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Six ways to thrive before you die: ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’


A few years ago, my wife's best friend and mentor was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On her deathbed, she looked her wife in the eyes and said, “I have some advice for you.” After a moment of silence, she whispered, “Eat fried chicken.”

My wife asked her why it was important to her to eat fried chicken, and she replied: “Because you love fried chicken. And when your days on earth are numbered, you'll wish you had more time to enjoy the things you love…like fried chicken.”

Doing something you love, rather than just eating fried chicken, creates meaningful, lasting memories. Memories that give our lives richness and fulfillment.

Die at zero

No one gets out of here alive, Don't you think we should all try to find something we really love, and then try to do it as many times as possible before we die? I think so. And so says Bill Perkins, author of my new favorite book, Die with Zero.

Perkins explains, “Life is not about surviving, it's about thriving.” Or, as the saying goes:

“Life is not a journey in which we arrive safely at the grave in good health, but rather a journey in which we skid and slide into the grave utterly exhausted and crying, 'My goodness… what a journey it has been!'” – Unknown

The goal in life is to live life to the fullest in the limited time we have and at the end of the journey, to be filled with memories and experiences that give us a sense of satisfaction from the trip. Perkins calls this the “memory dividend” — the life experiences that continue to give us enormous benefits over and over as we age.

Here are the top six recommendations from the book:

1. Make the most of positive life experiences

We all think that life stays the same as time passes. There's always more time later. Our friends and family will always be there for us. But that's not the case. Life is always changing: friends come and go, children grow up and move away, loved ones get sick and die.

Your fulfillment in life isn't determined by the amount of your 401(k) or the type of car you drive. After all, isn’t the whole point of making money to give you the flexibility to enjoy what you love, with who you love? Find the people and things you truly love and create memories with them.


2. Start investing in experiences early

Now, I know what you're all thinking: right now I don't have time to make a “memory dividend,” whatever that may be. I get it, but if life is truly the sum of our memorable experiences, how could we not invest in positive life experiences? Can you afford not to generate a “memory dividend” that will provide you with investment returns over the course of your life? of course not.

“The choice boils down to a simple one: get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andrew Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

Having a lot of money is not the key factor. What matters is the vision and creativity to seek out memorable and meaningful experiences, even if they happen in your own backyard.

3. Time Value of Money

The usefulness of money diminishes with age. What would you do with $1 million when you were 30? You could get a graduate degree, buy a Porsche 911 Turbo, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, start a business, or buy shares in Apple or Amazon that will be worth a ton of money in a few years.

But what will you do with that money at age 85? It's unlikely you'll climb Kilimanjaro, buy a Porsche 911 Turbo, or start a new business. It's more likely that the money will be part of an estate plan that will eventually be transferred to your children, who will already be in their 60s and probably won't need it any more.

So the value of money actually decreases as you get older. If you're a visual learner, check out the graph below.

The utility of money diminishes over time in direct correlation with our ability to enjoy that wealth.

4. Plan to die with no money

What if you worked your whole life and saved enough so you could travel when you retired at age 70? This is the American Dream, and it seems to be the advice of every financial planner on the planet. That's terrible advice.

If you are 50 years old now, you have only a 50% chance of living to 80. And even if you make it to age 80, there's no guarantee you'll be in a position to travel or do the things you dreamed about years ago when you were stuck at a desk at work. So start spending your savings now. Check out the chart below.


5. Life is made up of seasons

Bill Perkins said that life is made up of seasons, but more importantly, “We die many times in our lives.” For example, the child in us dies when we reach age 12 or 13. And the college student dies when we graduate from college. You get the idea.

But what about the rest of our lives? Will we continue to cycle through the seasons and see our own death? Sadly, the answer is yes.

“His summers and winters are scattered like pieces, and 45 years are gone.” – Jimmy Buffett

It's important to recognize what season you're in and what seasons lie ahead. Naming the seasons is a more proactive approach to creating meaningful and memorable life experiences.

6. We take the biggest risks when we have nothing to lose

We all have regrets about things we didn't do when we were younger, like spending a semester in Washington DC or backpacking through Europe after college. Things we didn't do because we didn't have the money. But we had no money, so what did we really have to lose? there is nothing.

Always remember It's better to take more chances when you're young than when you're older.

Big Finish

So there you have it, some useful travel tips. Buy Bill Perkins' new book “Die with Zero” here. It's well worth the $13. So, make a list of the things you love to do… and start creating meaningful memories.

I am a team of one, researching and writing for the sole pleasure of producing thought-provoking content. They rely on referrals to grow their audience. If you know someone who would enjoy Wit & Wisdom, please forward this article to them and recommend it. Sign up here.

Tom Green is a 55-year-old executive, husband, and father. He is the author of “Wit and Wisdom” and frequently writes about themes of happiness, family, spirituality, and friendship.

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