Nobody ever says on their deathbed...

I see lessons about life couched in deathbed terms all the time. Just search “deathbed” and you’ll see endless lessons about what’s really important in life.

It got really ramped up with the beloved 2012 book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. The regrets (as recorded by a nurse) were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What problem could I possibly have with a lesson like this?

I think you’ll have these same regrets to some degree no matter how much more you “live your best life.” (Not to mention that you probably shouldn’t be interrogating someone about their regrets while they're dying.)

Regret is a cancer. But so is worrying about your future regrets.

Living as close to the present as you possibly can and being grateful is how you guard against regret. It’s an inward journey untied to external accomplishments (the “I wish I would have…" regrets). It helps if you start today, but it also helps if you start on your “deathbed.” And it’s really all we have.

Of course, be with friends more and work less. That’s smart. But don’t expect immunity from regret afterwards.

If you want something “deathbed”-proof, gratitude and being present are about the best tools we have. If you want something death-proof, you’ll have to talk to Tarantino.

Self Awareness is Underrated

Of all the "Letters of Note" I've read, none of have come closer to my world view of than this one from H.L. Menken in 1931:

"I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs.
The precise form of an individual’s activity is determined, of course, by the equipment with which he came into the world. In other words, it is determined by his heredity. I do not lay eggs, as a hen does, because I was born without any equipment for it. For the same reason I do not get myself elected to Congress, or play the violoncello, or teach metaphysics in a college, or work in a steel mill. What I do is simply what lies easiest to my hand. It happens that I was born with an intense and insatiable interest in ideas, and thus like to play with them. It happens also that I was born with rather more than the average facility for putting them into words. In consequence, I am a writer and editor, which is to say, a dealer in them and concoctor of them. any other realtively poor man, I have longed to make a lot of money by some easy swindle. But I became a writer all the same, and shall remain one until the end of the chapter, just as a cow goes on giving milk all her life, even though what appears to be her self-interest urges her to give gin.
What the meaning of human life may be I don’t know: I incline to suspect that it has none. All I know about it is that, to me at least, it is very amusing while it lasts."

The whole letter is worth a read. Self awareness is an underrated trait. Without having the proper foundation of realizing who you are, making changes in your life is like (paraphrasing David Allen) putting the ladder you're climbing on the wrong wall.

Thank You

The proper response to a compliment is "thank you."

It took me over 30 years is to learn this.

Also, the proper response to "thank you" is "you're welcome." I'm still trying to learn this.


Everything is OK

"Everything is OK in the end. If it's not OK, then it's not the end." - Anonymous

Bank People

Om Malik:

"A wise man once told me that I shouldn’t worry about banking the money. Instead, he said, bank people for in the end they will truly enrich your life."

A Pessimistic View of Optimism

Yesterday's post Things are Getting Better All the Time received more pushback than anything I've written in a while. It's not surprising. Consider the amount of media coming at us daily with sky-is-falling headlines. It's a shock when we learn that's not the case. We can even feel guilty about not worrying so much about everything. I do all the time.

There's a few quotes to live by when that guilt arrises. I try to live up to these ideals, but fall short most of time. I still believe they're true:

“Don't worry. Do. If nothing can be done, don't worry.” – Patrick Rhone

"What, then, is to be done? To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it naturally happens." - Epictetus (via Mike Vardy)

"We spend so much time worrying about the future. What if we let go of that fear, and focused on what mattered? On mastering our craft and shutting out anything that got in our way?" - Hugh MacLeod

There is Less to Life

Every business failure I've ever had has come down to one problem: overthinking.

It accounts for most failures in the rest of my life as well.

Of course, a total lack of thinking can lead to ruin. But, I think we tend to overcomplicate life in general.

Most platitudes about the complexity of life tend to envision utopias as real options and defy logic.  We really are simple creatures with simple needs.

Complexity may be our way of dealing with things we don't want to face, like failure. This means the way we deal with failure leads to failure, which may be why intelligence doesn't seems to be favored in terms of natural selection. The most successful species who have ever lived are some of the "stupidest."

Ants don't care about their legacies and they will be here long after we're gone.

Here's my favorite philosopher on the subject:

Looking for a photography angle on this? I think Saul Leiter put it pretty well:

"I don't have a philosophy. I have a camera."