What I Learned From My Father
My father died at the age of 65. He had a fairly healthy lifestyle. He quit smoking 25 years
earlier, ate well, but did not exercise due to his health. The cigarettes
got his lungs before he quit. It can happen to anyone at any time really.
I was 24 when it happened, and felt as if my real life was just getting started. I was married and my career at Rockwell was finally taking off. I had just bought a home and had a baby girl. Everything up to that point just seemed like preparation: school, university, living with my parents, and looking for a job for life.
I felt young and ready to take on the world. But when my father died, a terrible thought hit me. My life was just beginning and I had 40 years to go
until I reached his age. I did not want to retire ad pass on!
It was the first real view of my own mortality I'd ever got. Of course I always knew I was eventually going to die, but it seemed like a fantasy. It's a bit like knowing that Paris exists without having ever actually visited it.
It's when someone close to you - who you knew when they were young - dies that you really see the inevitability of your own end. For of course, ultimately we're all doomed - you, your neighbors, that person you see every day on the train, the guy at work with the bad attitude, the homeless person you pass on your way home, the rich people with fancy houses - all of us.
Our fate is sealed. Nobody in the history of human kind has ever escaped it.
It's a depressing thought and I don't mean to get you down, but you can also take something positive from it. Realizing that your time is short, makes you really focus on how precious it is. You're only going to be on this Earth for a few short decades, with billions of years without you on either side.
Many people put little value on their time. They work in jobs they hate, stay in relationships that make them miserable, and live in places where they aren't happy. They squander their precious moments because they're terrified of losing some money or being put in a situation that might be a little uncomfortable.
They get themselves up to their eyeballs in debt just so they can have a house with a view they never look at, or a fancy car that's the same as any other once the novelty wears off. They puff themselves up in self-importance over how important ***THEIR WORK*** is, and to hell with having any fun. They stress themselves out over tiny, pointless, stupid things that would be laughably petty if it didn't make them feel so bad.
When you think about just how short time is, you tend not to do that as much. You realize that it isn't a bottomless resource to be squandered and traded for any trivial thing that comes along and demands a bit of it. You think carefully and deeply about what's important to you - what you're willing to invest your most valuable resource on and what you're not.
If there are people in your life who try to make your few short years miserable by forcing their problems and neuroses onto you, don't let them. You haven't got time to put up with that kind of stupid garbage.
If there's a situation that's making you stressed or depressed, think to yourself: "Is it really worth wasting my precious time on this?" Often, you'll find the answer's "no".
Of course, the aim should be to maximize your enjoyment of life, and that means making some sacrifices. We all have to do things we don't want sometimes in order to get things we do. But don't get carried away with it, or addicted to sacrifice for its own sake. Remember that it's a means to an end and not an end in itself.
This view of life is wonderfully liberating, I believe. It really helps you sort out what's important from what's pointless and petty. Once you achieve this state of mind, you'll come to pity those who don't have it. Unfortunately, you'll start to notice that they're all around you.
This message is to my daughters and grand-children and I hope they understand!