On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca is one of my all-time essays, what I consider a “wake up” essential —and one I return to when I need a reminder to stop waiting.
Here’s the truth:
We don’t have much time left in this experience —and soon it will all be over.
And yet, like Seneca says:
We waste most of our time.
We waste most of our energy.
We waste most of our experience.
Until one day —it hits us on how it’s almost over and mortality is staring us in the face and then:
We realize it’s too late.
We realize it’s nearly over.
We realize it’s not happening.
There’s countless passages I love inside On The Shortness Of Life by Seneca —but one stands out:
They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.
In other words:
What are you waiting for?
Put yourself out there now, give yourself permission, experience the thrill of this life today —or else you may miss your shot.
In the grand scheme of things:
- Is quitting your job that big of a deal?
- Is being rejected in your craft that bad?
- Is making the bold decision so difficult?
When you brush these up against the fact of mortality that everyone we’ve ever known will be nothing but dust soon enough —you wake up.
Here are my biggest lessons from Seneca’s On The Shortness Of Life:
Waiting kills your spirit.
What are you waiting for? You have the idea, the clarity, the vision —but every moment you wait is a chance for the ego to talk you out of it.
You’ll never be more free than now.
Stop imagining some distant oasis where you’re awash in bliss and realize you will never be as free as you are right now —in this moment.
One lifetime is enough.
Seneca argues that if we live with vigor, with purpose and zest —one lifetime is more than plenty if we do it right.
You don’t need permission.
You don’t need permission from teachers, politicians, circumstances —or even mentors…you need to give yourself permission.
Own the process and detach.
If the process lights you up, what else is there? See the process not as a means to some distant end, but the end itself.
Here’s the reality:
I speak to people every day who know exactly what to do —and are unwilling to put themselves on the line.
They walk around living a shadow life with the pain of untapped potential stirring deep within.
And I can only share this, because I have been this person —and On The Shortness Of Life woke me up.
Because what’s the alternative?
Looking back soaked in regret knowing you had a shot in your life —and you didn’t take it.
And that’s a tragedy.