What Man Understands That He Is Dying Daily? (This Is Your Life)

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 20, 2011 · 164 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

The largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands. –Seneca

When I was a kid and looked at pictures of my dad like the one above, he seemed so old to me. He seemed to exist in a place so far distant that it inhabited a completely different universe than mine. He was assuredly an adult. He had begun life, and he knew it.

A few weeks ago as I was holding Gus, I thought about those old photos, and the thought struck me like a thunderbolt: This is your life. I’m sure this revelation seems quite obvious, what else would it be? But what I mean is that I realized that my life had come full circle. Those old pictures of my parents? Now that was me. That time that had seemed so far away had arrived. This was my life.

There’s nothing like having a kid to make you acutely aware of your own mortality. As Jerry Seinfeld observed when he had kids, “Make no mistake about why these babies are here – they are here to replace us.” It’s amazing to look at a baby and realize he is a completely new person, a new person who literally has his whole life ahead of him. This little creature hasn’t even gone to kindergarten yet. And that’s when you realize that a third of your life is over, a whole dang third of it.

I realized I had always expected that at a certain point some signal would be given, some change would come over me, and then I would know that my “real” life had started. After all, if people always ask what you want to be when you grow-up, you figure one day you’ll simply know you’ve grown-up, that you’ve hit that milestone and are officially an adult, and that all adults get initiated into this special knowledge. I thought this moment would come when I went off to college or graduated from it, or when I got married, and surely when I had kids. But that transformative moment never came. Each day was just like the rest. I had been living my life all along. This was my life.

The shortness of life, the fact that one must enjoy the journey instead of focusing on a destination, is surely one of the most popular themes of books, songs, and movies. And so I was almost hesitant to tread where many have trod before with this article. But the fact of the matter is that all those calls to seize the day just go in one ear and out the other, they exist as a cloud of white noise until you have your own, personal “this is your life” moment. A moment when the brevity of life hits you like a ton of bricks and knocks the wind out of you. When you finally understand, deep down in your soul, that the clock’s been running since your were born and keeps on ticking away. So perhaps for some man, somewhere, this post will serve as that wake up call.

Food for Worms

That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once:
how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were
Cain’s jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It
might be the pate of a politician, which this ass
now o’er-reaches; one that would circumvent God,
might it not? …

There’s another: why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets,
his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?

In Act V, Scene 1, of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet and Horatio converse with a pair of gravediggers in a cemetery. When Hamlet looks upon the skulls of the dead, he imagines the life they had once enjoyed in the flesh. This leads him to picture the bones of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, once mighty men, now moldering in the dust like any other mortal. The reality of death hits Hamlet right in the gut, and he has a “this is your life” moment.

In looking for old photographs to use on AoM, I’ll often find a picture particularly arresting; the vividness of the man’s life at the time the camera flashed upon it jumps out and holds my gaze. And I’ll take a minute to look at his face, to think about the way his day to day life felt no less real than mine does, that his present, his world, felt no less important, that his feelings and aspirations felt no less vital. And how his body is now lying six feet underground somewhere. His life felt just as endless as ours does and yet he has vanished from the earth. 100 years down the road someone might look at our face in an old wrinkled photograph and wonder about the life we lived. Hold that image in your mind for a second…

It’s a moment captured very well in the famous carpe diem scene in the film, The Dead Poets Society:

My 10 year high school reunion is coming up this year. I was thinking about this, and thinking about how astoundingly quickly the 10 years had gone by. And then I thought about how I might only get 5 more of those ten year periods. I thought about 5 apples lined up on a counter. Not very many. 5 apples before I’m food for worms.

No Time Like the Present

Why do we always put off doing what we dream about until some point in the future? Researchers have found that humans are very bad at predicting “resource slack.” When asked to guess how much money and time they’ll have in the future, they accurately predict that their financial situation will remain relatively the same, but they think that their free time will expand. This creates what is a termed the “Yes…Damn!” moment….which happens when you say yes to a commitment that’s a few months away, thinking you’ll have plenty of time to do it when it finally comes around, only to realize when it arrives that you’re just as busy as you ever were. Yes…Damn!

