Preparing for death is the best way lead a fully realized life.
I wanna talk for a second about this Andrew Garfield interview.
Kara Swisher tells Garfield about an app, We Croak, whose purpose is to send you five notifications a day reminding you you’ll die. The app’s intent is to bring you happiness, “which it does,” Swisher says.
“I dig it,” Garfield says.
He digs it because his portrayal of Jonathan Larson in tick…tick…Boom! is a lot like Garfield’s own life. How should he spend the time available to him? His days are fleeting. He knows that even more with his mom’s passing. Garfield wants to take the urgency that arises from that realization and use it to focus on the work and relationships that matter.
It’s not that we will one day die, Seneca once said. It’s that we are dying every day. Every day we move closer to our demise. Knowing that, Seneca asked, what will you do with your days?
This quote and this question is something Ryan Holiday recently raised with Tareq Azim on Holiday’s podcast, Daily Stoic. I once did a story on Azim, who has a new book out. Azim’s motto is Prepare for Death. He came to it after he decided to forego the NFL Combine in 2004 so he could return to his ancestral Afghanistan and stare down the Taliban warlords who had claimed the Azim family’s land. Tareq not only got back the land but started a girl’s soccer federation, then a girl’s boxing federation — and with the blessing of brutal tribal warlords who otherwise did not recognize women’s rights. Azim negotiated with them as a private U.S. citizen at a time the State Department wouldn’t dare to. Azim often did it unarmed. Prepare for Death, then, was not some bad-ass phrase but something Tareq Azim lived every day. And by living it every day he realized the beauty and joy that was life, even life in Afghanistan. He took this idea of Prepare for Death back with him to the States, when he opened his own gym in San Francisco, and became the most iconoclastic trainer to many of the NFL’s and MMA’s biggest stars.
Writing about Tareq Azim helped reorient my life. The phrase focused it. No longer would I have vague aspirations but concrete goals and a sense every day of how to move toward them. Living the…