The Year To Live Project
Nothing tickles my undercarriage like an intriguing question. I love them. Great questions change lives. I know they have changed mine.
- “Are you going to choose fear or are you going to choose faith?” – This got me through the trials and tribulations of 2015 and is still the first question I try to ask myself every morning.
- “What would you do with unlimited resources?” – Gavin de Becker posed this question to me personally 12 years ago and the answer became the impetus behind my attending Yo-San University and then opening CrossFit Pacific Coast.
- “How may I serve?” – This is one question that has the power to completely destroy your external life while igniting your internal life. You may want to think twice before asking this one with sincerity.
But the question I want to ask you today is this:
“What would you do with only one year to live?”
Less what would you do, but who would you become?
This is not the first time most of you will have thought about this, or had the exact question posed to you. But when we are confronted with this question, we often think about it quickly and quip, “That’s easy, I’d travel,” and then get back to living exactly how we have been.
Would you though? Would you just travel? Travel and do what? Sit on a beach? Check historical landmarks off of your bucket list from the comfort of a luxury bus and then keep moving? What else would you do for twelve months? Think about it. What would you need to do, to become the person that on their very deathbed can look back upon the last year and know they have no final regrets? To be at peace with your life.
Now think about it – with both your heart and your stomach – and answer the question again.
Now pretend you really do only have a year to live, if that. Then answer it again.
Scary as shit, isn’t it?
I’ve posed this question to a number of people over the last few months and their answers have been astonishing. Some have said they’d change nothing about their lives. They are living on purpose, feeling the surge of inspiration each morning, and loving the contribution they’re making to their families, friends, and communities. Good for them. Fucking liars. Just kidding. Sort of.
A lot of people intuitively understand the power of dropping the question down into themselves on a deeper level – and can’t. They give the surface level “travel” answer. Just like the guys that feel the need to answer with a reference to year of hookers and blow, they’re the least honest of all. I get it, facing your own mortality is terrifying, facing your own lack of a self actualized life may be even scarier.
Some of the people I’ve asked have broken down crying, having the courage to really think it through. They’ve spoken of the need for divorce (maybe someone asked my ex-wife this question last year…jerk), of quitting their jobs, of going back to school, of looking up that high school sweetheart, of guitar lessons, painting, and of doing just about anything other than how they currently spend their time. We all have a higher purpose to connect to, but are we, and to what degree?
True, there is no substitute for real experience. Ask someone who has survived cancer if you can hypothetically stare death in the face as a self-help exercise and have it be as powerful as sitting in the oncologist’s office and getting the real news. They’ll laugh at you, and rightly so, they’ve earned it.
You Don’t Need Cancer To Make Changes
Hopefully we’ll never get the real diagnosis, but we can work with what we have. The question may not have to be a bulldozer through your entire life either, but it can act as a catalyst that lets you develop change and actualization at a rate that works with what you’ve currently got going on.
Life-and-death scenarios excuse responsibility that otherwise has to be considered without them. Suddenly walking out on your marriage, job, or community can do significant damage to those left behind holding your pieces, and that’s not what this question is about. What it is about is living the life we really want. The one we think about at night when no one is around. The one that makes us come alive. The connection to and expression of that higher purpose – no matter how small the expression may be.
On January 23rd, 2016, I will turn 40 years old. If life keep moving in the direction it seems to be, I will also be homeless, unemployed, divorced, and childless. Not exactly where what my vision board had planned a year ago. This can be viewed as complete abject failure or complete freedom. It all comes down to fear or faith.
To make things interesting, I’m also setting out to answer for myself the question posed above: “What would you do with only a year to live?” For me this isn’t about death at all, but finding a way to live with the same peace written about above.
To achieve this, I’ve designed a year full of challenges, quests, and growth opportunities. I’m ditching my apartment, throwing what little possessions I have left in storage and hitting the open road. A few things included in this adventure are:
- Spending a couple of days with my favorite author, Caroline Myss
- Volunteering in a hospice for 3 months in New Mexico
- Spending 28 days alone, and in complete, utter darkness in Guatemala
- Studying Leadership at Esalen
- Surfing through Central America
- Giving a TED talk
- Living in the woods, sans gear, for a month with Boulder Outdoor Survival School
- Making amends, giving thank-you’s, and saying I-love-you’s to family and friends
- Doing interviews with people who have been given the real twelve-month diagnosis or less
- Meditating, sticking needles in people, writing about it all and much much more…
Here’s to getting One Day Stronger – for at least One Year Longer!