My first blog and It wouldn’t be like me to start at the end, teachers used to tell me in school that I did things “arse about face” alluding to my seemingly unconventional way to solve problems. Years later it was to be not only accepted but practised by almost every successful athlete or business owner I had the opportunity to meet or to coach and called reverse engineering. Working backwards from the end result.
I promise you that this blog, Monday Mindset isn’t doom and gloom, in fact, It’s quite the opposite as its designed to inspire you and to provide you with the resources to improve your mind and the set of programmes contained therein. But, I don’t believe we can talk about life and living without being totally transparent about what the opposite of that is. Death, is not only the opposite of life, it’s also an integral part of it. A natural cycle that despite our best efforts of evading will touch us all. Death is as normal to the journey of life as birth, with Plato describing it as nothing more than the separation of the soul from the body.
Why has every tradition, civilization and philosopher contemplated death as a means to live a more purposeful life? The answer of course is that to know death, is to know life.
Life expectancy these days has certainly progressed since ancient times with the average person living to 80 years of age. That’s 4,000 weeks! Yes, you read that correctly, you are only here for 4000 weeks and if like me your approaching 40 then that leaves approximately 2,000 weeks . Let that sink in for a moment and as opposed to it depressing you let it serve as an insight into how insignificant your stresses really are but also as a reminder of how short life truly is.
Yet, we waste so much of what little time we have. I keep a coin engraved with the words Momento Mori in my wallet which serves as a daily reminder to live and love fully and if each of the 2,000 or so weeks I have left, are represented by a gold coin, then it’s my duty to use them to the best of my ability and spend them wisely.
Seneca, the Stoic philosopher in his essay “On the Shortness of Life” draws awareness to our perverse relationship with time, “The Life we receive is not short but we make it so. We are not ill -provided but use what we have wastefully”
In fact, so many people tend to waste decades in an attempt to hold time in their hand only to watch its slip through their fingertips or even worse, think they can bank time, that it will somehow wait for them at the end in some romanticised fairytale. The fairytale is easy to fall for…. work in a job that you barely like at best to get a pension, all for the hope that then you can start living life on your terms. It’s the ultimate paradox, to give the best years of your life in a hope that after it all, you will have the best years of your life.
Think of the donkey with a stick tied to its harness dangling a carrot in front of its face. Chasing time represented by the carrot for all its days until its no longer of use to its master.
Let’s think about the gold Momento Mori coins again, if each coin does in fact represent one of the 4,000 weeks we have then we need to be aware of the fact that in the game of life you can’t save up your coins, as each week passes, another coin is taken from you by the big bank in the sky, and there’s no appeal process. The philosopher Montaigne described it best when he wrote, “We die every day, for every day some part of life is taken from us”
So what do we do when we accept our mortality and make peace with death? We start living of course.
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…the one who put the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time” – Seneca
If you read the first few paragraphs and adopted a nihilistic attitude of “well what’s the point of even trying if I only have a a couple of thousand of weeks” let me remind you that throughout history both men and women have left the world in a better place than they found it through their leadership, music, art, charity, genius and courage and they done it with the exact same amount of weeks as you. In actual fact, most likely much less. In the 1900’s the life expectancy was 44 years, that’s 2295 weeks or gold coins so get busy living or get busy dying.