“You are living as if you are destined to live forever. Your own frailty never occurs to you. You don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you have a full and overflowing supply. Though all the while that everyday which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You live like mortals in all that you fear, and live like immortals in all that you desire.” – Seneca, on The Shortness of Life.
Many of us go through our lives as if opportunity is around every corner. We coast and glide through the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years of our lives with out ever truly considering the fact that this minute, this hour, or this day, may in fact be our last. We have so many things that we claim to want to accomplish, yet we have little to no sense of urgency. “I’m going to start working out/go on a diet.” “I’m going to learn a new language.” “I’m going to travel more.” All of these types of phrases have one key word that ties them altogether. That word is eventually. Some day, we all believe, that we are going to magically get our shit together and achieve all of the things we aspire to achieving in life. Then, one day, we realize how much of our time we have wasted.
It seems almost absurd that we all subscribe to this idea that we will always have enough time. There is evidence to the contrary presented to us every single day. We see people die at all ages, sometimes suddenly, and yet we never fully comprehend the fact that it may happen to us. There seems to be a myth engrained in society that we get unlimited chances to make it big. In reality, the amounts of real opportunities we get in life are limited. Sure, we have a good amount of small or mediocre opportunities, ones that are about a “5” on a 1-10 scale, but the “8s” “9s” and “10s” are few. When you come across such opportunities and you can clearly recognize them, you have to seize them, and don’t do it on a small scale either. If you are prepared, and you are fairly certain that the opportunity is ripe, throw most, if not all, of your chips in. You have to be ready for such opportunities before they arise, and this is where preparation comes into play.
Do what is difficult when it’s easy. If you have an excess of cash and are in a position to put some of it away, do it. When an opportunity for a lucrative investment arises, you will be ready. If you are able bodied, especially if you are younger, exercise now, because it will become harder with age. If you are just starting out on your career path, learn and soak up every single bit of knowledge related to your field. Read books; become more interesting; know more things; be impressive. You never know whom you are going to run into. That one little bit of knowledge you may have, that one clever remark you make, could be the difference that makes an influential person notice you. The way you treat your body and appearance could be the thing that makes the person of your dreams turn their head back at you when you walk by. You never know. You never know. You never know.
You have to become impatiently patient. Most people are the opposite, which is they’re patiently impatient. Impatiently patient means that you are constantly preparing yourself for a moment of opportunity, but at the same time you are being patient in seeking the right opportunity. Being patiently impatient, simply stated, is putting things off for later that you know you could be working on now. You are as young as you’re ever going to be, right now, and you don’t know how much time you have left. If a fourteen-year-old kid has a week left to live, he is older than a senior citizen who still has a few decades left. Your real age should be measured by the time you have left, not the amount that has passed. The amount is unknown, and therefore should be treated as precious. You don’t want to have the type of fear that is paralyzing, but some amount of fear is beneficial to getting you where you want to be in life.
Its funny how frugal we can be with money, while at the same time being so generous with our time. You wouldn’t give people your money in a “willy nilly” fashion, but we all seem to be willing to give our time to whoever wants it. People say life is short, but I don’t think it is. Life is long, but only if you know how to use it. I think that people believe life is short simply because they misuse and waste so much of it. Think of all of the time you’ve wasted, and all of the things you place an importance on, that actually have no meaning.
Don’t be one of those people who have regrets when it’s all said and done. “We are mortal in our fears, and immortal in our desires”. Think about the things that scare you, are they really that scary? Are you overlooking the things that should petrify you? Like perhaps, wasting your entire life doing things that you don’t want to do. Picture yourself at the end of your life if it’s filled with regrets. Picture yourself on your deathbed when you finally realize what’s important. You will cry, you will scream, you will be infuriated and terrified at the same time, you will beg to have all of your time back.
We are so careful with things that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life. So many of us simply wander through our lives and move through time, without ever accomplishing anything. Having an impact in life doesn’t have anything to do with money or conventional ideas of success. Having impact in life is finding something that you are passionate about and are meant to do, and living up to your standards. I don’t have to be telepathic to know that many of you out there are not living up to your standards — and for some, it has come to the point where you don’t even care anymore. You’ve resigned your life to meaninglessness and you’ve given up. For those of you who continue to put things off, there is a real possibility of you ending up like this. I know it’s hard to see now, especially if you are young, but think about it.
You have to become excellent, in whatever you choose to do. John Wooden was quoted as saying “Satisfaction comes from knowing you did the best you can do.” In absolute terms, you have not done the best, but if based on your circumstances you truly gave it your all, then you can rest easy. Failure isn’t usually what we think it is. We think of it as a monumental defeat. Most of the time when opportunity passes us by, it isn’t because we have done anything incorrectly. Most missed opportunity is the result of “death by faint praise”. What I mean by that is, when your name gets brought up in conversation, it’s not that you are inferior by any means, it’s that you are just “pretty good”. You are a “pretty nice guy/girl”. You don’t stand out; you’re just “alright”. You should aspire to be the type of person that can’t be ignored. You should want people to feel something after interacting with you. The way to become that type of person is to dedicate your life to continual learning and improvement; you have to be impressive.
I want you to make this commitment, if you truly want to live an excellent life. Say this to yourself, write it down, and put it on your wall, what ever it takes.
“I will not be overlooked due to any lack or curiosity, passion, knowledge, awareness, or effort.”
If you can live your life by that commitment, you will be just fine. I myself may not have made that full commitment, but what I do know is that living any other way can prove fatal to my dreams and aspirations. I have known that I wanted to write at a young age, but I never gave it a shot. Then one day, I just decided to write an article and submit it. The article was published, and now I am learning to become a better writer and have a goal to be a great one. Maybe I’ll get what I want, and maybe I won’t, but if I do everything that I possibly can do, the end result won’t really matter. I’ll know that I gave it my all, and I will be at peace. If you do the same, then you’ll be at peace too.