How would you live your life, if you truly felt your own mortality? I addressed this topic recently with Ms. Sonali Mangal, who is a Product Strategist at Google. She also runs a podcast called “Learn Educate Discover” (LED), whose purpose is to “Discover what you were meant to do.”
In the first 11 minutes of this LED podcast, I talk about the experience of getting my cancer diagnosis. (I also discuss this in another blog post, which you can find here.) After that, Sonali and I discuss the benefits of embracing your mortality, so you can have a happier, more fulfilling career and life.
Here is just one excerpt from the LED interview:
In a lot of ways, of course, no one wants to actually get cancer, but it sort of gave you the gift of courage, right?
Like, you no longer were afraid of trying these things that you always wanted to try.
Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, I’m here at home in my home office, and there’s only three Post-It notes on my monitor. But one of them is “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”
And when I got the diagnosis, I thought “Holy cow! Am I going to go to my grave never even trying to do something that was my dream? I mean, not even trying? Not even ask?” And I thought “This is crazy! Let me just try it out.”
And I think for many of us, you know, for some people their dream is to start their own company. Other people’s dreams are to travel around the world, or live a certain lifestyle. You know, it could be very different. Some people just want to take a cooking class!
And there are so many things, that we need to just give ourselves a little push. And just say “Let me just try it out. I don’t want to go to my grave regretting all these things.”
Your message is similar to the commencement speech which Steve Jobs gave at Stanford, coincidentally.
Which was something along the same lines of him trying to live each day as if it were his last day.
But I think this is a message which people have heard. But I think what keeps a lot of people back, is that, just sort of this fear, that yeah, I understand, I’m just trying to play the devil’s advocate here.
I understand this is the ideal thing to do, but at the end of the day,
I still have to live my life.
I still have to pay my rent.
I still have to meet whatever I have imagined are society’s expectations.
My family’s expectations. My friends’ expectations.
Then, at some level, my own expectations. Whatever those are.
And I think that’s what people get caught up in.
Right? Because when you get a diagnosis, you know it’s final. You know it’s happening. You don’t have anything to lose.
So, what would be your suggestion?
How do you get over that fear of losing?
So, you’ve touched on a lot of things that I like to drill down on in my workshops.
One of the things I say is – if you want to be unhappy, just compare yourself to other people. Because you can drive yourself crazy.
And most people, many people in Silicon Valley I know, just drive themselves crazy just comparing themselves to other people.
They make a million dollars, and they compare themselves to someone who has 10 million.
They make 10 million, and they compare themselves to someone who’s got 100 million.
It’s a great way to just drive yourself crazy and be always frustrated.
The Buddhists call this “the comparing mind.”
And I understand that we compare. There’s best practices. We can learn from role models. I understand all of that.
But generally, the less you compare yourself to other people, and the more you compare yourself your true potential, then the better off I think you’ll be. That’s what I suggest to people.
I say “Compare yourself to how you were a year ago. Or five years ago. Or a month ago. Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you getting better?”
That’s a useful comparison.
And then, you know, just continuing on your journey of doing what’s right. Doing what’s fun and enjoyable. But also doing what’s purposeful.
So I’m not saying that everybody needs to quit their jobs and just hang out on a beach. Because that’s not practical.
And in fact, the framework that I share in my happiness workshops is that there is the balance of pleasure and purpose in our lives. And we need to have a proper mix of those things.
So people who are just total workaholics — completely obsessed with getting that next promotion, or making more money, or getting more status — it’s ok to work hard, and it’s ok to do great stuff.
But if you don’t enjoy the journey, if you don’t enjoy the whole process — day-in and day-out — then you kind of lose sight of it. So those people need more fun, more enjoyment, more sleep, more vacations. More spas. Time to take care of their health, and eat better. That’s for those people.
And then there’s other people who are not motivated enough. They need to find something which is purposeful. And that can be purposeful relationships. It can be purposeful work. It can be volunteer work. It can be just working at a company where you believe in their product, or their services, or their mission.
If a person is aware of those things, then they can have your typical demanding Silicon Valley work, but hopefully it’s work that’s meaningful to them, however they want to define it.
And they’re still enjoying the process, and they realize — whether they’re 23, or 30, or 35, or 45, or 50, or 60 years old — they’re part of a journey, and they can enjoy every stage in that journey.
To listen to the whole interview, and see the other wonderful podcasts on Learn Educate Discover, please go here.
(I’d like to dedicate this interview to honor my friend Diane Hunt, who recently passed away following her courageous fight against cancer. Thanks for your inspiring example, Diane!)