Nine minutes into his famous Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs discussed the importance he placed on thinking about death during life:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”
The only difference between Steve Jobs’ view on death and my own is that Jobs came to this understanding at the age of seventeen after reading a quote.
Jobs path to this bit of wisdom seems a little easier and a lot smarter.
I meet people everyday who can’t understand the way that my ongoing existential crisis and my obsession with death motivate me. They can’t begin to understand how someone can be so focused on the idea of mortality for so much of their day to day life. Nor would they ever want such a burden.
But it’s not their fault.
The ability to constantly remember that you will be dead soon apparently requires that you be as brilliant as Steve Jobs or as unlucky as me.
Both of these are conditions not easily achieved. It makes me wonder if the advice that Jobs gives is worthwhile.
A former life coach client once told me that he’s known two near-death survivors in his life. Me and one of his friends. He said that the two of us are alike in so many ways. The way we talk about goals. The way we try to maximize our minutes. The things we choose to ignore and disregard in favor of things that matter. The systems and routines that we create to increase efficiency and productivity. Our levels of self confidence.
“Even the way the two of you walk through a crowd is the same.”
I say that I am unlucky, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. But I wonder where I would be today had a bee, a Mercedes, and three armed men not tried to kill me.
I’m just not as smart as Steve Jobs. A little bit of death, spread out over the course of a decade, might have been just what someone like me needed to get ahead.
I wouldn’t wish my past on anyone, but I’m not sure that if given the chance I would change a thing.