Last year I found myself drowning in a lake in Western Pennsylvania.
All in all, I’m not the best swimmer. But I didn’t let that stop me from swimming a mile to reach these immense, coastal cliffs on the other side of the reservoir.
You’re only young and stupid once.
After doing a few cannonballs off the cliffs I was ready to head back. I sized up the long, arduous swim back and decided to give it a go.
About halfway into the journey, I began to drown.
“Help,” I screamed to my friend across the water.
My friend thought I was joking and began to laugh a quarter-mile away. I guess that would be pretty funny if I was in his shoes. For me, it was the last time I heard him before going under. My soul was leaving my body.
I fought for a few breaths and my friend yelled “swim on your back!”
Quite honestly, I forgot you could swim on your back. So I did — and it felt easy. I exhaled a few times in relief. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs in ecstasy. I was going to make it. As long as this swimming on your back thing kept working.
When I reached the shores my friend assured me that he thought I was joking. Despite almost drowning 15-minutes earlier, this made me roar in laughter.
You Can’t Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last
I got a new lease on life. God gave me a second chance. I decided to appreciate every second of every day for the rest of my life and never look back. YOLO!
This is impossible.
Living every day like it’s your last is impossible. Even after a near-death experience.
I rode the high of my near-death experience for the next few weeks. My gym sessions were supercharged, I wrote more and tried to be more grateful.
Everything eventually fizzled back into mundanity. I couldn’t use one experience as ammunition forever, no matter how horrifying it seemed at the time.
Think about a terrible time in your life: When you broke up with your partner, or were fired from a job, or suffered a loss of a loved one. A powerful feeling emerges inside you. But if you rely on it completely you become a single point of failure.
One experience can be a catalyst for new adventures. But it can’t define you. Life goes on.
Lessons From a Prisoner With 2-Minutes Left Before His Execution
In Dostoyevsky's The Idiot the great Russian author describes a story involving a prisoner with five minutes to go before his execution by firing squad.
This prisoner is Dostoyevsky from 30-years ago. He lived this exact experience before becoming an author.
Here’s how the story goes —
He was dying at twenty-seven, strong and healthy…
He wanted to realize as quickly and clearly as possible how it could be that he existed and was living and in three minutes he would be something — someone or something. But what? Where? He meant to decide all that in those two minutes left!
Nothing was as dreadful at that time as continual thought, “What if I were not to die! What if I could go back to life — what eternity! I would turn every minute into an age; I would lose nothing, I would count every minute as it passed, I would waste not one!”
That idea turned to such a fury that he longed to be shot quickly.
The man was saved that day. He was shot with blanks instead of bullets. So, did he end up living every day like it was his last?
No. He wasted “many, many minutes,” according to the author.
For some reason, it’s impossible to live every day like it’s your last.
Living every day like it’s your last is a terrible mindset.
Speaking as someone who’s tried it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t set constraints that place you in an all-or-nothing type of world.
No one can live like that.
Instead, aim to be a little better each day. All self-help advice on the internet boils down to this.
When you’re laying in your bed at night ask yourself that question: Am I going to sleep knowing that I tried to improve myself, even if just a little?
If you can answer yes, then you’re on the right path.
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