“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!'” – Hunter S. Thompson
In his live seminars, Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and author of The Success Principles, has a wonderful demonstration. He holds up a $100 bill and asks if anyone in the audience would like it. Then he waits.
Many raise their hand. Some call out that they want the money. But almost no one actually comes up to the stage to get the money. On the rare occasion that someone does, he gives it to them and they sit down, $100 richer for their efforts.
Jack then points out that the person with the money did something no one else did – they took the necessary action to get the hundred dollars.
How often have you thought about stepping up and taking action, but then stopped yourself for one reason or another? When Canfield asks the audience why they didn’t just come up and take the bill, the answers are typically:
- I didn’t want to look like I wanted or needed it that badly.
- I wasn’t sure if you would really give it to me.
- I was too far back in the room.
- Other people need it more than I do.
- I didn’t want to look greedy.
- I was afraid I might be doing something wrong and then people would judge me or laugh at me.
- I was waiting for further instructions.
The question isn’t ‘what are we going to do,’ the question is ‘what aren’t we going to do?’
— Ferris Bueller
Let’s say you live to be 85.
That’s a nice fat number. It’s certainly a number that would have the people attending your funeral console your survivors by saying, “(s)he lived a full, long life!”
Long, for sure. But full?
85 years is about 31,000 days. I’ve gone through about 24,000 of them so far and way too many were spent waiting. Waiting for conditions to be just right. Waiting for reassurance, inspiration, the right timing, the economy to improve, the kids to leave home, the rain to stop, a clear set of instructions, the alignment of the planets.
But I realize now that I wasn’t waiting. I was hiding. Avoiding action in case I made a mistake. In case I would be judged poorly.
In stark contrast, Greta Thunberg stormed out of the gate and began making a serious impact on the world at the age of 16. Nelson Mandela was a force to be reckoned with until he took sick at 85.
Okay, these two might be exceptions but it’s safe to say that most of us are in a position to make a difference from age 20 to 70. 50 years, 18,250 days. 18,250 opportunities to do something remarkable, to make a difference, to make your own, or someone else’s life better.
Your impact doesn’t have to be global – those people are rare. But the ripples that your life creates when it drops into the universal pond have the potential to positively affect so many people!
Whatever you choose to do – give it all you’ve got. No holding back. If you’re a bricklayer, lay those bricks as if each one was gold. If you’re a gardener, prune those shrubs like they’re the gardens of Versailles. No matter what you do, do it as if God Himself had asked you to.
People who are consistently successful get up and do what needs to be done. They start something. Then they learn from their mistakes, make corrections and try again. In this process they build momentum and either achieve their goals or something even better than they dreamed.
Where is the list of dreams you wrote 10 years ago? Grant yourself the permission and the courage to update it. Today.
Look back at that list of excuses that Jack Canfield’s audience offers. How many are you using to avoid action on those things you dream about? How often has part of you wanted to get on with life’s exciting adventure, but another part held you back, waiting for a better time, waiting for more instructions or concerned that someone else might judge you?
The only people who know exactly how tomorrow and the next day are going to turn out are dead. I’ve discovered that I prefer the suspense.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die – for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
— George Bernard Shaw