It's Later Than You Think
Today at a Glance
- Harsh Truth: You’ll only see your loved ones a few more times. This realization led to me moving across the country and changing my entire life.
- We all need to do the depressing math—the math that tells us how few times we will get to do the things we love with the people we love.
- Spend more time doing things you never regret with those you hold dear. That is the recipe for a life well lived.
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You work and work for years and years, you're always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin' dough
Someday you say, you'll have your fun, when you're a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you'll have in your old rockin' chair
Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
- Guy Lombardo, Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think
Contrary to what you may believe, this piece was not intended to be dark or morbid. It was intended to make you think—to hopefully question some underlying (yet flawed) assumptions and spark active discussion with those around you.
Today’s newsletter has the same intention.
It’s more emotion-inducing than most of my work—I teared up several times during the writing!—but also arguably the most important piece I will ever write.
My hope is for you to come away from it feeling cleansed, refreshed, and empowered to think clearly and deeply about your time and how you choose to spend it.
With that context in mind, let’s dive right in…
The Harsh Truth
Harsh Truth: You’ll only see your loved ones a few more times.
A Personal Story
I’ll start with a personal story.
In May 2021, I had a conversation with a new friend that changed my life.
We were having a chat—over a few whiskeys, of course—about living in California. He had grown up there and his entire family had settled there, so I was lamenting that it was so far away from my parents and sister in Boston.
My friend asked how often I saw them and how old my parents were...
I replied that I saw them about once per year, and that they were in their mid-60s. He looked me square in the face and plainly said:
"Ok, so you'll see them 15 more times in your life."
It sounds insensitive—but it's just real. It’s just…math. If the average life expectancy is ~80 years, my parents are in their mid-60s, and I see them one time per year, the math—however depressing—says I will see them 15 more times before they are gone.
Our time together is finite, but we fail to recognize it until it's too late.
Time is cruel. You’ll love it with all of your being, you may even pray for more of it, but the reality is that time doesn’t care about you.
Your relationship with time is the ultimate unrequited love.
The morning after this conversation, I woke up and had a very candid conversation with my wife about what we wanted in life. A few days later, we listed our brand new house in California on the market. Thanks to a blazing hot housing market, we sold our house within days, packed up our things, and shipped off to the East Coast to be closer to our parents.
It’s been almost a year, and it was the best decision I've ever made.
I'll never regret these tiny moments—of doing nothing in particular—that we'll get to spend together in the years ahead. I’ll never regret the moments my parents get to spend with my son once he is born.
I’ll never regret any of this.
When I first shared this story on Twitter, the response was pretty overwhelming. It seemed I wasn’t alone in having this painful, yet powerful, realization.
Tim Urban—one of my favorite writers (and an upcoming guest on my podcast!)—wrote about this phenomenon in a recent New York Times op-ed.
In classic Tim Urban fashion, he produced a simple visualizations to capture the sentiment of the entire piece.
Quoting from the article:
What it boils down to is this: My life, in the best-case scenario, will consist of around 20 years of in-person parent time. The first 19 happened over the course of my first 19 years. The final year is spread out over the rest of my life. When I left for college, I had many decades left with living parents, but only about one year of time left to spend with them.
Furthermore, as he points out in the piece, this same lesson applies to everyone in our lives, and to the activities we love doing, but rarely get to do—travel, museum visits, special events, etc.
The math—depressing as it seems—should be a call to arms.
Identify the people and activities you care most deeply about. Prioritize them ruthlessly.
It may be difficult, even painful, but it’s a decision you’ll never regret.
In his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve Jobs commented on the power of acknowledging his own mortality:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
When we’re young, we view life as infinite.
But as Tim Urban points out in his piece, when we visualize an optimistic lifespan in a single image, we realize it is anything but.
We spend most of our lives playing a game.
Everything we do is in anticipation of the future. When that future comes, we simply reset to think about the next future.
“I can’t wait until I’m 16 so I can drive.”
“I can’t wait until I’m 18 so I can leave home and go to college.”
“I can’t wait until I’m 25 so I can have my own place.”
“I can’t wait until I’m 35 so I can coach my kid’s team.”
“I can’t wait until I’m 45 so I can run this company.”
It’s natural, but it’s a dangerous game—one that we will lose, eventually.
Time is our most precious asset and the present is all that’s guaranteed. Spend it wisely, with those you love, in ways you’ll never regret.
And so we’ll end where we began, with the lyrics from that famous song by Guy Lombardo…
Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.