The alarm went off at 7AM for the first day of fifth grade. My dad was in his suit walking out the door as he heard me grumble and get up. “Life sucks and then you die,” he greeted me.
This is the first of a thousand similar morning greetings he would say as he suited up and walked out the door to work.
I always thought this was just my Dad’s “thang.” Like he loved the Aggie’s football or playing war games on the computer. I thought it was sort of just something he muttered like when he sneezed “Jesus Christ on a commode.” It was one of his quirks, those parts of Dad that made him… well, Dad.
Years and years later, at thirty-five, I sit talking across an impossible valley. As it turns out, my dad is not the only one to say this as he went to work each morning. In fact, it’s something many dads said as they embarked on their early morning trek. It was not just dads in suits, or dads at mills, or dads with fancy cars or frequent flyer miles. It’s an attitude of a generation. The norm for our children’s grandparents is a rut-filled expectation of misery and eventually death. Our children’s parents, now in their mid-thirties or early forties, are just now rebelling against mid-life. We are just coming in to our own careers and now, as we walk out the door in the early morning dawn, we are asking why. WHY do we have to live our father’s mantra “life sucks and then you die.”
It is a rare prophet who challenges and pushes for change.
In Steve Job’s commencement speech at Stanford, a speech filled with not just inspiration but several challenges, he urges the students to Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. He shares, through his own experiences, the seemingly erratic life experiences that culminated in a respected, and revered, life of amazing.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Do not live our parent’s dogma. As Steve Job’s says, “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” Life can suck and then you will die. Or life can be an amazing road, bumpy, rocky, long and winding. Death can loom like an escape, some future release. Or it can speak urgently to you: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.
I’m beginning to believe the words myself. I hope you will join me.