This blind spot in our perception is why we confidently tell ourselves that we’ll start that business, lose the weight, repair our relationship, get organized…in a few weeks or a few months, because then we’ll have more time. It’s an illusion. It’s a self-deception that allows us to soothe the pangs of our unfulfilled desires with the panacea that now is not the right time. The mirage of the time-filled future can string a man along until he’s 80, has one foot in the grave, and realizes that the expanse of time he imagined would open never appeared.

When I was in a college, I remember a mentor told me that I’d never have as much time in my life as I had right then. I didn’t believe him at the time; with a heavy course load and a job I felt incredibly busy. And then I got married and got a job. And then I had a baby. Looking back I cannot believe how much time I had back in college. Buckets of time have not opened up as I’ve gotten older–quite the opposite. And I’ve come to realize that the time I think I need to accomplish what I want to do will never magically materialize. It’s now or never.

All Aboard!

“The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live.” Reflect, my esteemed Lucilius, what this saying means, and you will see how revolting is the fickleness of men who lay down every day new foundations of life, and begin to build up fresh hopes even at the brink of the grave. Look within your own mind for individual instances; you will think of old men who are preparing themselves at that very hour for a political career, or for travel, or for business. And what is baser than getting ready to live when you are already old? -Seneca

We live in a culture that prizes and seeks “once-in-a-lifetime” moments. But in reality every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. You’ll never be 25 years old on March 21, 2011 at 8:00 am ever again. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment; once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Time goes so slowly, we age so slowly that it’s almost impossible to understand and to realize that time is a finite commodity. It feels as though we are standing still, when in reality we are all traveling on a train that is ever hurtling onward. Look out the “window:” you will never see the scene you glimpse in that instant ever again; it fades immediately into the distance, gone forever. Breathe in, breathe out. Life just moved on a bit and you’re a little bit older.

It at once becomes starkly clear the great tragedy in always waiting for your life to begin. If you wait for your life to start, it never will. This is your life, right now. Whether you’re in a college dorm room, or your first apartment, or a brand new house in the burbs. Whether you’re single, dating, or married. This is your life. Whatever it is you want to do, whatever it is you want to change about yourself, whatever it is you want to see and feel and experience in this lifetime, you can’t put it off until your life begins or it will never happen. Get started now. And start savoring these every day, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

{ 164 comments… read them below or add one }

101 ctd March 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

On a related note: http://m.xkcd.com/873/

102 dave March 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

In the long run, you only hit what you aim at.” –
— Henry Thoreau

103 Shawn March 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

It gets worse, Brett (the facts, that is -not one’s life, hopefully): time passes more and more quickly as we age. The way I perceived a month when I was 20 is the way I perceive a whole year now that I’m 44. The last 10 years passed as if they were only 3. Having children is definitely a catalyst in this phenomenon.

Take risks, take “the plunge”. You will not pass this way again.

104 Stephen March 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Interesting read. Some of these thoughts have indeed crossed my mind now that I’m about to hit 30. Though, I have not yet married or had kids… As a Christian man, one thing I keep going back to when my mind drifts towards the idea of one-third of my life being gone is that there’s so much more to look forward to after this “earthly” life.

I don’t want to spark a theological debate over what happens after death, but I do believe that it is just the beginning of a new life on a new earth. I am eternal, I’m just on earth for a few years, so I’d better make the best of it before I move on to the next big adventure.

A quote from Jonathan Edwards on perspective: “Your bad will turn out for good–look at Christ. Your good things won’t ever be taken from you. And your best is yet to come.” He was only 17 when he penned that. Yikes.

105 David March 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I am having a panic attack taking this all in, realising the inevitability that things will not happen when you are on your death bed.

