“Most people die at 20 and live until they are 75.” – Les Brown
I saw this quote the other day and wrote it down to remember it. I have a whole list of quotes I love and look to them often for motivation.
And while I completely agree with this quote, another part of me asked “why”. Why do people give up everything, lose their dreams, and continue with a life they really don’t enjoy?
When I started out after high school, I attended college because my mom said I had to. I didn’t have a goal or a purpose; just my mom behind me saying I had to have a degree. She wasn’t allowed to go to college back in her day because her family assumed she would drop out and get married anyway; why “waste” the money? She always regretted it and made sure her daughters had a degree instead.
So I “fell” into a business degree because I really didn’t know what else to do.
Then I fell into a variety of “jobs”, from banking to accounting to auditing. I never loved it; I just did it. I did get paid very well for what I did. And I also traveled all the time, which I guess is what whetted my appetite for travel. But I just did it all because that’s what you were supposed to do.
Then something happened when I was 28. My dad died of a massive heart attack. It was very quick, no warning. Just here one day, gone the next. He was 54 years old and way too young to die. But he has continued to influence me more since his death than he probably ever did while he was alive.
In my first 28 years, he taught me about growing up. He was there to hold my hand when I fell off my bike. He was there to teach me how to drive a car. He was there to push me to do my homework.
But it was the 7 years leading up to his death that taught me the most. I watched my dad get quieter as the stress built from his job. Every year for 7 years he had to re-interview for a position that he had held for 20 years. His goal was to reach 55 – the company had an early out package, and he couldn’t wait to take it. Then he was going to get a job he loved and do something he was truly passionate about.
Seventy five days before his birthday, he died from a heart attack.
So he never got to do what he wanted to do. He never found his passion or developed a job or career around what he loved. I watched. I learned.
And that’s when his real teachings began.
You see I think the real reason most people die at the age of 20 and live for decades more in a “dead” state is because of fear.
A 2 year old child has no fear. They will jump off a tall building because it looks fun. We must teach them to fear that feeling.
A 5 year old will color outside the lines. We teach them how wrong that is, and to fear the grade they will receive if they don’t conform.
A 12 year old will think of many things they want to do with their lives. Then we tell them they must pick a career, test them in every way imaginable with CSAP, SAT, ACT, AP tests and more. Conformity is the only way to survive.
By the age of 20, fear becomes our middle name. What if we try something new and it doesn’t work? What will others think of us? Can we really risk it all? People are relying on us. We have bills to pay, things to buy. Can we really risk it all?
I learned at the age of 28 that if you don’t risk it all, there really is nothing to live for. Do you really want to have to re-interview for a position over and over again? My answer was no, so I quit my corporate job and started my own photography business.
Even today, we’re constantly evaluating what we want to do and what makes us happy. When life becomes to expected around here, we make a change. Like selling our home and most of our belongings, and looking forward to world travel in the near future.
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Part of what makes us thrive now is the word “fear”. But its not the way most people look at fear. We look at it from the aspect of what happens if we don’t change, or don’t do something new. We have “fear” of not trying something that may put us outside of our comfort zone.
Instead of having a fear like “what will happen if I pursue my own business”, our fears look more like “what will happen if we don’t buy give that new idea an opportunity to grow”. We’ve changed the way we look at fear. Instead of “what if”, we always look at it through the eyes of “what if we don’t”?
You can live life either way.
But I will tell you which way is a whole lot more fun.
Its up to you. What are you going to do with your fears?