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Principles

A Finite Life is Comprised of an Infinite Number of Possibilities

 November 6, 2019

By  David N Johnson

14,122 days. That’s it. That’s all that’s left — the average American male lives to be 78.6 years old. I just turned 40 and did the math. I have roughly 14,122 days left in my life if it isn’t cut short by some unforeseen accident or illness.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the back seat of NJ Transit bus 196 heading into Manhattan, that number bouncing around in my head as I ponder how I’m going to use the remainder of my finite days.

We’ve all looked back at our lives and asked ourselves, “what advice would I give the younger me?” It’s a fun thought experiment to wonder what could have been if you knew then what you know now. But what does that do for you now? Nothing. It’s a great social media question to ask that generally gets a lot of responses, but what value does it hold?

Instead, ask yourself what you would want to tell the current you, 5, 10, or 15 years from now. However, before you do that, figure out how many days you have left. A bit macabre? Maybe. Powerful? Absolutely!

Now, imagine that somewhere in the future time machines are invented, and you can get your hands on one five (or ten) years from now. Somehow your future self fights the urge to give your current self the lottery numbers and instead gives you life advice. What would you tell your present self?

What inactions have you been struggling with lately? Sometimes it takes thinking in multiple time zones to get your head wrapped around what you should be doing. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook in the present, but what if nothing changes? What if your life ten years from now is exactly like it is today? What would the future you have to say about that?

Our days are limited. We don’t live forever, not in this life anyway. I have 14,122 days left in mine, and I refuse to live in fear of my future by being unwilling to make changes today.

Too many times we allow fear to paralyze us because we’re not willing to risk what we currently have.

My wife and I have made many life-altering decisions (and many minor ones) that took us across the country and into new lives and careers because we understood that to live our lives to the fullest, that risks need to be made.

I’m not talking about taking risks flippantly but instead making calculated ones that will change the trajectory of your life.

That’s why it’s crucial to think in multiple time zones. It’s easy to lie to yourself and say:

  • “Oh, things will get better when my boss sees how valuable I am.”
  • “I don’t want to lose the income I have. I’ll lower my expectations and will be okay with my current life.”
  • “I’ll just learn to live with the disappointment.”

What if it doesn’t get better? What if your boss doesn’t see your value and fires you? What then?

Be prepared. This is your life. The worst move any of us can make is to stand still.

What advice would the future me give the present me?

Don’t stagnate. You know how much you hate that. You’ve always had a tendency to make things work even if that thing isn’t entirely what you wanted. You overthink and live in your head more than you should. Stop revving your engine already and take your foot off the brake. Full speed ahead, I’m counting on you!

How many days do you have left? Break them down into workable segments, whether it’s thirds, fourths, fifths, or more. What do you want to accomplish during those segments? What kinks do you have to work out now so that they will be easier to achieve later?

As a reminder, I put a countdown timer on the home screen of my cellphone. It’s not there as a reminder of my impending death, rather as a reminder that life is finite and I only have so many days to accomplish my dreams.

David N Johnson


David N Johnson

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