The Six Months Game
You’ve been given six months to live. Sound morbid?
Work Expands to Meet the Time Allowed…
…so the aphorism goes. If you have three months to finish a project, it takes three months. Three weeks, it will take three weeks. Three days…you get how that game is played.
So, too, the game of life.
Live each day like it’s your last because one day, it will be:
I recently received an email from a circle of friends about a woman whose husband casually lay down for a nap and didn’t awaken.
An editor I wrote for during my newspaper days collapsed at work.
I remember the night I came home from my then corporate job to a voice mail from a New York City police detective. He only asked that I call him. I burst into tears before returning his call. There would be only one reason for it: The love of my life – my father, a Manhattan resident, was dead.
Six months. Sounds better and better, doesn't it?
Since 1996 whenever I’ve faced a crossroads, I’ve asked myself: “You’ve just been told you have six months to live. Is the life you have right now how you want to be spending it?”
If the answer is no (and for many years it was), part 2 of the game was to answer, “How would you spend it?” My answer to that question changed over time with each spin of the wheel. But there were two constants: I’d be a full-time writer and live like I’m on vacation all the time.
The Six Months Game is a head clearer. Think Vicks Vapor Rub. Aluminum foil against molars. To wit:
Year 2000: Stay in a well-paying job I had less than a year or quit outright and take a trip around the world? As exciting as it was to traipse the globe, I was also terrified. For one, I went solo. I wanted company but no one was game. Two, I had no plan for work upon my return in six months. Three, I was maintaining an apartment in my state of residence and a mortgage out of state. One might say, “Yikes, what an irresponsible woman.”
I had six months to live.
My choice looks different under that light, doesn’t it?
And just cuz I think some force of nature was trying to tell me I’d chosen well, two weeks before I took off for my solo world tour I found a lump in my breast. While I waited for the biopsy result I told myself, however it came back, I was taking my trip. Especially if…
I’m grateful the lump was benign.
The Power of Broke
Did I struggle financially upon my return? Oh yeah. Do I regret taking my trip? Hell no. In April 2000 when I left the United States to travel for six months I deliberately chose not to arrange for employment upon return that September. Doing so would have caused me to settle into a familiar pattern. Instead, I used what Daymond John from Shark Tank calls “The Power of Broke” in his 2016 book of the same name. I wanted to see if I could make it as a freelance writer. I wanted to stop talking about writing a book and write one. I wanted to give myself the chance I hadn’t yet.
I was single, child-free by choice, responsible for a handful of plants and at age 39, young enough to regroup. If I hit ground before I finished building my wings, I would not take anyone with me.
And that’s just one spin of the wheel for a game I’ve been playing for 20 years.
“On Mondays and Thursdays I Learn How to Die”
…is how CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners Ricardo Semler opens his stellar TED Talk, How to Run a Company with (almost) No Rules. “I call them my terminal days,” he continues.
“A lot of people in my family died of melanoma cancer and my parents and grandparents had it. And I kept thinking, one day I could be sitting in front of a doctor who looks at my exams and says, ‘Ricardo, things don't look very good. You have six months or a year to live.’ So I said, every Monday and Thursday, I'm going use my terminal days. And I will do, during those days, whatever it is I was going to do if I had received that piece of news.”
At some point, I’ll be taking a dirt nap. The Six Months Game is one way I prod myself to live as large and fully as possible during each moment I’m on the right side of the grass. It’s a reminder not to settle. Not to take myself, the gifts of living and the lives of others for granted.
…from the day you read this article will be your last, so goes my challenge. How does that affect whatever decisions you are considering now? Conundrums with which you are grappling? How and with whom you spend your time?