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I’ve been thinking about Tim McGraw. 

Flipping through radio stations the other day I heard Tim sing his song from twenty years ago, “Live Like You Were Dying.” 

As a side note, I worry that playlists, Pandora, Spotify - all those similar things - are going to get us to the place where all we hear is what we like. We've done that already with the news and look at what a mess that’s gotten us into. It seems to me that every now and then you need to hear something that surprises you, that takes your head to a different place than you expect. 

Anyway, I’ve never been a huge Tim McGraw fan, but I’ve always liked that song.   

Particularly, I like one line. 

In case you haven’t heard it, it’s about a guy giving advice about living, particularly when you feel like the clock is ticking. 

He sings about all the things he did that he wouldn’t ordinarily do, including, “I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.” 

Here’s the thing. When you’re competing in bull riding, you need to stay on for eight seconds to get a score. If you only stay on for 2.7 seconds, we’re talking big failure. 

Painful big failure. 

I love that. Because life, a full life, is all about failure. 

That shouldn’t be a surprise. I was looking for quotes to support my position and I saw this one from Eleanore Roosevelt. “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”   

I wonder how many of us “...reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” 

The song is a little more complicated than just skydiving and bull riding. The lyrics talk about taking your father fishing, being a better husband and father, and so on. I’m at the age now where questions like, “What would you do if it were your last day on earth?” can feel a little more relevant. Truthfully, if I did get some kind of heads-up that the end was near, I wouldn’t balance my checkbook or attend a budget meeting, but otherwise, I wouldn’t change so much. 

Okay, that’s probably not true. I would definitely like a do-over for most of 1972, and not getting a haircut from 1973 to 1975 was probably excessive. In hindsight, the whole barbecued pork thing was a mistake, but on the plus side, there’s nothing like the focus you can get from being on the brink of bankruptcy and losing everything you’ve ever worked for. 

Focus is what I’m trying to get at here. So many of us drift through our lives, aimlessly scrolling through our phones, eating meals we haven’t thought about, buying things we don’t need and ignoring the human connections that are the sinews of our lives. In business, as in life, a sense of urgency is of paramount importance. If there was something you were going to do, a phone call you were going to make or a letter you were going to write, do it now. Trying to live like you were dying isn’t the worst advice in the world, even if it does set you up for some failures every now and then. 

But the bull riding thing? Maybe let that one go. 

Copyright 2024 Brent Olson 


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