Everyday Words

If today was your last day to live

By October 10, 2011 6 Comments

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

-Steve Jobs 1974-2011


I remember when the blackout happened recently in San Diego. At first it created utter chaos. Traffic in the streets, people weren’t productive, it was like the world was going to end. It was also one of the most memorable days in San Diego because people came together.

I remember getting home and decided to go surfing. Out on the water you’d look back toward the shore and see nothing but pitch dark. Biking back home, you’d see people laying down on their lawns with their friends listening to the football game via radio and candlelight.

Sometimes your life routine needs a little chip in the timeline. I had a chip in my timeline recently as just a couple days ago I was involved in a motorcycle accident.

Since the accident I’ve been thinking, “If I died during that accident, how would I feel?” The event brought nothing but happiness to be alive. If you have any enemies, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a reminder that we are all people on this Earth and although we have different ideas, we all share the common goal of achieving happiness.

It also got me thinking that I should never take a risk just to take risks. Rather it should be about taking calculated risks. My father told me of a near death experience he had. Much like Steve Jobs and how he was diagnosed with cancer, it brought focus to his life. At that moment he told himself that he would achieve greatness.

What is greatness? I thought about all my personal goals of going skydiving, bungee jumping and all those fun and invigorating experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Each experience forms who you are; however, it didn’t effect the greater good. What can I do to make a difference in the lives of others?

Have you ever had a near death experience? If so, how did it change the way you think and live life?

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • A. Palmer says:

    Thank you for posting this Ryan, it’s an awesome topic.  I apologize if this is slightly off topic, but it is definitely applicable to the underlying message of your passage.  Although I did have a near-death experience, it was not that, but rather a celebration of life, which changed my outlook on this world.  A night of being surrounded by the ones I love and sharing with them individually why I admire and respect them helped me realize that what happiness and greatness means to me is doing what I can to make others happy.  Life is based on relationships; boss and employee, mother and son, friend and friend, boyfriend and girlfriend, roommate and roommate.  Each relationship requires a certain amount of work to maintain.  And the more work that is put into a relationship, the happier the recipient of your efforts will be.  In turn, it is amazing how much satisfaction you can get by doing what you can to contribute to the happiness of others.  If you maintain a positive and confident attitude and be genuine in your actions and words, the good deeds you do for others will be noticed and the respect you deserve will be given.  I am a firm believer that self-fulfillment is reliant on selfless acts.  I will never forget the looks on my friends faces that night.  Knowing that I had made a difference simply with  a few kind words opened my thinking to bigger, more fulfilling possibilities.  Recently, the bonds I have made with the people closest in my life, the ones I respect, the ones I have helped, the ones who help me, has made me very happy :-)

    • Ryan Lum says:

      Thanks for your thoughts on this topic! I loved hearing that life is based on meaningful experiences. I was talking to someone about this very topic and she also said that to her it didn’t matter what she did or didn’t do.. but rather it was about spending time with those you care about.

      I totally agree with you that a part of life is about creating meaningful relationships.

  • Ashley Goodwin says:

    amazing amazing advice, and totally what I needed to read.  Now I must live it!

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