I ran again yesterday for the first time in a month.
After finishing my second marathon in late January, my legs needed some time off before I hit the pavement again. I was excited to run again. Running is fun. Miami is a scenic place. And the weather’s always usually warm.
I started running around 7 AM. Part of my run went past a large cemetery. I looked to my right into the cemetery as I passed it; there’s a long paved road that runs right through the middle of it. I made a mental note to one day take my run through the cemetery, along that road.
Some people get spooked about cemeteries. People don’t want to look at them, or don’t like to live near them or talk about them, as if the very idea of a cemetery might speed up their path to death. It’s as if, as Robert Greene states in The 50th Law, people unconsciously believe that if they ignore the thought of death, they can stave it off from happening.
In addition to my run, Saturday was March 9th, and the 22nd anniversary of the tragic passing of rapper Notorious B.I.G. back in 1997 when he was just 24 years of age.
Even if you don’t listen to rap, you know who B.I.G. was. He was famous. Twenty-two years after his death, we still celebrate his life with hashtags and make Instagram posts singing his lyrics. That’s how it is when you’re famous.
But, most people aren’t famous.
My uncle died a couple weeks ago. He was my father’s oldest brother. I hadn’t seen this uncle in years, though I remember him well from my younger years when family get-togethers were a normal occurrence. My uncle had moved to Maryland and it was there that he’d passed away from an apparent heart attack.
My father handled most of the arrangements for his older brother’s passing. He made all the phone calls and got all the paperwork signed and notarized to have my uncle’s body released from the coroner. He drove to Maryland from Philadelphia to gather my uncle’s things from where my uncle had been living. My uncle’s wife or girlfriends or kids were either hard to locate or unavailable to do that stuff.
From what I could gather, if it hadn’t been for my father, my uncle would’ve passed away and been quietly forgotten. No one was fighting my father for the right to do all that stuff that my father did.
Most people who die don’t die like B.I.G. — they die like my uncle. Quietly, with no fanfare, and sometimes without a single person who has the mind or the means to ensure that the deceased’s belongings are gathered and that he/she receives a proper burial.
Whatever that now-dead person accomplished, whomever they knew, the people they touched — all gets buried with them, without remembrance, no one keeping their name alive.
Even those who do have family and friends around them when they pass, affording the deceased to be remembered, mourned and celebrated in death, eventually those people lose another race against time.
The people who celebrated your life after your death? They move on; at some point they have to keep on living their own lives.
Someone once philosophized that, on the day of your funeral, your friends and family will look at each other and ask, where are we going for lunch?
The earth keeps rotating.
The people who fought the hardest to keep your memory alive — they die one day.
Who’s gonna talk about you when all your advocates are buried next to you?
These are the realities of life and death, and they happen to everyone. B.I.G.’s presence still reigns 22 years later; we’ll see who’s still mentioning March 9 in the year 2041.
Anyone less famous than B.I.G., your after-death legacy may have an even shorter shelf life.
Which leaves you with two options.
Option A: Give up.
What’s the use of all this hard work on your game, striving to reach goals, and pushing yourself as hard as you do if there’s a high probably that, one hundred years from now, no one will remember a damn thing about it? Why even try?
This is a legitimate question. You could answer it by spending your whole life drifting, trying very little and aiming for nothing, since it all eventually turns into nothing, anyway.
You can take this option. I’m not writing to convince you against it.
Option B: Knowing life to be short, make the most of it.
We’re in the year two thousand nineteen AD. Even if you live to be 100 years old, one human lifespan is nothing compared to all eternity.
Knowing your time to be limited, then, you can choose to give up, citing the uselessness of it all, or to go in the opposite direction and decide to have a sense of urgency about the relatively short time you’re afforded to make an impact.
If you choose option B, here’s my one request.
Stop waiting to live your life.
My uncle was close to seventy years old when he died. But I bet he had some plans for his future. B.I.G.’s associates all say that he had plans. I’m sure you have plans, too — stuff that you’ll do when… and soon as… one day…
Until there isn’t a “one day.”
Look, some things just take time. If you’re thirteen, you can’t make it to the NBA tomorrow. If you just got hired for a job, you won’t be CEO next week. Patience is a virtue.
But there are a lot of things, I’m sure, that don’t take any more time than you’ve been giving them, out of plain procrastination. Procrastination that’s betting on the fact that you have time to get to it.
If I don’t do it today, I can still do it tomorrow.
I’m sure B.I.G. thought the same thing. I’m sure my uncle did as well.
One day, all of this — every website, brand, company CEO and news story, and anything else happening today — will all be long forgotten, buried under the beginnings of a whole new civilization that will think about us as much as we think about the people who lived 150 years before us.
Your very existence will be reduced to a one-paragraph obituary, if that. Maybe someone will be around to pick up your stuff and identify your dead body.
What do you want that obit to say, and who’s going to bother reading it?
If you liked this article, you’ll like my book, Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. So go to your favorite bookstore and buy it. Time isn’t waiting on you.