You may have heard the Latin phrase, “Memento Mori” which quite literally means “remember that you have to die.” That phrase has also been used to describe an object that serves as a reminder of death, like a skull or any other object that has that connotation.
Now, the reason I want to talk with you about this because, just prior to hitting record on this podcast, I booked a flight and hotel to go see my father who, just a couple days ago, had a heart attack. I don’t know whether he is going to live or die but, unfortunately, right now, things don’t look good. I’m sure by the time this podcast is released we’ll know if he has passed or if he’s in the clear.
As I think about all that’s gone on for me physically, mentally, and emotionally over the past 48 hours, I can’t help but think about the prospect of my own death.
Have I done all that I am meant to do?
Have I said all that needs to be said?
What kind of legacy will I leave for my family, my friends, my colleagues, and even you?
What is my ultimate purpose on this planet?
Those questions and so many more.
As I continue to process the news of my father’s failing health, I want to share with you a few things that have come to mind and a few things that have been put into perspective for me.
First, I can’t help but think about the priorities I have in life. We are constantly bombarded by stimulus. You can’t turn around without running into someone or some business who want and demands your time and attention.
When I got back from Iraq, it was difficult at times for me to get back into civilian life because the amount of trivial nonsense we focus on is endless. I talked about this on my podcast with Noah Kagan and, if you spent any time in the military, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
When you’re faced with the real prospect of death, things seem to become a lot clearer and the trivial matters that typically cloud our judgement seem to fade away.
That’s why I think this notion of “Memento Mori” is interesting. If we can remember that our time on this planet is limited without waiting for death to knock on our door, I think we’ll live our lives a little more intentionally and with a little more clarity.
So, along those lines, I’ve thought about the toxicity I’ve surrounded myself with in my life. This could come in the form of a career that I’ve hated or relationships (either friendly or romantic) that have been bad for me. It could also be the toxic chemicals we put in our body like drugs, tobacco, alcohol.
Life is way too short to surround yourself with the negative influences that come so easy.
I hear a lot of men complain about jobs they hate, and abusive relationships they’re in, or how they’re trying to quit cigarettes or alcohol.
I realize that this can be a difficult thing to do but, again, if we remember and keep in perspective how short life really is, I think it can make the elimination of these destructive forces from our lives a little more manageable.
I’d encourage you to talk a look at your own life – inventory – and identify anything that may be holding you back, or worse, bringing you down, and keep in mind that we have only one short, life to live.
And, on that subject, let’s talk about regrets. I know a lot of you know some of my story with my father. He was out of the picture for the most part by the time I was three years old. But, that said, I believe he is a good man. I believe he loved me. And, I also believe that he probably has some regrets about the way he’s lived his life – as do we all.
I also have regrets. There were times in my life where I distances myself from him because I felt as if I needed to to move forward and, while that may be the case, I don’t know if I’ve completely forgiven him for not being around when I was younger.
I remember glimpses of a healthy father/son relationship. He would play Legos with me for hours when I would go visit him. We would joke and roughhouse and do a lot of things together that I wish I had more of as I was growing up.
I regret not doing more of that and, I’m sure he does as well.
I have my plane ticket in hand and I will get to see him tomorrow morning to tell him that I do forgive him so that, if he leaves, I hope he does so in peace and I hope I can have peace knowing I gave him and myself that gift of forgiveness.
I just hope it’s not too late.
I’ve also thought a lot about the level at which I’ve been playing at. So many of us – myself included – are coasting on life. We’re just getting by. And, we’re playing at such an insignificant level.
I’d say that would be okay if I knew we weren’t destined for something more. I believe we all are here for a reason and part of our existence in this life is to find out exactly what that is and share it with the universe for the benefit of those who would be served by our purpose.
When I talk about purpose, I’m not only talking about our career (although it does have to do with that). I’m also talking about how we show up in other areas of our lives – being a husband, fatherhood, business owner, employee, community leader, coach, teacher, son, and friend.
At what level are you playing? At what level am I playing? We can always do more.
Remembering that our time is limited is a great reminder for us to live life to the fullest and live it on the biggest scale possible.
And, the last thing I want to share with you today is that of legacy. As I sit here and ponder my father’s life and our relationship, I can’t help but think about my relationship with my children.
If I were to die tomorrow, did I do enough for them to know how I truly feel about them? Will my love and guidance and support and direction be enough to last their lifetime.
I’ve always tried to live life by the adage that we should leave every environment, encounter, project, conversation, and experience better than we left it.
When you die, what will your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors say about you? Will that eulogy capture the way you truly wanted to live your life?
There’s a great exercise I was asked to do last year in one of the course I was taking. The course asked me to write my own eulogy. What would it say? What would people remember about me? What would be my legacy?
Don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about these things. You and I have the opportunity to define our legacy right now. It might not be what we want it to be right now but, that’s okay, because we have the power to do something about it right now.
Gentlemen, that’s my message for you today. Remember, Memento Mori. You are going to die. That’s not meant as a reminder of death itself but as the inspiration to live life to the fullest.
I know that this experience with my father will help me to remember to live differently and, for that, and other things, I am grateful for him.