It’s true, most of us will come and go in this life only to be forgotten completely, yet this is our greatest gift in living an unforgettable life.
My father visited us from out of town a few weeks back. He’s 76. After dinner one night we found ourselves deep in conversation about his youth, his time in the Navy, his fondest memories and his biggest regrets. He told me about being on a ship in the middle of the Pacific that was refueling at an aircraft carrier when suddenly one of the engines went out — and then so did the rudder. The ship swerved left, and boom! Impact with the carrier…. He was eating at the time and had to catch his food mid air as it went flying off his plate. He told me how he used to love listening to his grandmother play piano and sing in their living room. “She was so talented!” he remembered. “She could do anything.” I never knew her and wonder what she was like, if I would have been in awe of her just as my father had been. But that’s all it will ever be to me, a question. And those are just two of the tens of millions of memories my dad has had of his life. I will never know most of the rest, and nor will anyone else.
He is alive and well, but when he passes, his life experiences will go with him — just a few will be remembered, and likely even those will be completely forgotten within a generation or two. He’ll become just another unknown man who was here, lived, and experienced life for seven-plus decades.
I’ve come to realize that this is one of the truest laws of life: Almost everyone is forgettable.
Our lives will have never existed. Think of the millions of people who have come and gone. Even within our own families, we will be forgotten; just part of the unknown lineage that will hopefully contribute to future creation, innovation, success.
While this may make life feel meaningless and depressing, it actually feel quite the opposite to me, and here’s why.
And before we get there… Stop. What are you trying to prove?
Why are you so concerned with what others think when you’ll likely soon be forgotten, as if you never existed? Any mistakes you made, gone. Any bad ideas you had, no one will know.
Unless of course you decide to be unforgettable. Someone who contributes so profoundly to our world that you get your name etched in history. You will be remembered.
So to my mind you have one of two choices:
1) Do what the fuck you want to do because no one will remember any way. Stop caring so much what other people think and GO FOR IT. Live life on your terms, do what brings you joy and for goodness sake stop seeking to create a life for approval and instead seek a life of purpose, meaning and fulfillment. Rest in the moments. Enjoy the everyday without so much judgment — be you, all you, and focus on connecting with people who bring you joy. When you take the pressure off of what you’re supposed to do, you start to focus on the be, and well… those moments when you’re being is all you really have anyway. Enjoy them and you’re guaranteed to look back on your life and think, “Wow, what a ride. That was fun.”
2) Get fucking going on creating something extraordinary. Some of us feel called to live a public life, one that makes lasting positive change in the world. And we don’t do it for the fame, we do it because that’s the call we feel, that’s what we’re built for. If this is you, get going and stop waiting for the right moment to start. The world is counting on you. Figure out what it is you’re meant to do, what your mission is, what your vision for your life is, and begin. Step out of comfort and into your history-making self. Create a life that will inspire people long after you’re gone. Even if your name isn’t remembered, your contributions will be.
So it’s your choice. Decide who you are and how you want to experience life and go after each day with vigor and enthusiasm for connection, service and creation. Either in the happiness of your own life, without judgment — free yourself! — or by getting serious about your world-positive mission.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last six months, it’s that people are being called. They are feeling the pull. The zeitgeist for our generation is defined — we are in the meaning and purpose phase of our evolution. People want to feel like their life and energy here on earth is purposeful and being used toward something they care about and believe in.