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The Life Of Death

Written by: Jonathan Scharinger, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The late great Zig Ziglar was coined for saying,

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”

As far back as I am sure is recorded, even before we knew what inspiration and motivation even was. The human race was doing things in their lives built on a number of different outcomes but were intrinsically revolving around some sort of – dare I say it – motivation.

Since the beginning of time, a man was motivated by the will to survive, adding onto that he was also motivated by hunger, thirst; the basics in life that we now take far for granted. It almost seems like now-a-days we need to fabricate a motivation for us to do something that we should already be doing in the first place.

Though not every motivation we seek or inspiration we clamor for needs to be of the positive variety. Sure, motivating yourself to become better, amass mountains of wealth, gain significant notoriety is all fine and good; however, for the vast majority of us. Those motivations leave something to be desired.

It’s not until we attach a strong emotional connection to an outcome or goal, do we find ourselves motivated and inspired to complete that task, or achieve that goal, and there is no greater motivator than your own mortality or that of a loved one.

Not only is death the great equalizer, it can humble even the most ruthless of men, but I would argue it is the greatest motivation tool we have, and yet feel almost taboo for talking about.

Jokingly I’ve heard people say that “you were born with nothing; you’ll die with nothing.” Not really a great motivational pep talk, but it does illustrate the point that, no matter how much we make, how much material possessions we acquire, how many fans we have on social media; none of that comes with us when we die, and for those of us who have no one to leave our mass amounts of wealth to, it really increases the state of depression when you think about that.

I digress. Now I am not saying that the only way you can be motivated is that it should be for some material gain, or some type of financial success we must all chase. I merely want to highlight a few high-profile people that have used the thought of their own mortality to help keep life into perspective and catapult them to new heights within their lives.

Marcus Aurelius

One of the greatest known of the Roman emperors, ruled from 161-180. Besides his rule of the Roman Empire, he is most known for his book Meditations, which have been considered to be one of the greatest books of all times by many generations.

A simple passage from his book illustrates the profound weight he placed on death, and the opportunities missed if not heeding the warnings.

‘Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what the world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

Stephen Covey

Famous for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he had an amazing section in which he titled “The Funeral exercise”.

“In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life. As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand.

There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended —children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?”

Steve Jobs

A man we all know, that has made a significant social impact with leading Apple into being the company we know and loved today. In Mr. Jobs commencement speech to the 2005 Stanford class spoke to the fact that our time is limited, and that we have nothing to lose so we should follow our hearts.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

In a conversation with Ryan Holiday, Gary first mentioned the “you’re going to die” philosophy that he has when it comes to life, and the urgency that most people lack when it comes to their lives.

Below is an excerpt from Gary’s website, and his blog post titled “You’re Going to Die.”

“When you realize you only have one at bat, you stop worrying about your years and put enormous emphasis into capitalizing on your days, minutes, hours and seconds. You develop an intense urgency around every action that you take.”

With these four amazing human beings, with all that they have accomplished, it’s a little bit easier to understand how and why being motivated with your end in mind is a great tool to utilize to become successful.

You say that you don’t care about celebrities and what motivates them? Cool, we are all drawn to different circles, but what if we could bring it a bit closer to home for you. What if we talk about you? What are your dreams, desires, goals, ambitions are.

Now I don’t know you personally, but the one thing that I do know that is universal is this. Regardless of who you are, your gender, your creed, your ancestry, your upbringing, etc. We are all motivated by two things in life. These two drivers have been here since the dawn of time and will remain until the last light flickers in this universe.

Pain, and pleasure.

That simple, that basic, are the pains we go through, and the pleasures we receive.

I can see you sitting there, reading this article, and thinking to yourself that our drivers in life cannot be that simple. That life, living is a complicated dance, and in so we must be motivated by something more grandiose.

To that I would agree with you that our desires and motivators, on a top-level, are bigger than skyscrapers; However, when you break them down to their most basic levels. I give you Pain, and Pleasure.

In my life, if I were to flip a coin to see, heads or tails, which motivator would be the one that influences me the most. Many of my motivations and life decisions have been made because of pain.

One huge pain point in my life came when I got ticketed with my second OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). You think the first time I was hit with that ticket I would have learned my lesson, given the fact I actually crashed my car, rolled it on its side, and was yards away from driving off a cliff into a lake. The only good thing that came out of that was that no one was hurt.

My second OWI was not as exciting. I was merely driving from a bar to McDonalds around midnight to get myself some food before I passed out on my bed. Sadly, I didn’t make it to McDonalds, and was pulled over for driving too fast. While I was pulled over the officer decided to give me a breathalyzer, and the rest is history. The worst part is that I didn’t get any food and was so hungry.

