Hi, I'm King.
Hobbies: preparing to die.
In early 2017, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctors took out what they could- they estimated she would have 18 to 24 quality months.
In March of 2019, right about two years later, she passed away. She was 84.
Two years to live.
I'm sitting here writing and rewriting this page, but all that comes to mind is how my grandmother was given a two year life sentence by her doctor. 84 is a good life, but how do you face up a life expectancy statement like that?
Nothing clears your head like being reminded of your expiration date. We love watching movies like P.S. I Love You, 50/50, and The Bucket List as a kind of passive memento mori.
Death has touched you or someone near you, and you've awakened to the understanding that your time is limited.
Actually, scratch the first half of that last sentence-
Your time is limited.
I've been around death before but this is the first time I feel and understand what that a time limit means.
There is a fire, a thirst for life, a purpose and urgency that comes with understanding your life is ephemeral. I feel that fire and now that it's there, I want to know it, in my bones, all the time.
I'm not the first to think this. Far from it.
Over 2000 years ago, emperor philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote in his personal journal as a reminder to himself-
"Remember how long you've been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn't use them.
...There is a limit to the time assigned to you, and if you don't use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return."
There's also Memento Mori, and Vanitas paintings from the 17th century dedicated to the same idea. They existed to whisper from the walls- remember. Life is transient. Remember that you will die.
Remember me as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon shall be.
Prepare for death, and think of me.
Kind of dark right? No!
Because realizing you will die forces you to strip away the unnecessary bullshit you're usually preoccupied with.
It's easy to default to the standard way of being.
Go to work. Pay bills. Write about plans for the business and work on them here and there. Consume too much random content on our phones and laptops. Avoid boredom. Buy stuff you don't need to impress people you don't know and one up the neighbors.
We lose sight of what matters because we hold ourselves accountable in the same way yoga pants keep waistlines accountable.
For myself and the waists, that's a massive problem.
Complacency and comfort creep quietly. They are insidious and seductive, quiet rationalizations and justifications in the back of your mind. You might be great on your diet/business for a week or two, but before you know it you're going through the motions and seeking short term entertainment. It's short term fun paid for with long term agony, plus interest.
But it's hard to be complacent when you know you're going to die, and that's the whole point of this.
Following my grandmother's death, a single question nagged at me. What would I do in her situation?
If I was given a year or two to live, what would I do?
- After/if I stopped panicking, what next?
- Would I be satisfied with the life I led?
- What stuff was I chasing that no longer mattered? What would I want instead?
- Did I have enough put away for medical costs? What about my funeral?
- How would it change my job?
- How could I make this easier for the people closest to me?
- Where in my life was I being a shy and timid soy boy, living from a place of fear rather than chasing possibility or opportunity, and not carpe-ing the diem?
I have no control over when or how I go. There's no guarantee I even have health or sanity until the end, and we all know how this story ends- no one gets out alive.
When I take stock of my fears, dying early—dying before "I have it all figured out" is near the very top, right up there with death or illness touching my parents or siblings.
And when I really think about it, dying early scares me because I know how I've been living isn't really the living I could be doing - I never gave myself permission to figure out who I actually was.
I was too busy trying to be normal, blend in, conform. This makes it incredibly difficult to do anything remotely interesting with your life, nor does it prepare you for the hard times! If you don't believe me, I challenge you to think of just one person who accomplished something incredible while staying soft and complacent in his comfort zone.
I can't think of one.
One day hardship will come. An accident or death or illness. It always does. Maybe my mom or dad or a sibling or me. But I want to be ready enough, financially, emotionally, and with no regrets.
Ok. Easy enough to say. But how, exactly?
Through action and reflection. I have an instinct I can follow as well as clues from all the books, which give me a rough starting point. It's more of a compass than a path. It says: seek discomfort. Not just physical discomfort, but emotional and mental discomfort. That's where you'll discover what you're capable of and who you are.
The plan is as follows:
Set a death date 2 years from now.
REALLY imagine that I'm sitting in an office and Dr. Labcoat gives me the bad news. Expiration date. October 1st, 2021.
Feel the discomfort. The panic. The fear. The things I still want to be or accomplish. Make a note of all the stuff that bubbles up from the depths.
Make a bucket list.
Filter for the stuff that really matters.
And then, for the next 2 years, get busy doing and see what unravels.
Write and record and document and share.
Welcome to the site. That's pretty much what you can expect here.
I know, this is not normal thinking.
If normal ever decides to stop doing paper work and start living, let me know. In the meantime, I minimize regret and optimize for interesting.
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Author, 50th Law, 48 Laws of Power
“Understand: we are all too afraid— of offending people, of stirring up conflict, of standing out from the crowd, of taking bold action. For thousands of years our relationship to this emotion has evolved— from a primitive fear of nature, to generalized anxiety about the future, to the fearful attitude that now dominates us. As rational, productive adults we are called upon to finally overcome this downward trend and to evolve beyond our fears.”