I think the best example of what Brett is trying to say is portrayed beautifully in the movie “UP”. It is described with no spoken words, the introduction to the couples’ life, and shows how we live our lives without even noticing the changes until its too late.
He should have taken his wife on that holiday the minute they could afford it.
Don’t worry about the flat tyre or the phone bill. Those phone companies will get their money eventually, but you only get that one easter break with each other and live life for once.

My life has been following this pattern very closely where we would just have enough money to pay for the next disaster. I get sick, or my partners uni books for studies are due or electricity bill. Xmas is like the proverbial vaccuum cleaner that is trying to suck water out of a dry sponge. Credit card bills, rent. Suddenly you are living your life pay check to pay check because in your mind you can’t afford to not be prepared for the next disaster. It’s hard to know how to break free and become more selfish.

106 Ralph March 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I just got fired today.

This was a good post to boost my spirits.

107 edward o'day March 23, 2011 at 1:18 am

it never stops…it’s a huge granite grinding wheel…it’s life, and for one tick of the clock it won’t stop so you can get yourself together or take a breather. It just keeps on going till it grinds you up. I am an old man but I still think I’m young (except when I get out of bed or pick up the morning paper) It is sad because I never prepared and I was a Boy Scout. I still don’t know what I want to do when “I grow up”. I’ve grown up and here I am. I wish I had the things I laughed at when I was young: pension, picket fence, family, et al…but I was a rebel, a bohemin. Well, I got what I paid for and should have no regrets. But sometimes I wish I’d made better decisions.

108 Don March 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

“Time goes so slowly, we age so slowly”

Only someone you’re age would say that–just wait ’til you’re 50!

109 Don March 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I meant “your” age. Sorry!

110 creesto March 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I lost my 13 years, 281 days old son in an electrical accident this past July. Mortality is an odd beast. I have dodged Death so many times in my near 50 years, yet my son in an innocent, laughing and helpful moment…was lost. Over 20 minutes of me and my brother in law giving CPR didn’t help. Nothing could. I was/am (still struggling with this) incredible close to my son. We had been through a lot together and he was transforming into a man right before my eyes. This was the first death tragedy in my life that really impacted me. Tears are falling as I type this. And I, too, worry about living the most of my life that I can. I don’t have any answers, I am having a hard time providing for my family, I have never felt this kind of grief before, and yet…
Sunlight in the trees,
Birds on the wing
Odors in the breeze
My wife as she sings.
These all still inspire awe and life is good.


111 Jim March 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm

A very insightful article. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who wouldn’t benefit from a periodic reminder.

This quote has helped carry me through some tough times: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” -Albert Camus

It’s why you’ll find it, and little else, on the ‘About’ page of my blog.

112 Josh March 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

My AP English class just finished reading Hamlet, and so it made this article even more insightful and meaningful to read with your reference to the graveyard scene. I then proceeded to share this with my entire class, who thought it was just as good as I did. Thanks for a great article!

113 duren March 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Nietzche remarked that the awareness of the certainty of death should sweeten each life with a drop of levity…..

114 Michael Vu March 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Dear Brett and Kate:

Today I finished my first novel. It took thirty straight days to write. It weighs 230 pages and 62,000 words.

I’ve only been reading this site for six or seven months. But I was really motivated to do something (not shoulding myself) after reading a few articles of yours (FDR and Seneca to be specific) I forced myself to write my novel. I love writing.

It was hard at first; excuses often kept coming to mind well before I started. I forced myself to write. I understood that if I didn’t do this now, with this time I had, I may never write a paragraph.

Then something happened. After a few days of writing, a weight had been lifted from my chest and head. The habit of writing wasn’t something attempted; rather, it became routine.

If you are reading this: I hope that you take control of your life. I’ve read some comments here in the past, and I say as community, you people inspire me. I hope I can return aid by inspiring you.

Thanks Brett an Kate,
Michael Vu

115 Zahed March 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Hey everyone
This is a great article, I just love it.

