Up until a few years ago I’d never had to face the real implications of death. When my grandmother passed away it caused me to reflect my own existence, my place in the world, and that age-old question of what is my purpose.
Recently, someone I consider a mentor passed away in a freak accident while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. When I started this blog in 2012, Scott Dinsmore was one of the first people I connected with and seeked advice from. He was even kind enough to help me with this project. Scott’s contribution can be seen below.
Although I never met Scott, we exchanged emails back and forth. Most of which included me asking for advice and Scott providing it without asking for anything in return.
Scott was a passion and purpose coach. His blog was called Live Your Legend, where he taught and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to find and do work that they love. Including this Tedx talk that over 2.5 million people have viewed. Over the last few days I’ve been thinking about Scott’s message and as I sit here in a crowded Starbucks, drinking tea, thinking about my Grandmother, Scott, and as I write this article – Scott’s message of “Find and Do Work You Love” as taken a more significant meaning to me.
Scott’s message goes beyond work. I hate to put words in anyone’s mouth, so to Chelsea his wife, if you are reading this, please correct me if I am wrong. Find and do work you love also means find and…
- Spend time with people you love
- Have experiences you love
- Treat your body in ways that show you love it
- Discover ways to give to the lives of others that show how much you love
The death of my grandmother a few years ago and more recently Scott have my brain caught in an analytical spiral that has me contemplating my existence, purpose, and journey in this world. In his book “The Denial of Death,” author, philosopher, and psychologist Ernest Becker describes humanity in a dualistic way that consists of the physical self and symbolic self.
Mark eloquently describes this as having the gift to be able to think about our futures and who we want to be, but the price we pay for this gift is the realization that we will one day die. Becker says that one of the ways we deal with this relationship is through heroism. Heroism speaks to the symbolic self, or what I like to think of as the emotional self. Becker goes on to write that because of heroism we create “immortality projects.” Immortality projects consist of trying to serve a greater purpose in this world, something that we feel will last longer than our physical body. These projects are for giving our lives meaning and purpose.
To Scott; whether you called it your immortality project or not, I just want to thank you for showing the world that it is possible to create a life for yourself that exudes love, passion, and purpose. And as I reflect back on the life of my Grandmother, I’d like to thank her for doing the same. Thank you for teaching me valuable life skills that have made me the man I am today.
But what’s a good hero story without great struggle. While I cannot speak for Scott or my Grandmother, I can speak for myself and I’m sure that most of you will agree – Self loathing, anxiety, depression, and various struggles in love, health, work, school, and other areas of life exist and exist in a very powerful way.
One way that many of us try to deal with these struggles is though perfectionism in our pursuit of our personal immortality projects. In the movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s character Alvy Singer says, “You’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life.”
But art is life. And I don’t mean that in a cliché, tweet able, or some deep, bullshit, philosophical thought to ponder for the rest of the day. What I mean is that art is just another part of life that some of us use as a way to create perfection on our hero’s journey. But perfection is impossible, we all know it, yet it’s something we often strive for.
Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert in self compassion tells us that:
The great angst of modern life is this: no matter how hard we try, no matter how successful we are, no matter how good a parent, worker, or spouse we are – it’s never enough. There is always someone richer, thinner, smarter, or more powerful, someone who makes us feel small in comparison. Failure of any kind, large or small, is unacceptable. The result: therapist’s offices, pharmaceutical companies, and the self-help aisles of bookstores are besieged by people who feel they’re not okay as they are. What to do?
Well to answer that question I propose that for today we all accept that we’re not perfect, there’s nothing wrong with us, and that it’s ok to fuck up, get stuff wrong, make mistakes, and color outside the lines every once in a while. Have a little self compassion and enjoy the hero’s journey that we’re all on.
Thank you Scott and Grandma for everything that you gave. You both are missed. I usually sign off each article by saying, “Live Limitless.” However, I don’t think that’s relevant or even appropriate for today. Instead, I’d just like to leave you with a question.
What’s something you’ve said you want to do but have put it off because you didn’t feel like you deserved it, were fit enough for it, had a enough money or time to do it, or were just not confident enough to try it? I’d like for you to take one tiny step today to get you closer to that one thing. It might just be saving $20 bucks a week for a trip you want to take, walking 20 minutes tonight with a friend or your spouse, or writing the first paragraph in a novel you’d like to create. Whatever that may be, just get started. What have you been putting off.
PS: Today is the first day I’ve sat down to write without overanalyzing what I’m trying to say, whether you would enjoy it, or if it conveyed some sense of deep meaning and purpose. For lack of a better term it is mental vomit that is finding its way on this page. And I like it.
I’ll be back this Sunday with your regularly scheduled Limitless article but moving forward I will only be writing one article per month. Writing and researching takes up a tremendous amount of my time (all I do is work) and I’d like to pursue some other interests and projects that I’ve put off. It’s unfortunate that it takes someone’s death to act as a reminder of where priorities and values lay but it does. I’m not sure when I’ll go back writing once per week but I do plan on it. Until then, expect to see a few more personal emails from me that will not be found on the blog.
PPS: Scott’s friend Leo wrote a beautiful post about their relationship. You can read that here. It does a better job of honoring Scott and his life than I could. Thank you Leo for sharing. With love to you.