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Tom “Mel” Stanton shared an interesting story on Facebook the other day. While it’s never a good idea to give Mel too much credit for anything, I have to admit that the story that he posted grabbed me.
It was written by a young man who is only 24 years old. Perspective is always important, and from where I sit and how I’m sitting, 24 looks pretty young to me. This young man had recently gotten a terminal cancer diagnosis. He didn’t write about not having the chance to have a life full of fun. His biggest regret was that he had not made a difference in this life (The full post of “Powerful Words from a Dying Man” can be found on the website tranquilmonkey).
Here are three quotes from his writing that resonated with me: “The cancer diagnosis came too late to give me at least a tenuous hope for a long life, but I realized that the most important thing about death is to ensure that you leave this world a little better than it was before you existed with your contributions.”
“Most of all, don’t procrastinate.”
“We care so much about the health and integrity of our body that until death, we don’t notice that the body is nothing more than a box – a parcel for delivering our personality, thoughts, beliefs and intentions to this world.”
In addition to the poignancy of his words, the youth of this person is what grabbed me. Most of the time we hear about regrets and wisdom from the dying, the people have had the chance to live and learn from a longer life. For example, a palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and put her findings into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.” The number one regret: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” My daughter will (allegedly) graduate from high school in a few short weeks. This is the time of year that guest speakers and valedictorians (you know, the people who earned great grades in high school – I always hated those people) deliver inspiring commencement addresses to graduates who won’t listen, while their parents and loved ones in the audience do. The graduates are too excited and are thinking about the parties that won’t get going until the interminable commencement ceremony is finally over.
I’m not picking on this particular graduating class. There’s only one reason I know the graduates don’t listen. You do, too. We can all relate to this … we’ve all been there a few lifetimes ago, squirming in a folding chair with a gown covering only our boxers, socks and white Converse high-tops.
The other thing is, all of these great speeches are aimed at the graduating seniors. It’s as if we’re saying, “You made it through high school, so take some advice – you’ve earned it.” George Bernard Shaw is credited with saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Don’t let the words of a great commencement speech go to waste on these young’uns. The class of 2017 doesn’t need, nor will they heed, this advice. We old farts act like we’re just bystanders after our class graduates high school or college. The truth is that we never truly get done learning in life. We’re all underclassmen and underclasswomen in the long game.
Commencement is the beginning … not the end. Commence with living your own life.
When you anticipate something greatly, you think to yourself, “I can’t wait.” Don’t. Ever. Do it now. Don’t procrastinate. Anti-crastinate. Be pro-move. Live pro-do. Get things pro-done.
As Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “A man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” Don’t let the circumstances make your choices for you. Bend those darn circumstances to your choices, not the other way around. It ain’t easy. Life can be tough. You must be tougher.
Again, I must risk inflating Mel’s ego by complimenting him once more. Years ago, he and some friends were talking about something they believed in and then, here’s the key point, they acted on it. Getting the ball rolling is always the hardest part.
Speaking of rolling balls, “Caddyshack” is one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments of all time. While I don’t know how many Academy Awards it won, I’m sure it was a ton. One of the reasons it stands the test of time is because of the buckets full of memorable quotes. People still quote that movie even though it premiered 37 years ago in 1980. If you doubt me on this, drop by Meekwon this or any weekend and you will hear “Caddyshack”quotes all day. One of the most famous quotes came from golf guru Ty Webb (played by Chevy Chase), who was dispensing advice about golf and life to his young caddy, Danny Noonan. Ironically, Danny was about to finish high school and couldn’t figure out what to do with his life. To demonstrate how important it was for Danny to trust himself, Ty blindfolds young Danny on the golf course and tells him to hit the ball.
As his Zen-like mentor, Ty advises him, “Be the ball, Danny.” When Danny promptly hits his shot into the water, Ty admonishes him with, “You’re not being the ball, Danny.”
If Ty Webb were the featured speaker at your life commencement ceremony, he’d say, “Be the box, Danny.” Be the box that counts. Good luck graduates of the Class of Forever.
Jack Henke is a Cedarburg resident, president/creative director of Henke & Associates, blogger and content creator.
“...drop by Mee-kwon this or any weekend and you will hear Caddyshack quotes all day.
Posted on Thu, April 27, 2017
by Tom Stanton