• The Professor


A few years ago I was diagnosed with COPD. It is a chronic, progressive, incurable lung disease. I am 59 years old. I have always been into fitness and had every intention of retiring with Erica on a sailboat and living a long, active life. This diagnosis was a punch in the gut. I freaked out. COPD means gradually suffocating to death. In the end stages, people with this condition struggle for every breath and have difficulty doing simple activities like walking and getting dressed.sed.

The comfortable fantasy that I will die at 96 having some kind of crazy adventure went right out the window. You may not have experienced walking out of your doctor's office with life-altering health news, but it is likely that at some point in your life you will. How will you deal with it?

"Emily Dickinson said, 'That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.'"

Emily Dickinson said, "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." My dad died from an aortic aneurysm at age 69. His doctor compared it to being struck by lightning. Not a terrible way to go out. He was never decrepit, never senile. He had tackled a purse snatcher 6 months before his death and spent the morning driving a dump truck the day he died. I often wonder how the last days of his life might have been different if he had known that the last sunset he saw would be the last sunset he would ever see and the last time he kissed my mother would be the last time he would ever kiss her. Wouldn't he have savored those experiences and made himself fully present for them?

I think the gift of my diagnosis is the opportunity to re-prioritize. The chance to tune in to the people I love and invest myself in truly meaningful activities. I have no interest in quietly fading away. I will rage into the future with passion and creativity. I love the idea of the Aging Hero. As Erica and I developed the concept, we had people we know in mind. They are people who are in love with being alive. They contribute. They create. They connect. They make a difference. They are living representations of integrity.

The impermanence of life is a guidepost that provides direction and motivation for me to live with integrity. I no longer have time to waste wishing my life away and neither do you. Do not wait to feel motivated. Start now, regardless of how poorly motivated you feel. Motivation is born of momentum and momentum doesn't build while you are waiting around for the perfect mood to strike you. Life is happening while you wait! Forget about your feelings on this one and just begin. Joy and self-worth come from living the life you want and not from dreaming about that life.

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