than putting it off simply because….”ill get to it, soon.”
This moment, as your reading this sentence, is now happening. This is as real as it gets. And now its gone. Your chance at that moment is gone. Hopefully, you may consider this short section of time spent here as valid and interesting and possibly enlightening to a degree.
If you don’t get a second chance at this moment, “well that’s ok” because you are given more. And more. And more. Statistically, you are correct. Without question. However, statistics happen to be a double-edged sword. You are highly likely to get more moments. But unless you have the Potion of Immortality, in which case email me, id like some, the total quantity of moments you have until death is capped off. The bottle has a bottom. The tank runs dry. John thought he had plenty. Not limitless, but plenty and then some to spare.
You will be as real at age 80 as you are real now at your current age.
Think of some memory of your childhood at a time when you were imagining the future, say age 10, and how far off the age you are now appeared to be. That moment, that 10 year old moment: was as real as reality gets. Likewise, this very second, for you, reality doesn’t get any realer. NOW is the only reality. When you were young, if you imagined where youd be at age(fill in your age) it was vague at best. If you could invite your young self to a coffee shop someplace, and you could tell him 3 things to do or not do, what could they be.? Those 3 answers would alter where you are now, you know. So using that same example or paradigm, if you will, jump to versions of yourself at age 80. Confidently wealthy in both friends, lovers, and money; or scrabbling by out of a studio counting change to buy the better loaf of bread at your grocery store? Content and beaming? Or regret riddled & isolated in the sterile whiteness of Hospital Room 317, being visited once a month by your in-laws that you hated but have come to bitterly await as your lone link to a brimming world that is relentlessly fading, against your will, month by month, year by year, into a flickering silhouette of comfort against the background of your mind.
Can you remember ever reflecting on the first time you ever met someone that is hugely important to you, be it a best friend, girlfriend, etc and laugh at how strange it seems that you were strangers and it took some time to arrive at the heady, exhilarating connection you enjoy now? Had you disregarded your reservations and distrust of the unknown from the get-go, you can imagine how much more of your memory would be peppered with the pleasure you and that person share when your together.
Who needs worry? Who needs any of the negative parts of life? Much less who wants them? You biologically are capable of experiencing emotion. The range of choices is small but enough. Sad, happy, love, hate, joy, misery. The pattern of pairs is the crux of my argument. Sad or happy? Perhaps a gray mix of the two, which appears to be the average emotional state of humanity, sadly. Its not that sadness is unnecessary but I think its overdone. Ill save it for the funeral. If laughing is possible, I may miss too many chances to laugh.
I am not saying go act flamboyant and excessively talkative with everyone you see forever. You’ll get strange looks forever. What I am saying is no more and no less than this: commit to extracting as much enjoyment out of each moment, in such a way as is natural to you. Let go of the resentment, anger, and discomfort. Remember the happiest times in your life and strive to perpetually extract the utmost amount of enjoyment and fulfillment. Each moment is a grape, and the juice is the core of happiness. Or the core of the happiest times of your life. These grapes lined up in a row on a conveyor belt which is moving at a steady pace past you. You are allowed access to one at a time. Your awareness of these moments is your hands holding each grape individually. Squeeze. Wring it like a dripping cloth.
I expect it to be easier than you think, although I cannot promise it. What I can promise though is you will have enough moments in your life. Just enough.
Lucky for you, you have everything you need to do whatever you want. I can’t promise it will be easy. I can promise it will be worth it.
I can also tell you this. The destination is the thing worth getting to isnt it? You place a certain amount of importance in the destination. That amount of importance if you place it in the beginning, you destination is guaranteed like a boulder pushed at the top of a hill has nowhere to roll but down. Relax, breath, laugh. Isnt that enough? We can cry if we want. Its opposite is laughing. We can exhale cynicism or exude belief in the genius of ourselves and others. We must pick one of the two or a gray combination of both. Think of all the fondest and best memories of your life. To a certain degree, they are spaced in between with periods of unremarkable intervals. Commit to duplicating and improving the elements that worked, identify and get rid of the ones that don’t: before you know it, the average amount of breathtaking things you remember isnt as few and far between. Eventually, the unremarkable intervals become the few and far between.
Infants laugh 300 times a day. Adults average 30 laughs. We know what time is. Infants don’t. we remember things and plan for the future. Infants live in the moment.
The Pareto Principle says 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. Commit to filling more and more of your time with the ingredients of that 20%. As that 20% continually flourishes, it will eventually occupy 100% of your time. Is that good enough. You bet. Note this however, you will find that at this point, this habit will be hard to shake, which is a triumph and accomplishment in and of itself, so you may see yourself endlessly evolving, shedding percentages of time spent on various things as your primary interests are no longer just developing, but defining your life. You will be there. Commit to the ladder of extraordinary, which will evolve with you as you come to grips with the fact that your current ceiling is your future floor. Start as cautiously as you want. But start. Repeat. Win.
Johns odds were with him. He started with the same time and unknown ability as you, as Steve Jobs, as Katy Perry, as Johnny Depp. It will be slow, were their thoughts. The odds are against me, they thought. I have no money. Theres no proof I have the skill. Are you interested in being at the mercy of odds, statistics, because those offer you chance of success and chance of falure. Im not interested in being at the mercy of failure. Be your guarantee.
The best did this, they started out with the same quantity of time and ability. At some point in their life they began doing more and more of these. They got ahead slowly because they didn’t necessarily have a pre-cut template for success. They streamlined their lives. Time doesn’t matter. Time is a curse. Its deceptive and Doing it matters. Stay curious. Stay hungry. God handed you a talent, and he told you that its unknown, but he will make it easy for you. Youll find out what it is by what interests you. Following what interests you is the initial scraping of the ore from the diamond surface. The more you scrape, the more you can see of previously unimagined glory.
Odds are, you’ll do well in life. Well is relative, youll do well by what standard?
Commit to being flexible in terms of as you change, you must update your master plan. Commit to the fundamentals, commit to what works, commit to clearly understanding dynamic versus static. You will never be static. Vegetables are static. Commit to taking two steps forward for every step backwards. Do this relentlessly and watch the action become as much a habit as smoking, and watch the habit begin to carve its own way before in the direction you steer it. Taking the first step is the same as already being at the destination. A step is just walking, once you start, you may stop but you naturally will continue, foot after foot.