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Notes on a Full Life, Live from CX 883

Originally posted on August 20, 2009

Hi everyone. I’m high on life and writing in from the Cathay Pacific LAX-HKG flight. I’m fading fast, but with 13 hours to go until arrival, there should be plenty of time to a) sleep and b) write this note to you.

It’s been a full week in my world so far. On Sunday I got up early and drove a rental car half an hour out of town to get to a half-marathon race. Monday was spent prepping for the product launch — I worked on it off-and-on throughout the day, finishing up just after 11pm. At 5am the next morning, I got up to do the last-minute things and launch the product. A day in the life of a product launch deserves an article all of its own, so we’ll save that one for later.

Wednesday I started my latest trip by heading south and meeting with 40+ remarkable people who all braved Los Angeles freeways to come out and visit with me and each other. (Note to you guys: thank you all for coming, it was an honor to meet you. Stay tuned for Extreme Gratitude, L.A. Edition on Sunday.)

After not eating much during the day and engaging with people non-stop from 2pm-11pm, I went to the airport and got on a 14-hour flight. While schlepping through security and waiting to board, I was starting to drag after all the excitement over the past few days, but I also had a deep sense of fulfillment.

My life is so great! I’m thrilled! What else could I want?

Important: the point in all of this is not just to be busy. Lots of people can be busy and never get anything done. Instead, I am interested in filling my life with big things that challenge and energize me.

At the end of the day, I want to be tired – not from a grind of tasks that leave me with a feeling of “what did I really do today” but with a sense of wow. I want adventures.

For me, the recent adventures have been marathons, product launches, meetups, and travel. Next week’s adventures take me to Bhutan, a country I’ve been hearing about for years but have never made it to until now. Your adventures may vary, but if you’re like many of the people who read this site, you need adventures of your own on a regular basis.

Here is how I see it:

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, from Flow

Half-marathons are difficult and worthwhile. Product launches are difficult and worthwhile. Getting to Nepal takes time, but I’m glad to do it. And so on.

Note that not each step along the way is enjoyable. The half-marathon, for example, went like this:

Miles 1-3: cautious, warming up
Miles 4-6: feeling better
Miles 7-9: initial onset of fatigue, but also growing confidence that I would finish the race well
Miles 10-12: this is so hard
Miles 12-13.1: ommmmmmm one foot in front of the other ommmmmmm

If it was supposed to be easy, then the race would be six miles, not 13.1. On Sunday, my race effectively began at mile 10. I finished fairly well (1:39:57), but those last few miles were definitely pushing it.

The premise extends to my other adventures. The last time I was in Hong Kong, my onward flight to Malaysia was delayed 14 hours. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but looking back, I’m not sure I would have done anything different about the trip. I could always live a normal life and not get stuck in Hong Kong airport until 3am, right? No thanks.

The Problem with Burnout

The whole concern about burnout has always bugged me. Personally I’d rather go for something and see how far I can take it without worrying about running out of steam.

If anything, I think my life has been too restrained thus far. I want to say yes more. There’s a lot more left that I want to do, and we can’t recover anything from yesterday.

Besides, think about it this way:

Wouldn’t you rather burn out doing something you love than plod along doing something you merely put up with?

Don’t get me wrong; I have no plans of going down in flames in the foreseeable future. I have a close circle of trusted advisors that I listen to carefully. If they told me I was in danger of exhaustion or boredom (the latter being more dangerous, I think), I’d pay attention and make some changes.

But my close advisors are also the kind of people who understand that I shouldn’t always be making the safe choices. They know me, and they know I’d die a slow death if I slowed down too much. I went in the bank the other day to open a new account and looked around at everyone working there. I felt like I aged three days in the 40 minutes I sat in the chair filling out paperwork. I just can’t fathom the idea of a life like that.

All things considered, I’d rather regret something I did than regret something I wanted to do but was restrained by fear or insecurity from going for it. In other words, I want a full life. I don’t want to miss out on anything. There will always be time to sleep later.

Speaking of Sleep

Twelve hours have sped by now (I ate dinner, took a two-hour nap, and watched the first parts of a few movies), and the sun is coming up as we approach the city. Many of you will already be halfway through with your Thursday when this gets posted, but it’s bright and early Friday morning over in this part of the world.

I’m hoping to take another nap before catching my connecting flight to Nepal, but first I have a Skype interview to do a few minutes after I land. Hong Kong airport, here we come.

Good Questions to Ask

  • What’s out there waiting for you to take hold of?
  • What’s most important to you?
  • What can you do to embrace your own full life?

You can answer the questions here if you want, but that’s optional. What’s not optional is making decisions. Every day we all make decisions actively or passively, and I am an advocate for active decision-making. What I am prodding people about, including myself on a daily basis, is making choices deliberately.

Thanks for reading this far. Thanks to everyone I saw in L.A. last night. Thanks for being remarkable and inspiring me to go further.