What is the Width of Life?…
Strange as it may seem, I’ve always been fascinated by death. For one, I used to work at the first hospice in America for four years, starting when I was 15 years old. For another, because I’ve suffered major losses in my life and you can’t help but reflect upon it. We look at death as the final act, at least in the physical plain. And whenever we talk about someone’s life, we inevitably bring up their age. It’s a very easily measurable aspect of a person’s life. How long they lived. But what about a person’s width of life? What is that and how do we measure it? I have a theory based on studying a tea bag. Sounds crazy, I know, but I promise there’s merit to it and can impact your life. Thank you for tuning in and comment with your thoughts please! PS: I’d like to dedicate this episode to my grandmother who recently passed away.
SELECTED LINKS FROM EPISODE:
-Psychology Today Article on Shoulding Yourself: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201304/stop-shoulding-yourself-death-0
-Not Twice T-Shirt Campaign: http://nottwice.org
-Adorama Affiliate Link: https://www.adorama.com/?utm_source=rflaid914115
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Strange as it may seem, I’ve always been fascinated by death. For one, I used to work at the first hospice in America for four years, starting when I was 15 years old. For another, because I’ve suffered major losses in my life and you can’t help but reflect upon it. We look at death as the final act, at least in the physical plain. And whenever we talk about someone’s life, we inevitably bring up their age. It’s a very easily measurable aspect of a person’s life. How long they lived. But what about a person’s width of life? What is that and how do we measure it?
For some reason, this idea of measuring life in terms of length and width really came to whilst I stared at a tea bag. When I looked at the string, it was long but it didn’t have as much mass as the stem portion. That part, while shorter, has a lot of width which accounts for a greater area overall.
So if we measure life’s length in terms of age, through my staring at a tea bag I came to understand that width must mean impact. The more positive your affect on this world, the more width you create in your lifetime. It must be noted that I use the world as a whole rather than humanity because a person can and should influence nature and animals and everything that makes up our planet.
Now in some sense we all already know this, but it’s not top of mind. Whenever someone passes away, most of the time the initial question is “how long did that person live” rather than “what contributions did they make.”
My aim with this lesson is to bring the notion of width, aka our impact, to the forefront of our thinking. Let that dictate our lives more so than the pursuit of longevity in life. People can live to be a hundred years old and not leave an imprint on this earth, whereas, as tragic as it may seem, there could be someone that lives for only 30 years and their gifts to the world could be so much more vast. Of course, in the ideal scenario, each of us would create great impact over many years. We want this because it makes sense. Logically, we want those that bring about positivity to remain on this earth for as long as they can so we all benefit. Sometimes it seems like the opposite is true where in those with a wonderful spirit die earlier than those who spread negativity. It’s why we have the phrase “the good die young”. Unfortunately it is not up to us to decide when we go in this world. Term it whatever you’d like, God, the universe, nature, but it isn’t you.
Now, you might be thinking that people already keep the notion of their contributions in the forefront as evidenced anytime someone has a birthday and they fret that they’re getting older and haven’t done enough yet. Well, two things with that notion which may at first seem diametrically opposed when I explain them, but they’re not. First off, the harsh reality is that when a person senses that feeling, let’s call it regret for lack of a better term, it’s because they know in their heart of hearts they could have done more. Based on this, it’s evidence that they haven’t been truly keeping the notion of their impact at the forefront, otherwise it would have been a priority for them within the past year. But secondly, the regret a person feels when they think about their life in this context, I find, unwarranted. They’re judging their past selves based on their current ideals. What I mean by this is that we all grow and evolve over time. As we do, our dreams expand as does our ability to impact those around us. You can’t judge the past you from your new and current perspective. We’re too often harsh on ourselves. Use the feeling as a guide for future action, but don’t waste time beating yourself up over what you shoulda done. You’ll end up “shoulding” all over yourself. That’s a joke I heard but sadly I forget from whom. Apologies but it’s still funny to me.
I digress though. The point is that as you get older, you have more wisdom and ability to make an impact. It’s like ripples in water when you throw in a rock. They start off small but get bigger and bigger. This is how it works in your life; your contributions can grow exponentially if you work hard and keep this in the forefront.
