It’s Good to be Reminded of the Fleeting Nature of Life: Finding Purpose & Meaning at Work and in Life

In 2003, I took the life-changing step of turning my hobby into a career. It was exciting and completely nerve-wracking!

This July, I traveled with my fiance (now my wife) to Southern Utah. As we were driving back to Las Vegas to catch our flight, the size and age of my surroundings, of the rolling mountainous desert, of the vast emptiness around me served as a grim reminder of my own mortality. I am here for a very short time. We are all here for a very short time. 

I quickly sent myself an email with the title of this article–this message was worth sharing. 

Very few of us take the chance to check out. In fact, it was my first trip without my laptop in over four years. Revenue, growth, promotions, bigger paychecks, super important deadlines for super important initiatives. Like, serious life or death shit. But honestly, it wasn’t. Americans are fixated on squeezing as much revenue out of every possible second. Perhaps it’s what’s made us so successful (I would argue that we’ve stolen, plundered, and muscled our way into a lot of our “success,”, but that’s not the point of this essay). 

We spend our lives consumed by phones and laptops, likes and comments, endless reports and a lengthy list of other things that don’t really matter. In fifty years, I’ll be dead. Quite frankly, at 38, I should be happy to double that. Given the dire nature of climate change, we will all be lucky to be healthy and happy in 2059. 

I spend a lot of my waking hours trying to change the world. I eat, sleep, and breathe the B Corp movement, helping companies to certify, helping students find their passion, and helping countless others to start their journey. I don’t mind this work because it is never about the money, but about the change we so desperately need if we’re going to make it to 2059. 

I am driven by the reminder that, in fifty years, I will be, to quote John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, “food for worms.” But I still struggle, with work chalked full of purpose and meaning, with the quintessential questions homo sapiens have struggled with since the Englightment (and probably well before). What does my life mean? What does my work mean? What does it all mean? Why are we here, together, on a spinning rock, rotating around a burning star, in a galaxy of infinite emptiness? 

And I can’t say I have the answer. The closest I have come is to pursue the most selfless of work. Leave the world a better place, fight for the forgotten, be a champion for the next generation. This work gets me out of bed in the morning and gives me the meaning I need, so I am going to go with it. 

But one thing I am sure of is to remind yourself of the fleeting nature of life. Remind yourself that you’ll one day be dead and remember the wise advice from Professor Keating to “suck the marrow out of life.” And for me, that means making as much of an impact as I possibly can in the days I have left. Work hard, enjoy the fruits of my labor, and rest when I’m worms’ food. 

And OK, maybe don’t remind yourself of your mortality every day, as the thought can be kind of depressing. But it’s good to keep things in perspective. 

In fifty years, most of you reading this will be dead. That fancy watch won’t work, that car won’t run, and nobody will still be liking your Insta post. 

Go do some good in the world. 

Go change a life. 

Go be a force for positive change.

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