You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. – Evan Esar
Give death a big ‘fuck you’ by living your life with more joy and zeal than you ever have before. Be obstinate about your non-negotiable policy of making your life awesome. Have adventures, Stand atop literal or figurative mountains you climb and flip the bird to Death. Play ring around the Rosie with your kids (hell any kids) let the flush in your cheeks and the sweat on your brow and the smile on your face be a gangsta chin nod to your mortality. — Kate Manser author of You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life
“Valar Morghulis” (All Men Must Die) — Game of Thrones
Before I begin, ask yourself two questions:
-What’s the one thing you need to accomplish before your inevitable demise?
-What are you actively doing every day to make that a reality?
I totally understand the feelings you’re having right now. Times such as they are, these are sobering, uncomfortable questions.
Which is precisely the reason to ask them.
My review copy of Kate Manser’s debut book – You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life, arrived on March 3rd, arrived on my doorstep as I literally was texting a friend about corona prepping. Truth be told, this ominous coincidence kinda freaked me out at the time. However, once I started reading I realized this book was actually a blessing in disguise!
There is no better time then during a global pandemic for developing personal tools that simultaneously alleviate fears of death and immediately focus on living full lives, in line with our personal values, wherever we find ourselves hunkered down, without regrets.
That’s where Kate’s astonishing book “You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life”, comes in.
This is a quick read with a simple premise —
Instead of wasting valuable time worrying about the uncontrollable inevitably of Death, acclimate yourself to face your fear of death with the insight that the best bet at “cheating death” is in your prioritization of joy to truly live.
I found Kate’s writing style to be refreshing, informal, witty and sublimely funny. She possesses an earnest, self deprecating, charming voice you can’t help but be positively motivated by.
Two chapters into my review copy of “You Might Die Tomorrow So Live Today”, I let my guard down and found myself sneakily disarmed and more throughly entertained, than I ever thought possible by a “self-help” book about dying. As a matter of fact, I found this the least preachy or dry self-help book of this type I’ve ever read!
Kate candidly shared her story, warts and all and the journey she embarked upon to conquer her fear of death.
How she came about her personal insights on “braking her loop” (I’m a Westworld fan) and documents her extensive research developing a away for readers to follow her example, within their own unique circumstances, in creating space to enjoy ourselves, have fun, help others, to love, and experience hurt.
The book is structured in an easy to pick up and put down format. With a dozen or so short chapters with overarching themes that alternate between Kate’s personal journey, her research on death and dying and journaling prompts for readers to actively develop best practices and a personal action plan.
It’s an easy read that is richly written and thoroughly researched. Kate has clearly done her homework, her vast list of citations and sources have their own chapter, and span myriad continents, cultures and disciplines of study both academic and theological. They run the gambit from clinical studies from esteemed medical journals to The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
This skillful and respectful weaving together of various ancient, modern and historical perspectives compares and contrasts the clinical studies, cultural traditions, theology & psychology surrounding death in a way that both informs and gives credence to, in my opinion, the books principle thesis –
- That impermanence is at the very heart of our existence. This fact will either cause great suffering or set you free.
- Accepting your mortality can free you to live your best life by using death as fuel for positive motivation.
In her rewarding first book, Kate asks us, as I’ll quote one of her many hilarious and profound metaphors (yes, a book about death and dying is often surprisingly funny) to-
“BOB ROSS THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR LIFE!”— Kate Manser
“Your life is your greatest work of art. You are the painter. Your color scheme can start pastel and end up neon. Follow your instincts as you go. Add a purple pet parakeet over here and a golden babbling brook over there.”
“While we are postponing, life speeds by.” —Seneca
The other huge takeaway is immediacy.
One of Kate’s goto Ancient Greek philosophers is Seneca: “Live Immediately.”
Kate points out, with vivid examples and profound personal testimonies of individuals whom she interviewed and interacted with writing her book, how surprisingly easy it is to delude ourselves that there will always be a tomorrow or a “later on”. Stories that both celebrate lives long and short, but well lived and the profound tragedy of “deathbed regret.”
Her “Do it now” philosophy encourages all to “Hedge your bets”—
To borrow her “Bob Ross” metaphor, If you don’t start your “painting” now, when will you?
When you have more money or another flexible job or when you feel ‘ready?’
Do I need to remind you of the title of this book?
Kate also uses her experts discoveries to make a strong case against “analysis paralysis” which is basically risk avoidance.
To truly live, as it turns out, you’ve got to take risks.
Using the psychology of death awareness as a positive tool in our daily lives is two fold: urgency to act and clarity about what those acts should be.
”THESE ARE BIRDS, THESE ARE BIRDS NOW”-Bob Ross
“If you aren’t occasionally uncomfortable, experience some emotional pain, don’t possess some worry that you may have made the wrong decision, gone too far, loved much, you will have regrets when you face death.
It’s OK. You WILL make mistakes, but the only antidote to deathbed regret is to live exuberantly and with exaggeration. There are no awards for living a tepid or timid life.
There is no trophy for holding back.”
When things don’t go as planned, forgive yourself, learn the lessons and incorporate that gained wisdom in moving forward. Sticking with the Bob Ross metaphor, ”Those aren’t mistakes, see, those are birds now!”
HOW DO YOU HACK YOUR FEAR AND LIVE MEANINGFULY?
This is easier said than done, as Kate herself admits, it takes acknowledging death is scary and cultivating a gentle awareness and actively living meaningfully in accordance with personal values.
By practicing this daily, you are becoming your best self and unshackle the chains of self doubt and fear of impermanence that holds us all back from living a richer, more fulfilling existence.
Not a bad investment of the limited resource of time we have left to us.
For me personally, it’s like that Sammy Davis Jr. standard “I’m gonna live till I die” folks that know me, know that I’ve got a huge “joie de vivre” type personality, but I found quite profound insight in Kate’s book that helped me change my perspective and take to heart.
The false idea that death is morbid.
As it turns out, death is the greatest motivational tool I possess to get shit done, and not just any shit, meaningful shit.
The realization that “life” is a lousy unit of time. “Life” is unfixed. Unknown. Unreliable.
We can measure the duration and endpoint of a minute, but the duration of life is only measurable in retrospect. I know when I began. I’ve no idea when I will end.
My epiphany was the only productive way to spend my limited portion of time, is behave as I do when I don’t know the boss’ deadline, it’s best to have that work done when she asks.
Our variables are how we go about getting the job done and based upon our values.
Are we satisfied with the quality once the work comes due?
Bottom line: Incorporating elements from this inspired, funny and motivating book in my daily life was the best investment of time I’ve made in quite a while!
I think anyone would benefit from the tools of making the paradigm shift from “Death as Spectre to drinking buddy.”
Understanding the psychology of mortality awareness and life prioritization techniques Kate delivers with her terrific first effort.
Learn more about Kate’s movement and new book, You Might Die Tomorrow: Face Your Fear of Death to Live Your Most Meaningful Life,
The book (in paperback and Kindle) it’s available right now! Pick up a copy anywhere books are sold at @highlinehouse or use the handy Amazon Link below.
Follow Kate and her movement on social media using the hashtag #youmightdietomorrow
art credit- Kate Manser/ highlinehouse / author