I don’t know about you, but when I think about my life’s short remaining years, it sends my mind churning. I recently plugged my 100th birthday into a countdown timer I downloaded from the App Store and discovered that if I live that long, I have only 774 months left on Earth. It doesn’t sound like much when you put it that way.
And to reach that birthday, I’ll have to avoid major crime, accident and disease. The odds are not in my favor— I’ll feel fortunate if I manage to do it.
When I think about my remaining time on Earth, I feel like I’ve fallen from a great height, like I’m plummeting from a plane at cruising altitude. Eventually, of course, I’ll hit the ground, which means the only thing that matters is what happens before I do.
Some days time seems to have its own viscosity, a stickiness and a thickness, almost like it’s a substance that we’re swimming in. On those days, when we have a large number of very important things to accomplish, it’s like we can’t swim fast enough. (Maybe those are the days it’s particularly useful to remember the advice “Go with the flow.”)
Whenever I’m running late, even if it’s only two minutes, I think of something Werner Erhard said: “You need to master time to have any mastery in the world. The basis for mastery in the world is being able to handle time.”
When I reflect on what I want to become, accomplish and acquire with my remaining time, I feel a strong urgency to get clear about what those things are, exactly, then to get to work making those things a reality. It can be crazy difficult to know what we want, but so easy to know what we don’t want. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just try asking your spouse what they want for dinner.
Did I ever tell you about the time it took me nearly eight years to get clear about something I don’t want? I spent those years toiling in Utah’s West Desert to make my dad’s last major project, Miller Motorsports Park, successful.
I stayed for so long for two reasons: 1) My dad wanted me to— he knew it would be a great learning opportunity for me to participate in building a business literally from the ground up, (he was right); and 2) I didn’t know what else to do.
If I’m honest, there was a third reason, and it’s that there were significant aspects of it that I loved. These include working with a fun, talented and dedicated team, and the challenge of learning about every aspect of a very complex business. And I LOVE that the fans and competitors who visit the track LOVE it. After all, Miller Motorsports Park is essentially just a big playground.
Near the end of my time there, however, it became evident to me that motorsports isn’t my passion. I was expending a significant portion of my life’s energy trying to fulfill my dad’s dream. I was investing my priceless, unrecoverable remaining time on Earth doing something that someone else wanted me to. Once this feeling sank in, Tyler Durden’s words echoed in my mind every day: “This is your life, and it’s ending one second at a time.”
Someone once told me, “We wake up when we wake up.”
My awakening relative to how I want to spend my remaining years happened gradually. During my time at Miller Motorsports Park I got clear that I love helping people understand why the work they do is important, how they can have fun doing it, and how they can be the best at it.
I got clear that I love to talk about ideas, that I’m never happier than when I’m growing or serving others, and that I’m passionate about presenting to large groups of people. All of these realizations grew out of my time at the Park, and many of them specifically trace back to my time as the go-to guy who gave tours during the Park’s early years— I gave thousands of facility tours.
From my time at Miller Motorsports Park I also got clear that I want to spend the rest of my life learning, teaching, talking with people, traveling, discussing ideas and talking about the future. This clarity led me to create Miller Inspiration, a company where I am able to combine all of these passions while serving business leaders, entrepreneurs and employees of the Larry H Miller Group.
So, even though I can’t prevent my life from ending or stop my metaphorical fall, I can make the most of my time on the way down. And who knows, maybe somewhere along the way I’ll even discover that I have wings.