Why we like “carpe diem”, but don’t live it

After getting back from Peru a few weeks ago, and getting sucked back into the intense pace of my life here, I’ve tried to carve out time to reflect on the contrast of culture and life in Pucallpa, Peru and the suburbs of DC.  While there are many relevant points to contrast here, what I’ve been reflecting on recently is the disconnect between what we admire and what we do. Point 1:  We admire people who take risks and focus on becoming great at one things (e.g. business leaders, athletes, artists) Steve Jobs is cool.  Michael Jordan is cool.  Race car drivers are cool.  These are people who followed their passions intensely, focusing their whole lives around something important to them.  “Average” people look at them and admire them. People rarely admire people for their impressive work-life balance, or their ability to be decent at a long list of things.  Instead we look for greatness in specific skills. When I was in Peru, we met Victor, who ran The Refuge of Hope.  Victor was one of those men that risked his career, his money — everything, on a passion he had to create an organization to support people with disabilities.  That was a risky things, that took significant initiative.  Coming back from Peru, everyone on my team was impressed with Victor.  And yet, I continue to see myself struggle to find these areas of singular focus. Todd Phillips talked about this concept on 21 Nov 2010. Point 2:  While we admire this trait, most people shy away from the boldness required to executive it — instead we avoid risk by becoming “well rounded” It would seem intuitive that after admiring this singular focus, we would try to emulate it, but instead we try to live safe lives, avoiding the risks inherent in chasing greatness.  That initiative to change is what self-help books, the new concepts of lifestyle design, Seth Godin’s The Dip, the idea of New Years’ Resolutions, and loads of other concepts revolve around.  We want something, but we’re not willing to make a change.  It’s hard, or it’s not “smart”, etc.

“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” – John Keating in Dead Poets Society

Point 3:  To live this great life, we must live a life with decisiveness and a willingness to accept risk I see so many data points in my life that connect to these theme.  In reading Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, he hammers the point home of how so many people are wasting their lives.  I watch movies like Dead Poets Society, and I am inspired by the simple, powerful message that Keating pulls out of great literature.  I think of events like my uncle telling me that my indecisiveness in buying a camera changed my hobby from photography into camera shopping.  All these points direct me back to the simple concept that I get one life to live and I don’t want to waste it.  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and remember all the empty entertainment I enjoyed (watching sitcom after sitcom).  I don’t want to get to the end of my life and reflect on the great 401k I created.  I don’t want to continually defer life, thinking I’ll do things once life gets a little less busy — this is life right now, and I don’t want to let it pass me by. I want to get to end of my life and realize I’ve done great things.  I want to make an impact on people’s lives, make this world better, and magnify God’s name.

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”- John Keating, Dead Poets Society

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