I don’t want to get too far into the past. That would not be a relevant question for the actions we need to do today, nor do I want to get too far in the future. To me, those are the most irrelevant questions we should be asking ourselves. Lets stay in ‘the zone’ and try to focus on the present.
Yesterday my girlfriend and I took a quick drive to Manhattan to spend quality time with my girls. We went to the Sugar Factory where my 10 year old was begging for this sugary-blue-drink that comes in the fishbowl size glass with liquid smoke arising from its center. Combine that with 3 twirly lollipops and there were smiles abound. The glee dropped from my jaw the minute the bill came…$47.00!!!!
As I felt like the biggest sucker in the world (worse than the lollipops), I wanted to return it immediately. However, before I could register anything, my two girls and one of their friends already had their straws in the drink with huge smiles on their punims (Yiddish for face). Oh well, chalk that up to being a parent. I tried my best to shake that yucky feeling off as nobody wants to be so blatantly overcharged.
We then went on a nice spring walk on The High Line and visited a few shops to browse the current fashion trends. I saw a t-shirt that I liked at a high end boutique store and thought I would buy it. Then came the price – $440! It actually made me harken back to the ‘perceived value’ of that once exorbitant ‘dads’ sucker’s drink.’
Ending the afternoon, we had a reasonably priced lunch in the Meat Packing District (I used my budgeting skills to amortize that damn blue-sugar-concoction a few minutes prior) to rationalize this as an affordable trip.
We drove home with the kids while they played their favorite songs on their iPhones, singing and doing moves that reminded me I was every bit my age. When I put on the satellite radio, The Bee Gees were playing, How deep is your love. I might as well said this song came from a new rock group from Singapore. My kids not only did not care, but didn’t like the song. When I said that this album was one of the biggest albums sold of all time, my daughter stuck her tongue out at me.
Notwithstanding the generational challenges, we all had a great time connecting in a real way. How many Sundays will you have in your life that is 76 degrees, dry and sunny, and with the people you love? If you think there will be many, you may be right. In the more likely alternative, you might be “dead” wrong.
That’s right. Dead wrong! Have you ever really thought about your mortality? It is easier to think of it if you are ill, but what if you are relatively healthy? We tend to think that we have this Teflon shield protecting us for a long time. We do not. Anyone who thinks they can predict their own mortality is playing a fool’s game.
My dad died when he was 60 years old. It was way to soon. However, as I reflect on his rich life, I can only strive to match it. What I mean is that the number of years on his tombstone is basically irrelevant. It was what he did in the ‘dash’ between the birth and death date that really mattered.
Choose a life if you had to pick one
Just for a moment, let’s take the lives of two fictional people to illustrate a point. One lived to 90 years of age. The other made it to 47. Objectively, we would all pick the 90 year old as a life we would like to emulate. But if we go past the quantity of years and look at the quality of years, the answer might surprise you.
The 90 year old had an ordinary life. The man was bitter most days and had a job that did not give himself satisfaction. His marriage was eroding for the past 50 years and became a ‘chore’ he needed to deal with, rather than a companionship he could have fostered. His kids moved on a long time ago and barely visited him the past 20 years. This man saved most of his money for his retirement, not spending much during his younger years. Finally, he got very sick 2 years into his ‘so called’ golden years at age 67.
The 47 year old was a self made entrepreneur. He had a great wife and loved his kids. He made every day special by focussing on making a difference in the world he lived. He had a sense of purpose, passion and perspective. He came home every night to be with his kids for dinner and then worked again after they went to sleep. He changed our world and he enjoyed his time to the fullest every day. He travelled, exercised, engaged in meaningful conversations with others, and did not singularly focus on the future. This man died of natural causes unexpectedly age 47. It appears as a heartbreaking story and I am sure his wife and kids would miss him dearly.
If there was a closed box with two slips of paper folded inside representing both lives, I know I would have prayed to pick the person who was 47 years old when he died over the 90 year old. True, if we can have our druthers, I would take the life of the 47 year old with the age of the 90 year old. But life does not give us those guarantees. There is a wise saying that “the only thing in life that is guaranteed is death and taxes.”
Think about your life. Since we are all here for such a short time in relation to the infinite time of the universe, does it really matter how long we are here? If you do simple math, then the percentage must be the same since it is divisible by eternity.
The next time you get overwhelmed with your life, take a deep breath, smell the roses, notice the details and nuances surrounding you, and do your best to stay in the present. It is sometimes not easy, but the payoff is an enriched life filled with no regrets.