I bet I’ll panic when I’m dying.
I get nervous about things. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be nervous about dying.
Scared probably, unless I’m in so much pain I welcome the relief.
What will I think about?
I can only guess. But I’ve always been a good guesser. I will think about my son, hopefully an older man himself at that point. Maybe I’ll have grandchildren. Maybe there will be a woman I love. I don’t know.
But I do know one thing.
Much of what I feel will be predicated on my satisfaction with my life choices.
On whether I lived in fear, grinding out my prime years behind cubicle walls in a corporate office.
On whether I lived courageously. And took my shots.
A guy I work with thinks I’m too ambitious. He thinks maybe I’m not grateful for my job and the money I make even though I am.
Today, I was editing a contributing writer’s column for our company blog. The writer is a long-time, well-respected, talented auto mechanic and hot rod builder.
While describing how to fix something, he wrote about a tool needed to complete the job. According to this long-time industry expert, no tool of this kind exists for automotive applications. Only in woodworking, and they are all insufficient for precision metal cutting.
I turned to my co-worker and said: “People need this tool. Why is it no one’s making it?”
It sparked a conversation about filling needs in the marketplace. About how you capitalize on opportunity.
But it quickly turned.
“Do you really want to work 60-hour weeks?” he said. “Because that’s what it takes to start a business.”
“Well. I think there’s an argument for putting in long hours early, so that you can work less and earn more as you age,” I said.
“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I just want to work my 40 hours and go home. The world needs clock punchers.”
Everyone Has a Role
He’s right, of course.
The world does need worker bees. The productive people needed to execute the various tasks that make businesses function effectively, providing their goods or services to customers.
Not everyone will be a boss.
Not everyone will earn top salaries.
Not everyone will accumulate financial wealth.
I have a friend preparing for law school. She’s taking the LSAT soon and has been highly stressed about it and other life happenings. Go-to-the-hospital stressed.
“This is important,” she said of the test, trying to justify the stress.
“No it’s not,” I said. “In 500 years we will all be dead and it won’t have mattered at all.”
She understood me.
“When you think about that… that so few things actually matter… what does it make you want to do?” she said.
We’re all going to die and none of this petty stuff matters at all.
We FREAK about all this stuff. Money. Spats with our spouses or parents or children or siblings or friends. About things going on at work. About some task that “needs” taken care of because we’re always busy, busy, busy! So much to do!
It doesn’t matter.
It’s amazing we’ve all convinced ourselves it does.
I thought about her question. What does it make me want to do?
You’ll probably think it’s cliché. But I said: “Love.”
Not romantic love. The kind where you shine light in the darkness.
I said: “Forgive.”
There is no peace without forgiveness. There can be no happiness without peace.
I said: “Laugh.”
Even though I can’t find any scientific proof to back it up, I hear over and over again the claim that children laugh about 300 times a day and that adults laugh less than 20.
Even if it’s not true, it IS true that life gets harder and grayer and crueler and heavier as you age. You grow up and make mistakes and the stains from guilt and past mistakes and sin—if you believe in such a thing—darken our insides.
We feel just a little less innocent.
Just a little less hope.
Just a little less joy.
But if we could laugh 300 times a day, I think it would help.
I said: “Seek adventure” as my fourth answer to the question: What does the realization that most of the things we do not mattering make me want to do with this time I get to be alive?
Adventure is being spontaneous.
Adventure is travel.
Adventure is meeting strangers.
All four answers have one thing in common: The desire for FREEDOM.
The optimum human experience, near as I can tell, would be one where we woke up each day feeling safe, with the resources (financial or otherwise) needed to care for ourselves and our loved ones, and the freedom to spend our waking hours pursuing our passions however we wanted.
Hopefully, those passions would often serve something greater than ourselves, lest we find ourselves always drunk or high or having sex.
I keep trying to find a workaround. But I haven’t solved the riddle.
Near as I can tell, we have two choices to achieve a state of abundance.
Acquire wealth—to whatever degree you define it. (Some people crave $75,000 per year. Others crave $1 million per.)
Or, live a minimalist lifestyle. Reducing “need” eliminates the pressures and necessity of acquiring more money to pay for more things.
I prefer a combination. Spiritually, I do not want to need “things” because things have never made me feel happy or content for very long. Not even once.
But I also crave money because there are things I want to do (including charity) that I am unable to do at my current income level.
So, my plan is to acquire more money sans the desire for more “stuff.”
See You in 10 Years
I was irritated with my co-worker because I think he lacks vision and passion.
My co-worker was irritated with me because he thinks I’m an ingrate.
“Some people aren’t cut out for more than office work,” he said. “In 10 years, I’ll probably be gone, and you’ll probably be sitting right here. See you in 10 years!” he said.
There’s nothing wrong with punching a clock. Our jobs do not define us. Our jobs that won’t matter one bit in 500 years when we’re all dead.
Freedom matters. Because we don’t have a lot of time. And because we’re all going to die.
And we’re all going to have to ask ourselves: Did I give it everything I had?
Keep telling me what I can’t do, friend.
The world needs clock punchers.
But I’m not going to be one of them.