So there we were: jogging up the bluffs with mud covered shoes and bodies covered in, well... nothing.
It was one of those nights to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes that means finding a new blockbuster to watch, sometimes it means trying out a new restaurant.
Tonight it meant my brother and I running around in nature butt ass naked (because those are just the type of crazy adventures I do for DopeStoke).
As we made our way up the hill something caught my eye.
Is that a person? No... it's bigger. There are more than one of them!
It was a pack of coyotes.
More and more kept appearing out of the bush.
Well, this is it I guess. We'll just grab some rocks and fight them off. Hopefully they don't bite below the waist.
They came closer.
As they stepped into the moonlight, the dim glow exposed their silhouettes.
Those were not coyotes. Those were deer.
They silently slipped past us into the black as we continued on.
But that experience left me with a powerful question to ponder:
What do you have when you have nothing?
I mean, most of us will probably never have to face off against a pack of coyotes with a cool breeze in our crotch.
Most of us won't ever suffer a crippling bankruptcy. Most of us won't be kidnapped or stranded on a desert island with nothing.
But what if you were?
What would you have when you had nothing?
What would you possess within yourself after everything else was gone?
It's a fairly straightforward question but almost always overlooked.
I love having stuff.
I truly love having clothing, a bed, and a laptop.
Those things enhance my life. They make me happier, or more comfortable, or more productive.
But I try my best not to let them define me.
Have you ever heard about the Egyptian Pharaohs accumulating stupefying amounts of gold and jewelry and statues for their burial chambers?
That would be pretty rad huh? That's going out in style. It's like being immortal.
Well... it's like being temporarily immortal.
Because a few thousand years later some guy with glasses and a tiny paintbrush comes and kicks down your tomb wall and puts you and all of your stuff in a museum where little kids stare at your weirdo mummy face everyday for eternity.
So there must be a better way to do it then?
What if you could have a part of you live on that no one could ever put inside the hand-smudged glass of a museum exhibit?
You could live on in a way that no one could ever take away.
What would it look like to be immortal?
Stronger tomb walls? Permanent body guards? Uploading your brain into a machine? Cryogenic freezing?
But I think there's also a really counterintuitive answer:
Accumulate nothing. Die naked without anything.
Hmmm... when you said "counterintuitive" I didn't think you meant "really really dumb."
I know it sounds bizarre. I think it is too. How can you ever be immortal when you are just a bag of bones lying in the dirt?
Well, maybe your body isn't really the defining thing about you. Maybe the essence of who you are is something that's completely within your control.
Sure, you can workout and eat well, but you can't will yourself to be a foot taller (I've tried).
So maybe who you are is what you do?
Maybe it's the decisions you make. Maybe it's the actions you take.
That kind of makes sense right? At least you have control over those things.
But what if it was even a step further? What if who you are (especially after you're dead) is the influence you have on others?
What if who you really are is the positive change you bring to the world?
If you died tomorrow, what vision of you could we construct from your influence?
We could look up your utilities bills and see how much water you used, we could call your cell phone carrier and see how much data you streamed, maybe we could do some overkill analysis and see how much gasoline you bought by watching security cam footage from local gas stations.
Hell, we could even piece together an all encompassing online profile by integrating every social network profile you've ever made.
But maybe there's a better way to reconstruct what a person really was...
Maybe we could talk to people you came into contact with. Maybe we could talk to the valuable people in your life.
What if we just took a look at your average day? What would have gone differently if you weren't there?
Would people have felt less exited? Would they have felt more anxiety? Would they have struggled to get the help they needed?
I think that might be what it means to matter: adding happiness and value people's lives on your most average day.
Even the heroes had heroes
The most legendary, heroic, passionate, world changing people who have lived had heroes. They had someone they looked up to. They had someone who they aspired to be.
A lot of those people might say that, by the end of their life, they actually surpassed their heroes. But they'd also probably tell you their role models still had a massively powerful positive influence on them.
That's the positive feedback loop of greatness and excellence.
Not only are you doing something to help the world personally, but you're inspiring and encouraging others to do the same.
We're all just pushing a big rock up a hill
Sometimes I look at forward progress as all of humanity pushing a massive boulder up a giant hill.
We have the opportunity to better society for every person to live after us, just as the people before us did.
Yeah okay it's not a super coherent metaphor but stick with me because it's about to get a lot better.
So in this example the goal of humanity is to get the boulder up the hill.
There's about 7.3 billion people who could all be pushing right now, so it's fair to say the boulder is pretty f-ing heavy.
How can you make an impact?
Some might say just do your part and push your piece of the rock upward.
Some might say it's more important to inspire others to push it. They might tell you to spend your time making a inspiring YouTube video and social media campaign.
Those options would both definitely help.
But what about this?
You wake up 4 hours earlier than everyone else, work 10 times as hard, take half as many breaks and work way later into the night.
Would you make a difference? Well, yeah. You'd move it probably 10 times as far as you would have otherwise. But even still, 10/7.3 billion isn't that much better than 1/7.3 billion. That's not actually going to change the world.
So why would that be the best option?
Because the most legendary people lead through action.
If you have to talk all the time it means you aren't doing that much (which probably makes me a hypocrite).
People might get a little riled up over a flashy YouTube video, but that will die out pretty quickly.
Heroic action on the other hand, doesn't need to be flashy or shouted from the rooftops.
Rather, you look over and see this guy quietly paying his dues and putting in 10 times as much effort as anyone around him expecting nothing in return.
That's what people respond to.
That's the kind of action that people will rally behind. That's the kind of action that moves people to do more than they're doing now.
Leave your impact through heroic action. You'll do exponentially more than you could have otherwise, and the real value lies in the people you inspire to do the same.
What will you have when you have nothing. Who will you be when you're gone? How long will you last after you're dead in the dirt?
It's an amazing opportunity. What will you do with yours?