“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
Steve Jobs was not the first to say this, but apparently the most famous[i]. He mentioned it at the Stanford commencement ceremony of 2005, and he didn’t leave the quote merely hanging in the philosophical ether. He personalized it further:
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. Because almost everything — 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. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Jobs was initially diagnosed with cancer in October 2003, told first (mistakenly) he had less than six months to live, so he did have a chance to contemplate his thoughts on death prior to these eloquent words spoken at Stanford. But according to his life prior to cancer, he seemed to live with this same blend of urgency and peace with prospective failure.[ii]
What keeps you from living life with a sense of urgency? What keeps you from an impassioned pursuit of whatever it is that you feel created to do?
In entirely too many cases, the answer is fear not of physical death, but instead fear of our financial demise…which is often rooted in a fear of lifestyle reduction…which is often rooted in a fear of relative lifestyle comparison with our peers…which is especially ironic when you consider the millions of unemployed workers, bankrupt households, foreclosed homes and underwater homeowners. Most stricken with these seemingly terminal financial illnesses actually “followed the rules.” They didn’t take big chances, but instead followed the crowd.
What would it look like in your life, work and finances if “all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure” were cast aside, as Jobs suggests? And is it possible to do this responsibly within the confines of a financial plan that supports “what is truly important” to you?
[i] I say that because try as I might, I’ve not been able to find any other reference to this quote other than Steve Jobs!
[ii] For those not versed, he dropped out of college because he didn’t want to waste his parents’ life savings, co-founded Apple in a garage at the age of 20, got fired from Apple at the age of 30 for a vision that conflicted with the board’s, started Pixar and was subsequently invited back to Apple to leave a legacy that few would argue will ever be surpassed in the realm of technology and business.