116 John March 24, 2011 at 12:42 am

Life is weird. With so little information, we struggle in our way to make sense of it. But really we don’t know anything. I can’t help but feel sad missing the people I love so deeply that have moved on. But I try not to beat myself up about what might have been. It’s not like it’s a race, or even a story. It’s just what happens.

117 Ryan March 24, 2011 at 1:47 am

Thank you for this article.

Earlier today I listened to the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th (allegretto) for the first time in my life. And as I sat in awe that another human being could compose such music, I realized that the music’s composer is, as the rest of us will be in short order, dust.

Despite collection agencies garnishing a percentage of each paycheck from undergrad student loans and being laid off in two weeks this is my one shot at being alive, a human.

What a great day to listen to Beethoven’s 7th and read this article, two reminders to seize life!

118 Bill March 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

I didn’t see this article until now and how odd to read it, given yesterday’s events.

I have a 13 year old son that I am active in teaching him to be a man, and am full of one liners to prompt thinking in him.

Yesterday I was reading a book, “Dawn” by Haggard. It brought up some idead os conveyin the need to have a purpose or a direction that I wanted to convey to my son, so here’s how I presented it to him.

I picked him up and we rode to get something to eat before church. After dinner, I drove to a cemetary. I saw a relatively fresh grave and parked nearby. My son and I headed towards it, and as we stood there I told him “Under your feet is a dead man. Once he was your age, and once my age, and now he’s gone from this world. You’re going to be in the same place one day- six feet under ground. What are you going to do with your life between now and then?” I told him “This fellow was in the coast guard accoring to his tombstone, and was a Christian. There is something to say what he did with his life. Put the destractions of girls and fashion and all that little stuff aside and consider where you’re going to be in five years. Focus on your school work so you’re in a position to choose instead of having scraps left to pick through.”

After this point was made, I told him my testimony of my salvation. Other topics came up, and we headed for church and I helpd him study for a test before we went inside. It was baptism night, and a man gave a testimony of his life so similar to what I had told my son, that it was unnerving.

119 Matt March 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I’m only 22, but I’ve noticed some of these phenomenon as well. I’m glad that I have had the opportunity to read such an influential article while I have a bit more time in front of me than some other readers.

Overall; best article I’ve read on AoM.
Great work, thanks!

120 Vince R March 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm

A few months ago, I went under general anastesia to have my acl (knee ligament) replaced.

I woke up to find myself on a moving gurney, attended on either side by several staff, and I asked if all went well. The anastesiologist replied my heart stopped for 20 seconds while I was under and they were rushing me to the er. i soon found myself in an ambulance (attended by one gorgeous paramedic :) ) , on my way to the local hospital. all turned out ok, and i went in again a week later and had a successful surgery.

i thought all the attention i was receiving was comical. i felt fine. but a doctor friend of mine told me later that, legally, i had died. regardless of whether that is true, it made me realize this about death– when it comes, you won’t know any better. all i remember before getting put under was them putting the gas mask on my mouth.

i had previously felt a lot of anxiety about dying– not seeing my wife & children any more, not seeing what the future held in store, not seeing the next spring. but this experience made me realize that i simply won’t know any better when it comes.

i still fear death, but do not agonize about it the way i used to. being aware of my mortality simply makes me appreciate every day, every moment more. it has brought me closer to my family, and makes me think very hard about what i want my life to be about.

as joseph campbell once said, this is it. your time to get it is now.

121 henri jacquot March 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I am 54,married 21 years and have two wonderful girls. But the thing that has been taking up most of my thoughts is my dad. e is 82 and in reasonable health for his age. like the comment that it seems after a certain age time goes by at warp speed. So rather than wait for that day when I have to say good bye,I have started to looking for pictures that defined his life. It was looking at these pictures that I realized that they also define my life. It was always family first with him and was always giving more than he got. Looking at his life also looking at mine also. If i can be half of what he is, it will be a wonderful life for both of us!

