What Makes a Ridiculously Awesome Life? 3 Things. That’s it.
In 2006, I picked up a book by Robin Sharma — the title sounded interesting. It read, The Monk who sold his Ferrari. As I was reading through it, one thought made me sit up — “what if today is your last, how will you live it differently?”
That thought deftly tilted my perspective. I have been noodling on it ever since. And I spotted a trend.
Through the years, my vision of what I would do on that day changes. On the other hand, right at that edge of life, one consistent magic happens. Something I find difficult to crystallize in a normal day — clarity of purpose.
My aha — what is a blur looking forward is lucid and crystal clear when we look back on the life that could have been. Or as Steve Jobs famously echoed at Stanford Commencement speech — “dots connect after the fact.”
Here are three.
1. Pursue. Express. Human spirit says so
What is true for you and me is true for our elderly on the throttles of their life journey. Their regrets are a powerhouse of insights. What happens if you can poll a pool of them?
A nurse Bronnie Ware interviewed them and collated exactly that — their dazzling array of life yearnings. Here is the essence.
1. I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my mind
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5. I wish I had let myself be happier
In the clutter of our walls or fridge door — held by magnets or pins, these sharp words stare back as shining examples of what truly matters.
It is one thing to ferret deep within and keep it real. It is quite another vantage point to know how we are perceived — on a life well led. In the obituaries.
2. Give — Obituary Data says so.
I love looking for unique trends. For example, a year ago, I relished studying blog titles of Common Joes and Mayas that went viral on LinkedIn and enjoyed synthesizing the essence.
I found it riveting that a fellow geek, Lux Narayan, did the same at a TED Talk. Except his analysis centered around 2000 non-paid, editorial obituaries from 2015 to 2016. Lux Narayan used machine learning to mine for the most significant words in the first paragraphs across the 2000 NY imprints.
The essence of his data — the second standout word associated with “not so famous” Joes and Mayas is help.[the first was John, if you are the curious kind]
In Lux’s words, “The exercise was a fascinating testament to the kaleidoscope that is life ….. because the most powerful lesson here is, if more people lived their lives trying to be famous in death, the world would be a much better place.”
The science of words has that effect on you. It can whittle down to the most significant and illuminate us for life. What about the science of research?
3. Invest in relationships. Science says so
A research was started about 75 years ago. It still continues to this day with Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939–1944 and inner-city youths who grew up in Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945.
A psychiatrist named George Vaillant had the enormous task of cascading the results to the right mixture of sizzle and steam and invigorate us. He does it with aplomb. His main conclusion- “warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on life satisfaction.”
His signature words –“Happiness is love. Full stop.”
No wonder, the world’s five richest people — all of them have kids. Breaking a middle class myth — the word between career and family is or.
It is one thing to go to the edge of life to distill the essence. It is quite another to articulate it ahead.
What reverberates in my mind is the simple and powerful words of a children’s book author on her life’s purpose — “I give kids awesome dreams.”
Her audacious response is her own way of etching her meaning — in her lifetime, on her terms and on what makes her happy.
All of us can relate to her clarity of purpose. How many of us can verbalize it like her?