I am not celebrating the fact that those two incidents happened in my life, but you know what they say, everything happens for a reason. We just need to be able to see that reasoning. Even though I am not celebrating my history, I wish they never happened. At the same time, I might not be the man I am today if they didn’t happen. So, can I really wish them away?

On the pleasure side of things in my life, two things come straight into my mind, and as I am writing this those two things are conversing upstairs about not having school today, and not having to go into work because of an ice storm that has hit our area. Making the driving extremely hazardous.

The pleasure that has motivated me to change in my life is easy to see, even a blind man could see them. It’s my wife and my daughter. The day I got engaged, the day I got married was the happiest days of my life. Only to be trumped by the day our daughter joined us in this world.

The days these women came into my life were the easiest decisions of change I ever had to make. Knowing full well that I would be getting rid of things that did not serve me in this world, to help make our lives better for the future. Hands down easiest decisions ever.

I am positive that if you sit in reflection, you too will be able to identify certain times in your life that were either motivated by pain or by pleasure. There is nothing else in this world that drives us to change who we are and change our journey that those two drivers.

It’s no secret that we are all created differently, that there are no two people the same, and that even goes for twins. There is always something different, whether we can see it or not. So, it would make complete sense that since no two people are alike, that there are no two motivators that drive people to succeed in life and push themselves beyond their limits alike.

As long as we couple an emotional connection with either a painful episode or a pleasurable event, we now have our catalyst for change, hopefully proactive change.

A couple of brief examples are 1. The NFL. There are millions of men out there who grow up playing football, over the years the talentless, and unmotivated people get weeded out to the point where at the end of high school you are choosing to move onto play college ball.

There are a select few that move onto that next echelon of play, and even fewer that move on from college level to live their dreams of being on a team in the NFL. Not to mention playing for a team, going further, and starting, and then hitting the upper echelon of being considered a superstar.

Each level you encounter needs a new set of motivations to push past the really difficult times, to make sense of the pain they may be enduring to reap the rewards. What motivated a man in his high school days of playing more than likely will not be what motivates him to play his fifth year in the NFL.

Another example of different motivators working for different people is no more apparent than in the military, more specifically within the branches of the Air Force and the Marine Corps.

Sure, in the Air Force I am sure that they teach them some basic art of hand-to-hand combat in the occasion they will have to defend themselves. However, that training will be totally different when you look at the training the Marines will have to go through. With them being on the front lines, and in close quarters combat, their need to master hand to hand combat is a lot more dire.

Goes without saying that if the training is different than the motivations behind them are different. The Air Force’s main driver would be for physical fitness, and basic skills. The motivations behind that are going to be less extreme and have a harder time of taking hold and making a real change in any of their lives because there is no emotional connection behind it.

The Marines on the other hand, going back to the basic need to stay alive, I would say that is probably the best motivation anyone could ever get to make sure the training they are going through, and their efforts to succeed are at their highest. For if a Marine does not take the training serious it literally could spell his death.

There have been some great men, throughout history, that have utilized that fact that they will one day die, catapult them into notoriety and fame. They have used the idea of their own morality to guide the decisions they make each day, which encompasses their disciplines, morals, and values.

Knowing full well that when you attach an emotional connection onto your motivators, the strength of that motivation, and the change you will be going through will amplify. That those motivators are of the two basic varieties of pain or pleasure.

We also now know that everyone is different, and no two motivations will be the same. Yes, they will be base layered in pain or pleasure, but that is the end of the similarities. After that the driving force is what we covet, what our goals are, what our passions are, what our dreams are.

You could be motivated by something completely weird, and new and out of this world that no one could even understand it. Good, use it, don’t let what others can’t comprehend influence how you live your life.

There was one point in life when being motivated by death was taboo, and if I can be so bold, there was a point in life when motivation was taboo.

I leave you with this thought.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” ‒ Albert Einstein

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Jonathan Scharinger, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jonathan Scharinger, is a time-tested leader, mentor, and certified coach who specializes in the life of change, and how to make change work better for you. His highly specialized, curated, and specifically customized coaching delivers results above and beyond expectations. Jonathan is driven by the pain of loss in his life, and the change that he needed to go through to become a greater man, a greater leader, and channels that strength into each and every soul he encounters. Jonathan is a two-time author of "Right Tool, Right Situation", and "A Hike in The Woods ‒ How to make change work for you." He is also the host of the controversial podcast "Drinks with Jon" that ranges from lessons in leadership, financial, relationships, family, and creating a better future. Jonathan's mission is simple: Leave the world better than you found it.



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