…All external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
Sorry. You have probably heard those words, the result of the remarkable clarity that comes to us in certain rare and extreme moments, a number of times since Steve Jobs died.
But as things really start moving and shaking for me, as I try to maintain my sanity when I’d rather just throw things, and when I know that feeling overwhelmed is an expression of anxiety over the many changes and challenges ahead of me, those words (and the others from his commencement speech to the 2005 Stanford grads, which you can and should read here) have been especially soothing.
It comes down to a simple truth. When faced with the Ultimate End we all share, nothing matters.
I know from my own deep experience with grief that there are two ways to take this stark reality.
There’s the dark: if nothing matters, nothing is worth living for. Why bother? I know the feeling. I’ve had it, even recently. It’s dark and it’s scary.
Then there’s the light: if nothing matters, so what if you screw up?! Why agonize over taking a chance when a mistake is meaningless in the grand scheme of things? This mindset is freeing.
As a straight-A student through school, I have a definite fear of failure. Immobilizing at times. But the mindset that nothing matters really helps eliminate that anxiety.
Of course, it is important to consider how your decisions might affect other people. If your failure could have a negative impact on someone else who wasn’t a part of your decision-making process, it’s not fair to impose that upon them. There is a difference between courage and recklessness.
But as Steve Jobs says in his address, you have to trust your intuition. And you owe it to yourself to put your best into it. So even if something seems crazy, if you truly believe you can do it, and you have spent the time to plan and design, go for it.
So with our house sold (somewhat miraculously–fodder for another post), my husband and I are really making this move–soon! The last pay check will roll in next week and then it’s all on us! Wow, that is scary!
But if we don’t take this step (off the edge of a cliff, I sometimes feel), we’d never know just how successful we could be on our own. That question deserves an answer. And if the answer is that we fail, so what? We’re just going to die one day anyway! (and I really mean that in the most lighthearted way possible 🙂
Are there words that have inspired you to take a chance? Or do you like to play it safe?
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It does matter! Look to Jesus Christ. He offers eternal life.
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This post’s title made me laugh so hard. It sounds like something I would say when I’m annoyed and frustrated and gear up into “oh the hell with it” mode. It’s pretty sobering though once the initial mirth wears off. You’re right. If you keep worrying about the what if’s you’ll never actually do anything, and I think I’d rather start and muck up than stay still.
I’ve played it safe and not so much. It’s all pretty subjective I suppose. When I look at the people I most admire, most of them did not play it particularly safe. That is inspiration enough for me personally. But every person is so different, not everyone wants or craves a life on the edge, some feel more comfortable in the middle.
Yeah, I think there’s definitely a need for both the risk takers to innovate and keep things moving on the one hand, and the play-it-safers to keep things more stable on the other. A yin and yang thing!
Condo on the edge! I like to take risks, but not physical ones. I like to take creative risks, but they cost me lost income. That creates a risk of a crummy old age if I do not save enough money. The risk I take in persisting in being creative (and happier being so) is that I am not good enough (in commercial terms) to justify having done so. So I try to live frugally and enjoy the best of both.
I would imagine that creative risks are important to take once in a while–to help keep you fresh and discover possibilities and talents you otherwise wouldn’t have recognized in yourself. But I agree–the ticking clock and the pressure of being a part of a society that is expensive definitely tempers the risk-taking. I love your frugality model–while most people think of frugality as something that is constraining, it sounds like you’re the one who really “has it all.” I wonder if the recession is helping other people come to that realization…
You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Best wishes on this new adventure.