The Sunday Mail
When you know you are dying, you know you have no time to waste. Where would you choose to be buried if you have unleashed your greatness, transformed entire industries, changed the world, made real money and have become a global celebrity?
For the late Steve Jobs, the answer was clear, straightforward and not debatable. In his will he clearly stated that he wanted to be buried in an unmarked grave. For him it is not the tomb that mattered or the funeral ceremony. He was not looking at making his grave a shrine, but contributing to making people’s lives better through computer technology that appealed to the individual. It is he that popularised the concept of the personal computer and personal gadgets that were an extension of you as a person and mirrored your personality.
It is not how you die that matters but how you live and what difference you make. Life is meant to be lived and not died. Every day wake up with a realisation that today could be your last day. Live well and make the most of the moment. There are no half-hearted champions and your best moment is this one. Quit living in the past — you cannot go back there. Stop dreaming of the future and forgetting to be here now. Rob the grave of your potential and make it an aim that you will die empty having done your best and lived your best. It is not what you take to the grave that matters but what you leave in this world as your contribution. The battles you think are individual may be victories that will benefit many other people.
You will not live forever. Death will come, but till then your business is living and not worrying that you will die. Death is a mirror. It is when you look at death in the mirror that you are prompted to live and not die. Do not be a coward who lives with a death-wish because you are too scared to face life and its challenges. Stop running and start engaging and living. Make your mark, take bold steps and make a difference.
The 13th Century Eastern poet Jalaluddin Rumi wrote an inspiring poem entitled “On the day I die.” The poem reads:
“On the day I die, when I’m being carried toward the grave, don’t weep.
He’s gone! He’s gone.
Death has nothing to do with going away.
The sun sets and the moon sets, but they’re not gone.
Death is a coming together.
The tomb looks like a prison, but it’s really release into union.
The human seed goes down in the ground like a bucket into the well where Joseph is.
It grows and comes up full of some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes here, and immediately opens with a shout of joy there.”
No one lives forever, we are all mere tenants with different leases. Each moment is valuable and ought to be lived well, knowing that one day you will be gone. Live and do not take yourself of the shelf of life before your “sell-by” expiry date. Instead of fearing to die, fear that you might to live. Aim to live and do your best to make a difference in the life of other people.
John Dryden was born in 1631 in a small town in Northamptonshire, England. He was the eldest of 14 children, and was considered one of the dominant and greatest poets in Restoration England.
This was the period between 1660 and 1800 which saw the revival of theatre, art and scientific inquiry. This moment is like no other moment in history. Make your mark, unleash your greatness. This moment has been waiting for you to show up. There are opportunities present that may never come again. Do not let this opportunity pass you by because you were waiting for a better day to live.
Dryden in keeping with the spirit of the times became a playwright, writing various plays. In the library world he has etched his permanent place, not with the longest of his writing but the shortest one, a poem entitled:
“Happy the man.” The poem carries a potent message and yet breaks all the grammatical rules that English teachers meticulously teach on the use of propositions and how sentences are supposed to end.
Perhaps this is just what the experiences of life can be. What you think is a full stop could just be a comma or colon. Endings could just be beginnings. Your times of desperation at times are your times of greatest discovery and growth. This moment of your life is not a terminal point, but the beginning of your greatness.
Dryden’s poem reads:
“Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine,
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.”
Today is what you have, live your purposeful best. When you know you have done your best today you can throw your head to your pillow and say: “Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.” You cannot keep crying about the past and pining for it, the best you can do is to live today and do your best today. Rob death of its pleasure by living your best day. Make your most. You do not afford to live purposelessly and to give up trying. Trying times are not the times to stop trying and start crying.
The business case
The thinking around the concept of the business case is that before you embark on a project you must assess its economic logic. You must ask “does it make business sense.” You must work the numbers out to show and demonstrate the business value.
What will it cost, what will be the benefit and what profits or savings will be achieved? Unless there is a business case you are bound to waste resources. This concept holds well in justifying investments and expenditure, but it holds well with life as well.
If you were to die today would there be a business case for your resurrection?
If you were dying this evening, would there be a need to pray for the extension of your life?
If you were dying would the person closest to you try all they can to save you, or they would wish otherwise?
Live life in such a way that if it is extended there are extended benefits to many. Make your difference and add value where you are. Be obsessed with living and not dying.
Who will cry when you die?
When you die who will cry and why? Who will turn up at your funeral?
Some people might turn up at your funeral to confirm that you are really dead. These will insist on viewing the body. Others, yes will turn up to pay their last respects. Live in such a way that when you die even the undertaker or funeral director will weep. The opportunities to serve and make a difference are abundant.
When you are born, you come crying while the whole world is rejoicing. Live in such a way that when you leave you will be rejoicing for having lived to the full and touched lives, while the whole world weeps at their loss. Live well and make a difference. Do not just exist, live!
You are mortal
There is a story that is told about Alexander the Great and how he was able to sustain his greatness and motivation. Without a doubt he was a great and fearless warrior. He achieved many exploits and made his mark in the world. His fame is still framed today.
Alexander had a decorated retinue of officials that followed him and sang his praises. Some even thought he was immortal. Yet it is said that in his wisdom, Alexander recruited a special advisor that followed him around wherever he went. This advisor would at intervals whisper to him a single message. While everyone was talking great about Alexander, the official would draw close and whisper: “You are mortal. You are just a man. You are mortal.” It was a piercing reality check.
In the midst of the funfair and pomp, this was simply to keep Alexander from believing what his troops and his enemies believed — that he was a god among men. This innovation worked and helped Alexander to maintain sobriety and humility. It forced him to admit his weaknesses and human frailties.
As such, Alexander rarely overextended himself and was able to survive long enough to secure his place in the annals of history.
When you internalise your mortality, you live with humility and knowledge that this moment will also pass and you too will be like those that have also gone. Yet, your role is to do your best today and let tomorrow have its way.
As a motivational speaker, I know I am only human and the best I can do is the best I can do. The best I can do is to play my humble part in life today in the realities I face.
Perhaps, like Alexander the Great, you may not be able to hire someone to follow you around to whisper brutal realities in your ear. Perhaps you may consider making a popular Zimbabwe Catholic song, “Yeuka Munhu Uri Huruva (Remember you are mortal)” your telephone ring tone.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and coach. His life purpose is to inspire greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634.