122 Kumeil March 25, 2011 at 3:38 am

Thanks, Brett, for this wonderful article.

“Every breath you take is a step towards death.” – Imam Ali

123 Jeff Jepson March 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Momento Mori —remember, you to will die.

124 JR March 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Great comments on a great article. As a father, my heart goes out to you creesto on your tragic loss.

You ever notice “if” right in the middle of “life”? Like it’s staring you down? l “if” e. Maybe it’s there to remind us that life is full of “ifs”… If I had the time. If I had the money. If I would have done this instead… If I had… it goes on and on.

Hopefully it’s there to remind us that life is full of “ifs”… If you only had one life, what would you make of it? If today was your last day on this rock spinning around one star out of billions, what would you do?

125 Matt March 26, 2011 at 8:14 am

excellent and inspiring writing. Thank you!

126 Marilyn Miller March 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

It is acute awareness of our mortality that has the greatest power to bring joy to life by motivating us to make the changes we so often try to avoid. I have the privilege of helping people in their courageous journeys to take control of whatever causes them pain (anxiety, depression, grief, problematic relationships). It is thrilling to watch people re-learn the value of their own lives. Brett, what a wonderful job you’ve done toward that end with this article. Thank you. http://bit.ly/bZwoj6

127 Chris Anderson March 26, 2011 at 11:51 am

The TV-presenter Michio Kaku once tried to explain why time seems to move faster as we get older. He said it’s because our lives become less varied as we settle into a daily routine, for example working, commuting and watching TV. In a routine there are fewer events that set the days and weeks apart. So they all seem to blend into one, that passes us by almost unnoticed.

Thoughts of mortality and the passing of time can be depressing but they can also be a positive inspiration to break away from one’s rutt. If we live more for the moment, seize the various opportunities that come our way and try to do new things all the time, then I believe that we can be more carefree and less concerned with the end.

128 Warren March 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

James 4, 13&14

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

129 Rod Homor March 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Very impressive and “timely” (pun intended) article.

I really get it. I just turned 46 years old. Now or never? Yup.

Thanks again.

130 Craig, in Baghdad March 27, 2011 at 7:41 am

Yet another thought provoking article from Brett… Excellent… Whether your a man, or a woman, this philosophical approach to life, is applicable to both sexes… I convey this very same outlook to my own three wonderful children…in the hope that, they too someday, may realize that we are eventually ‘food for worms’…but between now and that time, cram as much as you can into your life, each and every day, and at each and every opportunity, as tomorrow may not ever come….

Depart this world with the knowledge, that you came, you saw, you contributed, you experienced…..learn to live a life, and leave a legacy…

One of my favorites – Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

Great anecdote, leading up to meeting my children, for our adventures in Central America… Thanks Brett..super article…

131 Dean March 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Every day that passes without living it to the full is a waste of the precious gift of life.

132 D.J. March 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Thanks Brett and Kate.

I’ve been terrified of death from a very young age. I don’t remember exactly what triggered it, but I remember being in the outfield seats of SkyDome, watching the Blue Jays play the Tigers during a family vacation to Toronto when I realized, “You are going to die.” I was only 10 years old at the time, but the realization had a profound effect on me.

Lately, I’ve realized more and more that it’s the only certainty in life. But, just like anything else, we can either wring our hands, and spend our time worrying, or we can accept it and try to make our goals happen. Self-actualization is a beautiful thing. Thanks for the motivation, as always.

133 Roger March 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm

“No such thing as spare time; no such thing as free time; no such thing as downtime; all you’ve got is lifetime.” – Henry Rollins

134 Yeoman March 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm

All very, very true.

But one thing to keep in mind is that the concern of what we do with our lives is a luxary. Most humans in human history were faced with choices of right and wrong, but the option, and perhaps the burden, “to do something” was beyond most, other than marry the right person, etc., and choices of that type.

