Death Is What Gives Life Meaning Cover

The Biggest Paradox in Life

In Marvel’s Dr. Strange, there is a scene where he and his mentor are standing at a window, looking out on a titanic thunderstorm.

The Ancient One, who’s lived for hundreds of years, gives Dr. Strange a piece of advice for the final challenge he must face.

Dr. Strange: I’m not ready.

The Ancient One: No one ever is. We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered; your time is short.

Almost a year after seeing the film, I still remember this scene most vividly.

The only reason our lives have meaning is that they end.

From the moment we’re born, we’re thrown on to an unstoppable curve of momentum, slingshotting towards the only definite event in life: death.

Think about it. Everything that makes life great is fleeting.

  • Your ice cream tastes so good because it’s about to melt.
  • Time with your partner is precious because you can kiss them only a finite number of times.
  • Your grand mission to change the world is urgent because you don’t know how long you have to accomplish it.

Every single experience that makes our time here worthwhile goes back to that time being over soon. No one wants to live forever once they’ve lived long enough. And yet dying is what we’re most afraid of.

It’s the biggest paradox in life.

The next time your ice cream falls on the floor, your heart is broken or you have to let go of a dream, remember this:

Death is what gives life meaning. We don’t get to choose our time.

But each second passed is a second that made it more precious. No matter how you spent it.

Hero Worship Cover

The Importance of Worshipping Your Heroes

Three weeks ago, one of my heroes took his own life. You never know who your heroes are until they’re gone. One day you listen to an old song from some band you like, the next you realize they’ve shaped who you are for over a decade.

One of the saddest truths in life is this:

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”

– Peter S. Beagle

Sometimes, it’s not until the hero collapses under that very burden and the fairy tale finds no happy ending that our eyes open.

I don’t think Chester Bennington realized how much of a hero he really was to me and millions of Linkin Park fans around the world. Because we didn’t either.

Now all that’s left for us is to write your name on every wall we walk past.

But even amidst the torrential outpour of love over this tragedy, there are the voices of those who tell us not to channel our grief into worship. To stay grounded.

“We mustn’t idolize him.” “He wasn’t that special.” “Suicides happen every day.”

Somehow, whatever greatness we find in a special person must be explained away. He had a great coach. She followed the 10,000-hour rule.

In our politically oh-so correct world of all equal everything, it feels out of place to have heroes. I feel out of place for worshipping my heroes.

That’s fucked up.

Nobody Remembers a Nobody

In The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, Will Durant writes:

“The history of France is not, if one may say it with all courtesy, the history of the French people; the history of those nameless men and women who tilled the soil, cobbled the shoes, cut the cloth, and peddled the goods (for these things have been done everywhere and always) — the history of France is the record of her exceptional men and women, her inventors, scientists, statesmen, poets, artists, musicians, philosophers, and saints, and of the additions which they made to the technology and wisdom, the artistry and decency, of their people and mankind. And so with every country, so with the world; its history is properly the history of its great men.

In other words: Nobody remembers a nobody.

Even in a world where everyone can reach millions of people at the click of a button that hasn’t changed. We just hate admitting it more. Because fame feels so close. But it is as it always was: most of us won’t remember most of us.

Yes, thanks to viral videos a lot more people will get their 15 minutes of fame. But very few will get on 60 Minutes.

Leaving a legacy is a different game altogether. You really have to mean it.

Chester knew this:

“I always wanted to be a rock star. That was my childhood dream. That’s what I told everybody I was going to be when I grew up.” 

You may have a real talent for singing. Maybe, singing is a big part of your life. But to Chester, singing was his life. There’s a difference and a profound one at that.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Monet, Bach, Kafka, even Van Gogh, died poor and unknown — after having dedicated their entire life to their craft.

The reason we still remember their names now is an incredible combination of luck, timing, chemistry and, most importantly, a lifetime of dedication and perseverance.

Who are we to take that away from them? Who are we to think we’re entitled to an entry into the books of history?

We Can’t All Be Famous

Technology may distort our view, but the numbers don’t lie: Very few of us will end up on someone else’s pedestal. And that’s not a sad thing.

In fact, most of us aren’t meant to. Or want to.

But we’ve gotten so angry about this fact, as a collective we’ve managed to push our heroes into a corner of humility — whether they like it or not. Chester felt it.

He’d always say things like “If fans come up to me, I talk to them.” or “You’re constantly trying to prove yourself, even after you’ve made it.” or “We’d like to think that our music will always be bigger than any one of our individual personalities.”

PR teams tell their athletic talent to play it cool, entrepreneurs say their idea was “just common sense” and actors read out long thank you lists at award ceremonies to not look entitled.

How often do you see a noteworthy individual take pride in their accomplishments? How many of your heroes have you heard say: “I deserve this. I worked hard for this.”

Even more importantly: How many times did you agree?

The Value of Shameless Worship

Imagine, just for a second, you embraced all the inequality in this world. What if you gave credit where credit is due, even if it means credit for just a few?

What if you let go of all that anger? Why not let your heroes do the screaming? Wouldn’t you feel a lot closer to them? At peace?

I know Chester’s screaming helped me a lot when I was younger. He wore his heart on his sleeve, so darkness wouldn’t grow in mine. Anything but reverence would be a disservice.

