You Will Be Forgotten Someday So Live a Life That Matters
Patti Page just died.
If you are a member of my generation or younger, the odds are overwhelming that you have no idea who Patti Page was. In the 1950’s, she was the third best selling artist of the decade and had lifetime album sales exceeding 100,000,000 records. Given the lower population base back then, and the limited distribution channels, she was a far bigger cultural force in her generation than someone like, say, Beyoncé Knowles or Kayne West is today.
Her song, “Tennessee Waltz” was the third best selling song of all time. Very few people I know even recognize the song today, let alone could sing it. Think about that. The third best selling song of all time. And the population, again, was much smaller back then so the accomplishment is even more impressive.
And yet, barely six decades later, she is all but forgotten by 99.99% of people who weren’t born during her reign at the top of the charts. In another decade or two, she will have faded into complete obscurity.
This is a story that is played out over and over throughout history. People think their actions will guarantee greatness and make them immortal, even if they change the course of human history. However, other than to a few historians, their names will be lost in the sands of time. Their legacy will be forgotten. They give up what matters to them. They alienate the people who care about them in pursuit of some grand goal. Or, even worse, they waste their life on things that have no lasting meaning, marking time until death takes them, sitting in a room staring at a computer screen or television.
Was Patti Page’s life a success? It depends on whether or not she loved what she did. If she woke up every day and couldn’t wait to get into the studio or in front of an audience, then yes. Otherwise, no matter how much money she made or how many albums she sold, she failed. Never forget that lesson.
No Matter How Famous, Rich, or Powerful You Are, There Are No Exceptions
Who remembers the radical monk who assassinated the King of France, Henry III, the night before his attack on Paris, setting in motion events that eventually led to the United States doubling in size after buying land in the Louisiana purchase centuries later? Most college students couldn’t even tell you about him.
Who, in my generation, knows about Wallace Beery, Janet Gaynor, Marie Dressier, and Robert Taylor, some of the biggest movie stars on the planet in the 1930’s akin in name recognition to Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Judi Dench? Virtually no one.
Who can recall names of titans-gone-by, such as Bernard Baruch, who made himself one of the richest men in the world by 30 years old sitting in a room, alone, trading sugar? Or Payne Whitney? Or Edward Harkness? Or Horace Dodge? Or George Baker? Or Thomas Ruyan? Or Edward Berwind? These people are lost; forgotten despite the enormous wealth and power they held less than 90 years ago! They don’t matter one bit, anymore. Their names are meaningless.
Chances are, you don’t even know who your own great-great grandfather was; what his parents were named; what he did for a living; where he lived; what his hopes and dreams were.
The same will someday happen to you. The day will come when not a single living person on the planet remembers that you existed. This should not cause you concern. It should free you. Awareness of your own mortality strips away all pettiness and meaningless activity. It keeps you focused on what matters.
Embrace It and Follow Your Heart
Do not live a life enslaved by the expectations of others.
- Don’t go into a career you hate.
- Don’t bother dating someone you wouldn’t want to marry.
- Don’t marry someone you don’t love.
- Don’t waste your time on things that don’t bring you joy.
- Don’t spend your life working for scraps of paper just to buy a little more stuff.
- Don’t get worked up if your candidate wins or loses and election.
- Don’t fight over petty things. It’s almost all petty.
- Don’t forget to spend time on the things and with the people whom matter to you most. Too many men and women invest their energy into what is going wrong, forsaking that which they say they value.
- Find things that interest you and do them, even if they don’t make you money. So many opportunities show up in unexpected places. If nothing ever comes of it, you at least had a blast.
- Don’t spend your time rationalizing things that you shouldn’t have to accept.
The old adage is true: You will regret the things you didn’t do far more than you will regret the mistakes you committed. Be rejected. Be fearless. Who cares if you embarrass yourself? We are all dead in the long run!
So many people are willing, and even insist upon, living miserable lives. It makes no sense. You cannot live to make your family, friends, or employer happy above your own happiness. When they put you in the ground, they should at least be able to say you enjoyed the incalculably tiny fraction of eternity you happened to be on this spinning rock.
If you can’t live the life you want where you are, then leave. Pack your bags and leave. Move halfway around the world if you need to but get out before you waste your life.
I told you a long time ago what I considered my standard for success when it comes to evaluating your life.