And, truth be known, at 47 years of age, I’m finding that while life rushes past and the destination looms closer, we really do have often less in the way of options than we sometimes pretend.

Yes, we should be aware that life isn’t endless. Those who have passed on are closer to our own times than we imagine, and the next world will arrive quicker than we suppose. But also, the act of simply getting through with dignity is an accomplishment in and of itself.

135 Alain March 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

“creesto March 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm
I lost my 13 years, 281 days old son in an electrical accident this past July. Mortality is an odd beast. I have dodged Death so many times in my near 50 years, yet my son in an innocent, laughing and helpful moment…was lost. Over 20 minutes of me and my brother in law giving CPR didn’t help. Nothing could. I was/am (still struggling with this) incredible close to my son. We had been through a lot together and he was transforming into a man right before my eyes. This was the first death tragedy in my life that really impacted me. Tears are falling as I type this. And I, too, worry about living the most of my life that I can. I don’t have any answers, I am having a hard time providing for my family, I have never felt this kind of grief before, and yet…
Sunlight in the trees,
Birds on the wing
Odors in the breeze
My wife as she sings.
These all still inspire awe and life is good.


Creesto, thanks for having the courage to share your story.

136 Dan March 28, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Stop your whining and get on with it.
That is something my 86 year old pop would say.
He is right. If I never look behind me my troubles will be few.

137 TyBardy March 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Good post… so many of the things you said are things that I have thought a thousand times over and oft wondered if I was the only one!

I am nearly your same age with a 3 year old son and I have frequently wondered when I was going to feel like an adult. I often look through pictures of my childhood self with my father with a new light of what he may have been thinking.

Thank you for this.

138 Trevor March 31, 2011 at 12:31 am

I was once at an event where the speaker asked the large crowd to stand to their feet. He then asked that everyone who could name both of their parents to remain standing; everyone else should sit down.

Next he said, “How many people can name all four of their grandparents? If you can’t, sit down.” A few people sat down.

His next question was, “How many can name all eight of your great-grandparents? If not, sit down.” Most people sat down.

After his fourth question, “How many can name all sixteen of your great-great-grandparents?”, there was no one left standing.

The bottom line is that in just three or four generations, you will likely be completely forgotten, even by your own family.

Life is so fleeting. Make your mark, leave a legacy!

139 GalacticJello March 31, 2011 at 12:43 am

Wow, not sure how I found your site, but have been reading the posts for about two hours. You have a talent for your topic. I see how you are tying it into revenue, but still, it isn’t too obtrusive.

The thing that impresses me the most is your insight, and yet, you are just beginning in your family journey.

I want you to save all these posts and revisit them when you are in your 40′s, once your kids have skipped off on their own tangents. Your core convictions will ring true then as they do now.

Excellent writing, and excellent insight. You have added a fan, and hopefully after I reseed, many more.

140 Gerald March 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Live for the moment!

141 Jonesy in Alberta April 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

From the day you were born to your 80th birthday = 960 Months.

From the day you were born to your 18th birthday, you are generally considered a child (in the West anyways), therefore subtract 216 from 960 = 744 months of adulthood.

From your 60th birthday to your 80th birthday, you are generally considered elderly (again, in the West anyways) = subtract 240 from 744 = 504 months.

You have 504 months to:
- develop a career (subtract your time spent in school preparing for your career)
- prepare for retirement and old age
- start and raise a family

It makes it easier to comprehend your lifetime. Trying to wrap your head around 1 year (or 10 years) is too intangible, too broad. But you can remember exactly what you were doing 4 weeks ago, and you have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be doing 4 weeks from now.

It makes how important it is to study at school THAT much more vivid – you are gambling on your time, studying helps your odds to make less time pay off. Same with the time you invest in being with your family and friends vs playing video games. Suddenly, credit card debt looks much worse. So does that super-sized meal. So does putting off your goals and dreams.

What are you waiting for? Next month?