No, I refuse to let my hero get lost in a sea of equal faces. Life’s never fair. But my shameless worship is my relief. It makes it easier to bear.

My shameless worship is my vision. It allows me to see.

And oh how clearly I see – just like Will Durant:

“I see men standing on the edge of knowledge, and holding the light a little farther ahead; men carving marble into forms ennobling men; men molding peoples into better instruments of greatness; men making a language of music and music out of language; men dreaming of finer lives-and living them. Here is a process of creation more vivid than in any myth; a godliness more real than in any creed.” 

You Can Shape the Course of History

Miserable people chisel away at heroism every day. She got lucky. He’s not special.

Let them keep chiseling in blindness, because that’s exactly what makes our heroes special. That they saw the odds and continued anyway.

We can’t all go to the places they’ve visited. But we can take our hats off. Stop pushing them. Stop envying them. And help them earn their rightful place in history.

Open your eyes. Find your heroes. Lift them through the fucking roof.

And worship them while they’re still here.

If You Secretly Dream About Being A Billionaire, This Is For You Cover

If You Secretly Dream About Being a Billionaire, This Is For You

I was raised with a lot of privilege. I’m not trying to deny it. But you know what the massive side dish is that comes with privilege? Delusion. You always expect more food to magically appear on your plate, without so much as leaving the table.

One of the most common, yet most dangerous illusions my generation secretly indulges in is the idea of becoming a billionaire.

Go ahead. Feel it. Deep down. It’s there.

“I’ll become a billionaire.”

As if it was just a matter of when. If you just felt a slight tingle, I have a few questions for you. Questions for future billionaires.

1. What’s your GOOD reason for wanting to make a billion?

I like David Blaine’s idea that success is giving as much as you get.

He says what makes Bill Gates so great is that he’s figured out how to give the money he’s amassed to worthy causes better than most institutions can. Polio’s almost eradicated. Next, he’s going after Guinea worm disease.

If the only place you want to direct the money is into your own pocket, you’ll never think broad enough to reach a billion.

“To make a billion dollars, help a billion people.”  —  Peter Diamandis

2. What’s your REAL reason for wanting to make a billion?

Now that we’ve got the noble cause out of the way, why do you really need the money? What happiness can a billion buy you that 100 million can’t?

That 10 million can’t? That one million can’t?

It’s just another arbitrary number. What’s not arbitrary is the psychological hole you’re hoping it’ll fill. Where’s the hole?

Are you insecure? Lonely? Do you lack self-worth? Self-love? Who do you want to prove wrong? Yourself? The world?

It’s okay. Just like the idea of becoming a billionaire itself, when you dig deep enough, you’ll realize it’s there. We all have it. But know it’s there.

“There’s always a good reason and there’s always a real reason.”  —  James Altucher

3. How are you going to make your billion?

Seriously. Do the math. The real, serious math. We’re not talking about revenue here. We’re talking about profit. Profit you can pocket.

What does a billionaires bank account even look like? Is there ever a billion on there? I have no idea. And neither do you.

Only 3% of billionaires made their money from running private companies. Can you take a company from zero to IPO? How big is your total market? Is there even a billion in there?

“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” — Warren Buffett

4. Who’s going to make your billion for you?

That’s right. Not with you. For you. You have to be aware that in the end, that’s what’s happening. Everyone you hire along your journey will partly be responsible for making your billion. And you will hire people. You have to.

These people will work with you. But they’ll make money for you. Tell me: Why should they? Tell them. You better have a compelling reason. A good offer.

What are you going to give back? What are you going to do for them?

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big.”  —  Jack Ma

5. When do you expect your billion?

If the answer is anything less than 20 years from now, you can stop right here. Warren Buffett became a millionaire just before turning 30. He first was a billionaire at 56. That’s 26 years, starting from millionaire status.

Are you a millionaire yet? No? Whoops. That’s just the first part. But even that’s ridiculously hard.

And don’t you dare tell me about Mark Zuckerberg. You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t reading this. Neither would you be, if you were already seriously working on your billion.

“I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.”  —  Mark Zuckerberg

6. What are you willing to give up for your billion?

If being a billionaire is your number one goal, think about number two. You will not get number two. Or three. Or four. The bigger the goal, the bigger the sacrifice.

0.0000272% of all humans are billionaires. They gave up not one, but all the things that make the other 99.99% of people what they are — the other 99.99% of the people.

Whatever you think you can also have, next to being a billionaire, you most likely can’t. We’re not talking about giving up watching football here.

Are you willing to be a bad father for your billion? An absent mother? Are you willing to lose your girlfriend? Or all your friends? Would you give up family? Sleep? Food for a week?

Most importantly: Are you willing to give up being understood by every single person you know?

“I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”  —  J.K. Rowling

Privilege is a sweet syrup. There’s lots to gain from savoring it. Delusion is the bitter taste it leaves in your mouth when you get used to it.

So here’s one last piece of bark to chew on. As of 2017, there are 2,043 billionaires in the world.

How many of them do you think started with dreaming about being a billionaire?


[1] Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss

[2] 2015 Gates Annual Letter

[3] American Billionaires And Their Private Company Fortunes

[4] The Age When 17 Self-Made Billionaires Earned Their First Million