Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.
As a kid, I was scared about death. At night before sleep, lying in bed, I’d wonder what it was like. Would it hurt? The concept of “gone.” It didn’t seem right.
I was also obsessed with the question, “Would I come back?” If I did, how would I know it was me? I had to ask my dad, Chubby.
One night after dinner Dad was practicing on his new Wurlitzer organ. (Play by number. Do they still have that?) I snuggled up to his side.
“Dad,” I said. “I’m afraid to die.”
He stopped, took his hands off the keyboard, turned with a smile, looked me square in the eye, and replied,
“Greg, knowing you’ll die brings you alive.”
I didn’t get this… Chubby went on:
“You have a tough math test tomorrow, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Well,” Dad said. “If you could put that test off for a week, would you?”
“How about a year?” he said.
“Fantastic.” I replied.
Chubby’s eye’s lit up! His hands flew in the air.
“That’s the point,” he said. “Without deadlines, people put off what they know they should do. Then they look back with regret on a life that was less than it could have been.”
I had never thought about that. Death as a motivator for life?
Dad continued, “Most people are so afraid of dying they won’t let themselves think about it, they won’t accept it.”
Chubby said, “It’s silly to ignore what you know to be true. People should think more often about how quickly life will pass. It should be their #1 daily motivator. It should create a LIVE BIG mindset.”
BIG. BIG. BIG. Dad kept stressing “BIG” as he threw his hands high in the air.
He continued, “Too many people look back and wish darn well they had gone for improbable goals, taken more risks, overcome fear and lived BIG every day.”
“Instead,” Dad explained, “They ignore the inevitable. They live each day like life never ends. Then they get old, look back, and ask, ‘Where did it go?’”
I really got it then. I understood. Chubby wasn’t really talking about dying.
He wanted me to accept the reality of death as the motivation to not waste a minute, put aside fear, LIVE BIG every day and have a go-for-it life.
That was over 50 years ago. As I look back, do I have any regrets? You bet… The days I slept in.