“Live Your Life As If Everyone Else Was Going to Die Today”

Read this piece tonight by James Altucher in his ebook The Choose Yourself Stories, available for free through signing up for his newsletter deal. Diggin’ his stuff lately. Some of his writings are humorous, others less so, but they tend to be thought-provoking regardless. Anyway, this story really struck me, having read similar elsewhere on his blog, though this piece I particularly appreciated and wanted to share here:

Live Your Life As If Everyone Else Was Going to Die Today

You ever have that dream where your credit cards and passport got in the salad bowl and are getting salad dressing all over them and your wife is cheating on you and your boss is yelling at you?

Yeah? Me too. Last night.

I’m traveling on business today. Actually, I already traveled. Today I have business to do.

I have one rule: never travel on business. You never make a dime when you travel on business.

The last half of that rule will not be broken today. I will not make a dime. But sometimes it’s good to just put a “face to the name”. I put that in quotes. It’s like I have this big list of names that need faces taped to them.

I’m going to tape some names today. I’m going to say that to a random guy in the hotel elevator later: “I’m going to tape some fucking names today!”

No I don’t know.

Here I am. Helloooo Boston.

If today were my last day would I be in Boston?


But why do people always say that? LIVE TODAY AS IF IT’S YOUR LAST! It’s like a rallying cry for the world. Be happy…OR DIE! An anthem. Like the Partridge Family’s “Take me Back to Albuquerque”, or Queen’s “We are the Champions”. Those are anthems.

I picture the girl in Schindler’s List yelling, “Goodbye Jews!” “It’s Your LAST DAY, JEW!” “LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE IT’S YOUR LAST DAY, JEW!”

If it were really my last day I would walk outdoors naked somewhere. For the fun of it I would tape two-dollar bills to my stomach.

It was 3am, after my salad bowl dream, when I was thinking of this. I told Dan the other day, “if you wake up at 3 in the morning thinking stressful thoughts tell yourself, “it’s 3am and probably my thoughts are irrational so I’m going to make an appointment with myself to reconsider these thoughts again at 3pm” The idea is that at 3pm those thoughts will seem totally irrelevant.”

Note to self: address salad bowl dream with credit cards sinking at 3pm. Further note: you might die today. Live it up! Goodbye Jew!

Claudia was sleeping next to me. I started to think if we got in a car crash what if I didn’t die. What if SHE died? Now we are talking about something here. Because then I would be alive and I would have to deal with it. I would be sad and cry. I was thinking, “I hope I will be nice to her today just in case we get in a car crash later and she dies.”

So that’s my golden rule today. I’m going to live life as if everyone else is going to die. For everyone I meet today I’m going to really imagine that today is his or her last day.

Then I will:

– Be kind to them

– Try to help them be less stressed

– Try to fulfill their dreams for the day

– Not talk badly about them. Don’t talk badly about someone about to die. Too soon!

– Hug them if it’s appropriate. Or kiss them. Not the people I’m going to “business” with later. That might be too much. But I will be nice to them anyway.

– Really listen to them. I will listen to everyone’s last words today without interrupting them. Even if I can finish their sentence because I am light years ahead of them I will let them finish their sentences without my stupid voice piercing the air with its presumption.

– Learn from them. I will picture as if some universal life force is speaking to me through everyone else. I will listen carefully for clues that I can piece together later. These are the only clues that god will ever give me so don’t interrupt.

– Don’t opinionate all over them. What does it matter if I change their minds today? Do they really need my fantastic thoughts? They are going to die anyway.

I feel like my life will be better if I practice living it as if everyone else is going to die today but I’m going to live forever. Floating in space eventually, with only your last words to cherish.

When you die, can I kiss your forehead? And when you finally close your eyes for the last time, my poor baby, I hope you can return that kiss to god when your eyes next blink open.


Hopefully he won’t mind.

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4 Responses to “Live Your Life As If Everyone Else Was Going to Die Today”

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    The dark side of my mind keeps thinking that having everyone I know die might be an acceptable (albeit admittedly steep) price if it meant everyone (other than me, obviously) died.

    There were a couple of good Twilight Zone episodes along those lines…

    But the lighter side of my mind thinks it’s a good meme. Reminds me a little of another (much darker) one I stumbled on last night: Have you bought the clothes you’ll die in, yet?

    Oy, that is dark, though. Here are a couple of others from the same source:

    “You are, to yourself, your thoughts. You are, to others, your actions.”

    “The brain is the only thing that’s ever named itself.”

    • Byenia says:

      “You are, to yourself, your thoughts. You are, to others, your actions.”

      And I think it’s that one that trips me up the most often. Because nearly everything counts as an action, including facial expressions (intended or not), words spoken (even out of frustration or pain and not meant to be taken too literally), expressed sexuality (nevermind one’s motives and ways of going about it — females tend to be harshly judged in this arena regardless, for past or present behaviors or just for engaging in any actions that might somehow be construed as sexual in nature or possibly perceived to be by at least one other person, even if personally intended as innocent and platonic), etc.

      So actions are about how others interpret them according to whatever thoughts and preconceived judgments they’re operating with, right or wrong. They can’t see your thoughts, but their own thoughts determine how they perceive you. Making life hard out here for oddballs. And hence why good actors prove so successful at doing what they do — they know how to bamboozle others and how to elicit the emotional reactions that work most in their favor. And then there’s people like me…I feel like banging my head against a wall every day.

      Funny thing is people tend to fault the individual when the individual says they’re having trouble being widely understood by others. Well, that doesn’t help change a thing. Then again, I don’t even understand myself why I do what I do. And I suppose just because I feel love inside doesn’t mean the other can appreciate that when my actions seemed to contradict my claims of loyalty. Yes, there is a disconnect there on my end.

      Wish I wouldn’t say some of the things I’ve said. I lash out in anger and indignation at times and say all the wrong things, wanting to inflict some pain outwardly. And those words contradict my actual feelings inside, which he couldn’t see for himself and had no choice but to judge according to my spoken words and actions. It must’ve been very confusing for him to try to make sense of at times.

      Never before have I felt like such a wicked person. Not like this, not to this extent. Which gets me thinking if people I love were to die tomorrow, perhaps the best I could do is just leave them alone and let them go about their day in peace.

      But then where does that leave me? I can’t stand living off in the shadows, staying home when not working, nervous to deal with people because either I’ll hurt their feelings or they’ll hurt mine. That’s not fair either. But a person isn’t radically overhauled overnight and bad habits die hard. Plus none of us can be socialized (or resocialized) in a vacuum. I don’t have an answer to this conundrum yet, other than to strive to be more mindful of all that I say and do.

      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        Yeah, I can relate to nearly ever word of that. On some level I envy the actors for their success, but I just don’t have it in me to be that way. I never have. (Hence the conversation with M I described.) But the price has been high.

        One difference, perhaps, is that I’ve always been pretty content in my own head. My love of reading and science (and TV and movies) has been a lifesaver. To quote Hamlet again:

        HAMLET: O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

        Or dreams at all, sometimes. As much of a loner as I am, it still sucks not having someone to share stuff with. I can only imagine it’s harder for you, as you’re a lot more social than I am.

        • Byenia says:

          Thanks for relating with me here, Wyrd. You and I are odd ducks, albeit of (somewhat) different stripes. 😉 Hope you are doing well.

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