Death or Life?


Today is a day of reflection. Well, every day is a day of reflection on this website, hence, tim chen reflection. One of my favorite things to do is watch commencement speeches because the people that universities usually aim to bring in are high achievers and light years ahead of me in life. The words and messages that these speakers carefully craft can carry so much power and meaning. The commencement speech that recently caught my attention was Sheryl Sandberg at Berkeley. Her message was powerful, one that I often think about.

When life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, find the surface and breathe again.

She had faced the untimely death of her husband just a year ago and like her, I had also faced the death of my father just 1.5 years ago. The thoughts that flood your mind when such an event happens is extremely overwhelming.

It is the days that will challenge you to your very core that will determine who you are.

She goes into a method of coping that I found to be very interesting. Psychologist Martin Seligman found there are 3 P’s necessary to determine how we bounce back from adversity. It is not about feinting happiness when times are hard but reforming our minds to create empowering explanations for these events. Personalization: Belief that we are at fault. This lesson says that not everything that happens to us, happens because of us. Pervasiveness: Belief that what happened will affect all areas of our lives. Permanence: Belief that the sorrow will last forever.

These are great lessons to help cope. One thought that I’ve started thinking about more and more is whether death is really ever about death. When people say they are afraid of dying, are they actually afraid of dying or are they afraid of not having lived? People often use the overused adage “if you knew you were going to die today, would you do what you are doing?” This question seems to be about death, but the reality is, it’s questioning how you would live your life. Sometimes we negatively focus our thoughts and energy on the idea that we will die someday and that is a given fact. On the flip side, every other day we will be living. Focus your energy positively. Once the reality of death hits, it can become a good motivator to create life.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. – Steve Jobs


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