Now, I should probably discuss the specifics of what I mean when I say creating a positive impact. Simply put, this is fighting daily towards the better nature of yourself. You’re a creative, so create. Don’t become lazy. Many creatives I know feel like they’re struggling. That’s because most of them are just starting off. It is through consistency and output that you’ll develop the ability to have more impact. It is American painter and photographer Chuck Close that said, “Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work”. I believe this to be true. If you look at most people with a legacy, they just kept at it. Over years and years they practiced their craft, doing what they could until finally the world caught up to them and saw their value. Think of it as the world is testing you to see if you’re truly serious about your art.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean you have to do only one thing for your whole life. We’re multi-faceted creatures with many interests and as we age our passions can change. In that sentence lies a secret. People often talk about their purpose, wondering what it may be. Purpose is an external notion. It is the result of something else. That something? Your passion. Passion is yours to command. You fulfilling your passion creates purpose.
Let me give you an example. Life coach Marie Forleo talks about this idea that the messenger is just as important as the message. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone give you advice but you didn’t take it. Then one day, another person gives you that same advice and suddenly it seems divine. It’s because you needed the right messenger to deliver that info to you. Through your art you have the ability to be a messenger. Your hard work creates art that spreads your perspective and insights and so forth which then another human can see and interpret. They may benefit from it. Isn’t that something amazing? I think it truly is.
One thing to remember though, in order for us to create meaningful projects, we have to have a connection with humanity and this world. You can’t just create art in a garret by yourself. You have to live and experience life. Hanging out with friends, or being there when someone needs you even if it may seem minor to you, does have a positive impact.
I’m barely starting to realize how I actually affect people. I’m blessed enough to receive notes from people I barely remember meeting because our interaction was all of 5 minutes from 15 years ago, and yet it holds a special place in their heart and altered their life’s trajectory. That’s incredible. Please don’t think in any way I’m taking credit for them though. Whatever I may have imparted on them, they did the work.
So, be there for people. That’s not to say that whenever someone calls you to go out drinking or to dinner than you need to pause everything that you’re doing, but you’ll know. Be there for people’s birthdays. If you’re thinking about someone because you haven’t seen them in a while, text them at the very least. Create real human interactions.
Additionally, I’m sure there’s things you value in your life. Don’t be afraid to give back. Donate your time to a charity that means something to you. The return on your investment reverberates throughout in a way you can’t imagine.
That is how you impact the world. That is how you create width in your life. It’s how we make the experience of being on this earth all the more enjoyable.
Many people I know, including myself for most of my life, have sought information in order to uncover the meaning and purpose of life. The more knowledge you gain will never create width in your life. Human interactions and your positive impact on this planet is how you do that. The knowledge gained along that way should always be in the service of the primary goal. But too many people, and again, myself included at times, forget that fact.
As I wrap this episode, I’d like to dedicate it to my grandmother who recently passed away. She lived in Slovakia and I would spend summers with her because, apart from her, that’s where the rest of my family was. I enjoyed those summers greatly. But as I look back at her influence on me, it was she who taught me how to learn, which is something learning expert Jim Kwik argues society doesn’t do (more on this notion in another episode). And more importantly, she instilled within me a passion to want to learn and grow. So, thank you, wherever you are.
And as a jumping off point for you to have an impact in the world, start by telling someone you truly value that you love them. It’s a simple thing, but sometimes the most impactful aspects of life are the simplest.
Thank you for checking this episode out. I hope it serves you well as it’s serving me. By all means write your thoughts or questions in the comment section. I’d love to converse. Please feel free to click over to any of the numerous lessons I’ve created just for you. I have so many you can check out along with other free resources. All you have to do is go to my website at philsvitek.com. And if you prefer to learn by reading, I’m thrilled to announce that I will be coming out with a book that not only teaches my principles but also provides exercises so you can put these ideas into action. I will provide more information closer to its release, but if you’re interested, please sign up to my newsletter, comment down below or hit me up on social media. Lastly, a huge thank you to the people that helped make this episode financially possible. If you too would like to support this show, you can either head on over to my Patreon or sport some merch from my store. Links are down below as well. If that burdens you financially in any sort of way, you can always just tell a friend about this show and we can build a great community of like-minded creatives. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to tune in. I’m @PhilSvitek on social media and I’ll see you next time. Bye!