I saw a post by a 25 year old friend celebrating his birthday and asking for the single most important piece of advice as he gets older. Most discussed financial strategies or furthering educational choices, ways to secure his future with money and knowledge.
It got me thinking about my 59th birthday coming up and how by being a certain age, was now I eligible to step in with words of wisdom from my sage experience? Would I tap back into those moments I risked too much and lost, and then offer words of caution?
The more I thought the more I realized that it is not the accumulation of time that teaches me anything. In fact it would seem the more I know, the more dumb I am. I have acquired 6 decades of knowledge and experience – and until the last few years it equated to a cautionary tale, where I could tell those much younger what not do and what to be aware of.
Now as I accept my ignorance I am able to see what I could have told a younger me.
I would show a younger me pictures of myself in hospital – tubes draining puss from open wounds created by cutting cancer from me – and there as I lay looking back and forth at my life – I could not see how money or more knowledge than the next person ever helped me become richer or smarter.
As I lay in hospital it was not the money I had made that enriched me or would save me, nor would it be the new Mercedes I bought 2 months earlier, nor the houses, clothes or any other material item that would give me a few more years, or give my life meaning.
After I survived Surgery, Radiation and Chemo therapy I found that the most valuable commodity I could get came in the eyes of the people I loved and the memories of the places I experienced.
The time I floated on the Ganges river in India, watching the timeless tradition of life and death as families came to cremate loved ones, not in a somber act, but a rejoicing in their belief that death is not as final moment, it is the path to our next destination.
Or when I walked the cobblestone streets of Paris contemplating the words of famed philosopher Rene Descartes and trying to understand his famous quote “I think; therefore I am.” And finally realizing that “I AM” more than just flesh and bones, a spirit does reside inside of this body that can never ever be extinguished.
I would tell my younger self to cherish the moments, like when I first held my new born daughter and felt the enormity of responsibility for the first time. I would say collect all those times that mean so much and feast off of them – like when you kiss the woman you truly love, or when you hold the hand of a dying friend, or hug a new one.
I would say that the absolute truth is not one bit of happiness that rocked me to the core ever came from something I bought.
To my young friend who has asked for one piece of advice? Never ever chase money or make money the most important goal of your life, chase passion and run with inspiration to make the world a better place. Love so deep it feels like it hurts, when actually all it is doing is stretching you – to allow you to take more love in.
I would say never ever hold back a tear, cry rivers and wash away the sins of indifference and hatred.
I would say that there are only 2 truths that face you right now 1) every man will die 2) only a few will really live – the choice is now yours and mine still – lets be part of the few.