Writing what I know.

What will I be grateful for when I die?

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I came across this post from Paul Graham this morning. Paul was moved by this post, which listed out the five most common regrets of the dying according to a former hospice worker. I reflected on it a bit and then sent it to Denise, who turned around an e-mail that went kind of like this:

“I like it, but as we think of so many other things, I would shift the don’t do items to what you actually want to do. I would rather chant “do this” to myself than “don’t do this”. Do you have five?”

Denise is exactly right. In fact, my favorite writing trick is to write down all the negatives arguments against something on the left half of a piece of paper. Then I write the positive rejoinders to the negative topics on the right side of the paper, throw away the left side, and what remains is the foundation of my writing. (Thank you for the reminder D.)

So, I decided to take Denise’s advice. Here are five things, in no certain order, that I will be grateful for when I die.

I Maximized Delight

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

Maximizing delight happens on a macro and micro level. For example, on a macro level, it might mean living where you want to live, doing the work you want to do, loving who you want to love, despite the roadblocks that you might find in your way. Most of the roadblocks in your way are imaginary. By imaginary I mean that only you can see them or they are just somebody else’s opinion on how you should live. It is amazing how much power the status quo has. However, following your path is a skill, maybe even a habit or a muscle, that grows stronger the more you use it.

Maximizing delight on the macro level puts the architecture of your life in place. But what about the details? Maximizing delight in the micro sense means looking at the days, the hours, the minutes. It means figuring out how to eat at your favorite restaurant when nobody else is there, fitting a nap into your work day, or finding the time to cook during the week.

Maximizing delight may mean eliminating “fake important” stuff like returning all of your phone calls, or watching the news, or having a bigger house.

One question Denise and I ask each other is “who do I want to be when I’m old?” Another useful version of this is “would 95-year old Chris be glad I spent time on this?” I find that to be a useful clarifying device.

I Fully Understand What My Head and Heart Are Capable Of

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” – Charles Schulz

I’m not sure what I can add to Charles Schulz’s quote, other than to say I want to experience all ten gears. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll take his word for it that there are only ten speeds.

I want to challenge myself to grow until I hit my limits, leaving no questions about my abilities unresolved at the end of my life.

I Lived in Flow on a Daily Basis

This might seem closely related to maximizing delight, and there is a connection, but I see it as a separate concept. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow is powerful and worth reading up on.

How to apply it? Well, I think it starts with figuring out what activities bring you to a state of flow, finding out how to structure your work and life to provide more of it, and then doing it.

Sounds simple, but I believe it requires quite a bit of dedication and life engineering to make it work. I’ll be glad I fought for flow when I look back.

I Left a Legacy I Am Proud Of

In my immediate field of vision, that means writing books, building a company, and developing technology. I would hope that all of this work survives me and continues to improve the lives of others after I am gone.

I have vague notions about other projects that I would like to tackle when I retire, but I am highly driven to externalize the ideas in my head, write them down and share them so that others can build on them and improve them.

Is it narcissistic? Perhaps. But I’m not sorry.

The Ones I Love Achieved Their Goals

There is nothing more satisfying than watching the people you love find happiness and success, whatever that means to them. To the extent I am able to help them along their journey, serve them even, so much the better.

Written by Christopher Parsons

April 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. You inspire me, Knowledgeman. Maximizing delight is going straight to the top of my list.


    April 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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