The Motivational Powers Of Death: Part 1 - Enlightenment
by Garen Jemian
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs
In case you haven't noticed, terms like YOLO (You Only Life Once) flood the gates of social media these day and yet, these "seize the day" quotes seem to be more about fads than they are words to live by. We tend to apply them to decisions that are superficial and rarely add value to our lives, let alone the lives of others. And so, the ancient teachings from all those who have lived and died before us often speak to deaf ears.
Fifteen years ago, I held a job at a leading telecommunication company. My job was simple yet I had a flattering title of "Executive Commercial Customer Support Specialist" or something like that. I was given three very specific times when I could leave my desk to run to the washroom or grab a quick bite. By the end of the day, I'd be mentally and physically exhausted, hungry and unfulfilled. Regardless of my sentiments, my work was flawless and I made sure every single client was taken care of as though I was the Maître-D' at a five-star hotel in Dubai. The clients were happy, my bosses were happy, the shareholders were happy, my bank account was happy, my parents were happy. As for me, I was heading into a deep depression.
By year two, my body language was similar to the zombies in the Walking Dead. My work was still up to par but you could tell just by looking at me that I was a caged bird dying from captivity. The last few months had me in several one-on-one meetings with my manager Johanne, having deep talks about work and life. In my final formal meeting with her, she asked me something I'd never forget for the rest of my life.
She asked me, "Garen, what on earth are you doing here?"
This question blew me away.
For one, I was not passionate about the work I was doing and was quite unhappy. Secondly, I was not using any of the natural skills that I possessed nor did it fulfill my deep rooted values of creativity and freedom. Finally, I was clearly not living out any true purpose in life.
She then went on to describe her life and her ambitions. She said "do you think this is what I wanted to do with my life? I always wanted to work in a garden with plants and flowers and maybe someday, I'll be able to live that dream." I encouraged her to do so but it was neither the time or place for such a conversation. Back to my desk I went and soon after I quit my job and became a Marketing Director for a men's magazine.
It was a cushy job, decent pay, penthouse office to myself with 30-foot bay windows overlooking the most expensive view on the island of Montreal. I had my own fridge, stove, baby foot table, I'd create music in my boss's office when we'd get bored and had a very flexible schedule. My boss would even cook for me during lunch while I'd finish up with my morning tasks! I had it all and yet, once again, I was deeply unfulfilled and slowly heading into another emotional slump. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the heck was wrong with me. What else can a person ask for? Am I clinically depressed? My brain couldn't figure it out but somewhere deep within, my heart knew it wanted to pursue my passion for becoming a published singer/songwriter. I wanted my life to make a difference and more importantly, I wanted to make a difference in other people's lives with my lyrics and melodies.
And so, one day I got a phone call. It was an old colleague of mine from my previous job. She had called to inform me that Johanne had suddenly passed away. She left behind her young boy and her boyfriend. A brain aneurysm I was told. She died before she knew what hit her, she was only 47 and worst of all, she died doing a job she didn't enjoy. She never got to work with those plants and flowers she so deeply cherished.
It was at that moment that something hit me like a ton of bricks and I can't truly explain in words. It was like Keanu Reeves playing Neo in the Matrix who finally understood the system that was created around him and when that moment of enlightenment came, he was able to stop bullets mid-air and completely detach himself from the plastic reality that was conjured. Just like Neo, I quietly stood up from my desk as though I was momentarily possessed. I packed my desk into my bag, picked up my coffee mug, my inspirational picture of Ghandi and walked out the door. I had no prior plan to do so and yet, I left it all behind without a doubt in my mind. I was a man on a mission.
Over the next few months, I sold all of my personal belongings and set myself up with a low-budget home studio in my tiny apartment bedroom downtown. I knew nothing about recording music but my several years of playing in bands had given me a good idea of where to start. Less than a year later my first homemade album was released. Within two months, I was signed to a popular independent record label and two years later, released an album produced by a world-renowned artist and producer. The dream had come true and my melodies and lyrics were on the airwaves. I finally knew what fulfillment truly meant.
Looking back, only one thing stuck out throughout the entire process: Death is always upon us and there is no other time than now to do what your heart desires. This has since been the foundation of every life decision I make and now know deeply that when my time comes I will go a man of no regrets.
Death is a concept we all have trouble dealing with. Nobody wants to think about it nor do any of us want to face the reality that we are mortal. If there is one thing that death can offer that no other force in the universe can, is a sense of urgency to do what you need to do in order to be true to yourself and to live out your life's deepest purpose.
So the next time you see a cliché like YOLO or Carpe Diem, take a moment to remind yourself what truth they speak of, be true to yourself and do what you can to become everything you were born to be.