142 Doug April 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Estamos al arroyo de la viejez y los ninos vienen de atras y nos empujan(Juan Gomez de la Serna)…same story in all languages. Enjoy it while you are here!

143 Brad April 2, 2011 at 9:29 am

Great article. So much has already been said. I think it’s important to keep this perspective in front of us, to embrace it and not push it down while we fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.

I have a picture on my desk of my dad and father-in-law together at my wedding. Every time I look at it I quickly calculate that he was 46 in the picture. Seems like yesterday, but I am almost that age now…

144 Andrew D. April 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

It’s easy for us to quote mantra’s like “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” from Shawshank Redemption. The sad truth is that we all want to get busy living but we see the road blocks ahead if we don’t get busy making a living instead of following dreams. This article is a great reminder that the collection of moments that compose our lives are finite and irreplaceable. To maintain a stable lifestyle we usually have to postpone what we percieve to be moments that may define us, but we can choose to define the moments instead.

The moment I displayed my creativity, the moment I made an impact, the moment I grew a pair…these are moments that we can be remembered for. It is time for us to stop waiting for opportunities to present themselves, and begin presenting opportunities.

145 Matt April 3, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Good article. I have long since been of the opinion, that people, not just men, are more keen on sitting on their hands when it comes to living their life than actually getting out there and ‘living their life’. I’m guilty of it. I’m sure a lot of people who read AoM are too. I can’t blame anyone for feeling that way, it’s convenient and easier than doing something that scares me.

146 Eric April 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

just had the wind knocked out of me

147 TsueDesu April 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

Thanks for the article, it was an awesome read that reminded me of how I came to this realization myself. I was lucky to learn this at a young age and grow into being conscious in every moment of my life. I sometimes find myself smiling out a window in the middle of traffic, knowing, I’m still two hours from home… but I can at least enjoy the calmness of my car and maybe a beat or two of music.

What “woke” me was this story I found by absolute chance. I can’t remember what I was looking into, but a web search gave me a link about ham radio or something, and this story was there… I hope it brings some inspiration to others as it has for me… I read it from time to time still.

Here’s the link to the online version, it is very long to paste.

148 Philo April 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

This post has really resonated with me. Beautiful call to action.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I haven’t seen Dead Poets Society. When I clicked play on that embedded scene I didn’t know what a treat I was in for.

Carpe diem, indeed.

149 Logan Pribbeno April 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Brett & Kate,

This is an excellent topic that fits firmly in the center of the Art of Manliness. You are examining here the pillars of life. Please continue to explore this area intellectually and report back to us with your further analysis. This one article only whets our appetite.


150 Brian April 9, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Wow, mind-blowing material though in a sense cliche.

151 Rob April 11, 2011 at 2:49 am

Great article. A punch in the gut that I certainly needed. Thank you.

152 Jesper April 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

Wow, just wow.

That was indeed a punch in the gut. There is something I am always dreaming about, and always planning and pushing forward in my life, since when I was precisely 17 and I am now 21 – pushing 80 ^^ , however, my emotions have been in the way ever since.

Rationally, there is no better moment to make this change in my life than now.
I can definitely feel that something changed in me after reading the final paragraph – so thank you.

153 sims April 12, 2011 at 7:12 am

Very good article. I thought I’d share an different view on life. It’s the one I was born with for some reason or another.

You need to do everything as soon as you can, because, doing something first, is cool. You also need to do as many things as you can, because new things are cool. If I look at my life deeply and consider that there are only a handful of humans that will ever do what I have, it’s quite amazing.

My problem stems from something else: boredom
Hence when something is achieved, I tend to leave it there and not manifest it’s greatness. This is where I am lazy, along with probably anyone else with the same outlook on life.

So my comment to those of us with laziness in this area is: Go slow. Be thorough. Be steady. And of course, kick ass!

154 Raul April 12, 2011 at 8:36 am

Your father was cooler and also fitter than you . A part from that, great article dude! :-D

155 Ravi Kishor Shakya April 13, 2011 at 3:35 am

An eye-opener! The last para definitely has great weight.

