I used to have many books, and I made my own bookmarks out of found objects. I came across one of those bookmarks today while reading a bit of The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain. It was a quote – quite inspirational, I guess – by Steve Jobs. I am not a techie, and I have never owned anything Steve Jobs invented, and I’ve never seen a Pixar movie. I only know who he was because a lot of other people do. But, this quote…it’s the kind that sound so grand when first heard, about enough to give a reader a word high, or at least a word rush. I had to do a bit of research to see where it came from…what the context was. It was from a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, after his big pancreatic cancer scare, and I guess he was feeling inspired by being told he wasn’t going to die in six months. Reading the whole of the speech, I came across this bit also:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Well, isn’t that inspirational? That’s what I thought when I started this. Then, I thought how defeated it could make people feel, people who have never, or could never “…follow their heart” because of the grind that life present those of us who aren’t so wealthy. It’s like he’s a tight-rope walker with a big net under him encouraging those who heard or read his words to step out onto a similar tight-rope, except they don’t have a net below them, or a small one at best. But, any way…here’s the part of his speech I found written on my bookmarker –
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Now this is a little easier to handle. There’s nothing about contemplating death when making daily or life decisions. Most people fret over what they have to lose, don’t think of themselves naked – metaphorically or otherwise – and are way too timid to follow their “heart” or whatever they think is the seat of their emotional life. How many of us make decisions without the echo of the dogma of their family, friends, society, or sense of history ringing in our ears? And how many are willing to toss away that dogma to discover what they truly want to become…to shun what is secondary?
To take this advice to heart – to truly let the inner voice decide action – is to take the ultimate gamble, seeking the ultimate reward, and how many people do you know who are willing to go all in on a game that is so heavily rigged against the player?
I’ve been criticized for not owning an automobile…for using public transportation, a true insult in some circles.
I had good input as a youth. I spent most of my younger days with a grandfather and grandmother. I drove the Alaska Highway many times with my grandfather, and 2,000 miles alone in the cab of his truck led to many discussions which were above my intellectual grasp at the time, but I know now they shaped my thinking as much as any other words I’ve heard. He told me life was completely backwards…that when people are young, daring, healthy and vibrant they are consumed with raising families, working their way up some occupational ladder, satisfying the needs of others as much or more than themselves. Then, when aged, with time on their hand, a little money – maybe, and often in ill health or psychologically beaten down by the grind, they decide to live a little. Too late…the life lived was not a rehearsal…there is no starting over.
And what if everyone lived like today was the last day of life? Who would keep the electricity flowing? Who would operate the cash registers? Who would not run their credit cards to the limit or beyond? Who would bother writing garble like this…except for artists so greedy with their time that they would rather write than satisfy other people’s idea of what they SHOULD be dong.
Good luck, gamblers…