Would You Do What You’re Doing Now, If You Knew You’d Be Dead by Tomorrow?

Évariste Galois, a French mathematician, was 20 years old when he accepted a duel. He was sure that he’d be killed in the duel, because he didn’t have any gunmanship skills. Yet, he took his time to write a letter explaining his mathematical ideas in the night before the duel.

Here, we have a young man who is about to die the next day and he is spending a good deal of his last hours on working on mathematics. Think about it. Would you do what you’re doing now, if you knew you’d be dead by tomorrow?

How would your results look like, if you worked on a project that you’d keep working on, even if you knew you’d die tomorrow?

There’s no chance that Galois could see the fruits of his labor that night, but he still kept working. What kind of a passion does it take to work on a task, even though you know you’ll be dead the next day? How would your results look like if you worked on a project that you are that passionate about?

“If [becoming a musician] is an option for you, skip it.” Pat Metheny, American jazz guitarist.

Pat Metheny advises to become a career musician only if you cannot NOT do it. You must be so obsessed with music that you can’t stop making music. Only then consider becoming a career musician. Could you say that about your job? Could you quit your job tomorrow? Would you keep working on it even if you weren’t paid for it?

High Involvement, Low Attachment

High involvement, low attachment is a concept that I learned from the book Supercoach by Michael Neill. In order to succeed with a project, you need to be involved a lot in that project without being attached to the results.

In other words, you need to be willing to work a lot on a project without expecting anything in return. What kind of a project would that be? On what kind of a project would you work a lot without expecting anything in return?

The Life of a Kamikaze Pilot

In his audiobook, The Magic of Self-Direction, Brian Tracy talks about the lives of kamikaze pilots. They knew that they could die the next day, but they could also live to 100, because they didn’t know whether they’d be selected for a mission or not.

“How would you live your life if you knew you could die tomorrow or you could live to 100?” Brian Tracy

As a matter of fact, we could die tomorrow and we could live to 100. We are comfortable with the second part of that reality, but almost none of us faces the first part of it.

“What’s more important, if death is certain, but it’s time is uncertain?” Pema Chödrön

I invite you to read this post again and reflect on the questions in it. If you want to dive deeper and find your direction in life, ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers.

  • What would you do if you had only 1 day left to live?
  • 1 week?
  • 1 month?
  • 1 year?
  • 10 years?
  • How would you live your life if you knew you’d live to 100?

Once you have your answers, reflect on how you can change your life now. Remember, you don’t have to change everything overnight. You can turn around your life in a single year by making 1% improvements every day.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.