156 Logan April 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Great post. I also think that accepting one’s mortality is the first step to coming into real happiness — and manliness

157 Anthony Ashley April 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Braveheart.

“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!”

It’s ironic that we can never be fully alive until we embrace our approaching death–and those most afraid of death are most afraid to live.

158 Ro April 16, 2011 at 2:50 am

That’s why we are moving to a city we like more and jobs a bit less painful next month. Happy right now? Oh yeah. However different for all, living for me is stepping outside comfort zone everyday and doing what we like no matter what whoever says

159 Mike April 17, 2011 at 2:45 am

This article came at a very appropriate time in my life. I am questioning a lot of things in my life right now, and if I am going to make changes, I need to do it sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, change can be very stressful, which is what has kept me here for so long. Though I know I would be happier in the long run, but the short term effects are a bit worrying.

160 Aidan April 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Great article. Very true.

One that helped Make me aware was a sum.
80 years – current age * 365 days
Then divide by three ( work, rest, play)

As Tyler Durden said in the movie Fight Club
‘”this is your life, and it’s ending one moment at a time.”

161 Gregg April 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I really enjoyed this post, Brett and Kate. My sons are 5 and 4 and I have twice as many years between me and high school and the point is well taken! I wrote a few thoughts of my own on Seneca’s quote and your thoughtful elaboration on my blog. Have a great evening!

162 David February 13, 2013 at 1:50 am

This is something I had thought of for a while but didn’t get totally interested in until hearing “The Art of Dying” by George Harrison (with Eric Clapton!). I turned 20 a few weeks ago, and it has just been hitting me more and more. It seems like yesterday I was 16, and I feel as though I’ll wake up tomorrow and be hitting 30.

You gain a lot, and lose (at least) something from becoming aware of your mortality.

You gain the knowledge that the only moment that truly exists is the one you are living in “past it is gone, future may not be at all – present improve the flying hour.”

But you lose something in knowing that – I’m not sure it’s universal but for me, the carelessness or freedom that comes with believing everything will continue on the same way forever. After all, all I know at 20 is everything I’ve lived through up to 20 – my childhood, which was full of constants that are slowing disappearing.

163 Remy February 18, 2013 at 6:55 pm

This is a rather late comment (and one of the few), but I must say, especially after this article that AoM is inspiring me day by day.
This article was a real eye-opener. I’ve always been a slacker, telling myself to do it tomorrow or that within a week or two I’ll have time plenty. I feel stupid now… I still am young, 18 years old, but time, I already feel it ticking. My first girlfriend is already more than 3,5 years ago….

Thank you for all these wonderful comments. I’m still young, I’ve got potential, but now it’s to find the discipline to use this potential. Keep up with the great work of this awesome site. I’ll be a permanent reader I guess.

164 Garrett July 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Dear Mr. Brett McKay

I stumbled upon this website sometime back, roughly a month ago. And, it has greatly impacted my life. This website holds true to many of my experiences, and I agree in many ways with things you have mentioned about my/our generation. I have just finished reading one of your previous articles, “What Man Understands That He Is Dying Daily? (This Is Your Life).” 6/25/1984, 11:25am rings through my mind, it does, and doesn’t seem like a long time ago. Still in my 20s, I agree there is still opportunity to get up, and move forward. One of my favorite quotes I use say back in college before I slowed down was “you can’t move forward if you’re aways sitting in one place.” Without ranting on about things that you are already familar with, I am extending a simple Thank You for creating this website, and helping to improve my life, as well as the others who keep up with your articles and website. As with that article, and I taking the two minutes to write this letter/email and extend gratitude towards the author. You are making a difference, and helping to fuel our generation’s men to become better so we won’t fully end up a society of “mama’s boys.” I feel I’m going to claim to be one of those so-called later bloomers.


Garrett L. McEwen

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