What would you do if you knew that your time on earth was about to come to an end?
Would you go back to work and pretend nothing happened?
Would you go on a cruise around the world?
Would you visit as many friends and family members as possible?
Or would you stay inside, close the blinds and curl up with a pint of ice cream?
Phil Keoghan, host of “The Amazing Race,” was 19 when he almost lost his life. On one of his first TV shoots under water, he got trapped in an upturned interior cabin of a sunken cruise liner and couldn’t find his way out. With very little air left in his tank, he panicked, realizing that his next breath could be his last.
After what seemed an eternity, the support crew on the surface sent a rescue diver to find him. In the nick of time, Phil was pulled to the surface and he survived. The next day, he went back to repeat the dive that nearly killed him.
That was not all.
After his near-death experience, he promised himself to live life to the fullest and he made a bucket list of all the things he wanted to do, from climbing Mount Everest and hand-feeding sharks, to setting a world record for bungee-jumping.
“A lot of the things I wrote down on this early list involved thrill-seeking – and I’ve since come to understand what was going on. I was looking for a way to replicate that “rush” of coming face-to-face with death. It seems crazy, but when you have an episode like that, you come out feeling more alive than ever before – and for a while, I almost became hooked on trying to re-create that feeling by way of life-threatening stunts: I jumped, I dove, I strapped myself onto speeding objects.
Eventually, I would come to realize that there were many other ways to lead a fuller, more interesting life, without constantly risking my neck. And I also came to appreciate that a good List for Life should be more mature, emotionally richer, and much more varied than this one. (But hey, I was 19).” source
Keoghan turned his lust for life into a List for Life, and into a philosophy that became his mantra: No Opportunity Wasted or NOW.
I had a chance to meet Phil Keoghan last weekend at the Great New Jersey Country Bike Ride, benefitting Multiple Sclerosis. Phil is not one of those celebrities who makes an obligatory appearance for a good cause just because it looks good to do good.
If you’ve followed his career, you may know that in 2009 he travelled over 3500 miles on his bike in just 40 days, riding from coast-to-coast to raise awareness and money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. His journey was documented in “The Ride“.
Phil set out to raise $500,000 for MS. He recently shattered that goal by raising one million dollars (and counting). But that’s not all.
In 2011, his NOW organization teamed up with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for the Together in MS Campaign. This campaign involves tandem cycling teams that take part in Bike MS rides across the country. Each team is made up of a professional female cyclist from the NOW and Novartis for MS team, and someone living with MS.
For the Jersey ride, my wife Pamela Taylor teamed up with pro-rider Christina Gokey-Smith for the 50-mile tour. Novartis was kind enough to take me along for the ride as team photographer, not knowing that the MS Society is the official charity of my business, Nethervoice (this year, readers of this blog raised an amazing $2500 for the society, as part of the Walk MS Campaign!).
To me, this ride was one of the most uplifting and empowering events of the year.
Imagine a thousand cyclists, all riding for a reason, connected to a common cause. People helping people. This is what I learned from them and from Phil:
1. You don’t need a near-death experience to decide to live your life to the fullest.
Don’t wait for that heart attack to finally change your lifestyle. You don’t need to get into a car accident, to become a safer driver. Why risk your life doing dangerous stunts to prove to yourself that you’re alive?
You can decide right now, that life itself is an opportunity, not to be wasted! Every day is a new chance to touch the lives of others and create positive change in your own.
However, it can be very tempting to live life on automatic pilot. For many of us, life has become too comfortable. We’d rather watch other people achieve great things, or complain that our life is boring and meaningless. Before we know it, another year has passed and nothing’s happened.
That’s why it helps to create a Life List of goals you want to accomplish. Writing things down is the first step to making them visible and concrete. Don’t stop there, though…
2. The NOW is all you have. If you wait, it might be too late.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent years caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives. Ware has written about the incredible clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives. When she asked them about the things they would do differently, she noticed common themes that came back again and again. The number one regret of the dying was this:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
No one can live your life for you. Others can inspire, encourage and offer support, but it’s up to you to lead life on someone else’s terms or on your own. At the end of the day and at the end of your life, “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” doesn’t cut it.
Now, there’s a big difference between those who stay true to themselves and turn dreams into reality, and those who end up with regret because they played it safe. The ones that manage to tick things off their Life List know that in order to accomplish meaningful goals they need to…
3. Get rid of excuses.
When my wife told one of her young friends that she was about to embark on a 50-mile bike ride, the response was:
“Oh, I’d never be able to do that.”
“Why not?” challenged my wife. “You’re at least half my age and you don’t have MS. You might not be in perfect shape, but that’s something you can change. A few weeks ago, I climbed the tallest tower in The Netherlands. You’re talking about 465 steps. Granted, not everyone with MS is able to do that, and yet, life doesn’t have to come to a standstill because of it.”
On September 29th she joined 7500 cyclists for the Bike MS City to Shore event, named one of the best cycling experiences on the East Coast. This time, she rode on her own bike and she finished ahead of most of her team.
In order to rid yourself of excuses, you have to be completely honest with your friends and family, and with yourself. You might be able to fool the rest of the world, but you know deep-down inside when you’re just making up stuff because you’re not ready to commit. Do things for the right reasons and…
4. Never use money or fame as motivators.
Let’s say you’re a successful reality TV show host. You’ve won multiple Emmys and you have more money in the bank than you can possibly spend. If you were solely driven by a nice paycheck and a shallow sense of importance, what would you do when you’ve “arrived”? Your goal is accomplished. You’re rich and famous. Now what? Where’s your motivation?
There is a reason why some “stars” try to fill the emptiness with substance abuse. Others overspend and go bankrupt, still hoping that money can buy happiness and true friendship. Fame and fortune are fickle.
Phil Keoghan has done well for himself -no doubt about it- but that’s not how he measures success. It’s not what motivates him. For Keoghan, it’s about how well he can do for others.
He saw his celebrity status as an opportunity that could and should not be wasted, and his motivation turned out to be highly contagious.
So, has some of Phil’s philosophy rubbed off on you? Are you thinking of making a Life List? If the answer is yes, what’s going to be on it and why? What will you do today to get one step closer to one of your goals on that list?
Are you ready to turn it into a reality, or will you forever wonder what could have been?
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
“How do I break into the voice-over business?” If I got a dollar every time someone asked me that question, I’d be a rich man. So, what’s my answer? Is there a secret formula? What’s my golden tip? Click here to find out.