January 2020 — The world lost one of the greatest and most influential competitors that we’ve ever witnessed today. Kobe Bryant was an athlete, a family man, and an inspiration to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people around the world.
Although it felt like we all knew Kobe, it isn’t the fact that we won’t get to see him compete anymore that made his untimely death so shocking. I was suddenly reminded that even the people who seem to be immortal have to face mortality at some point.
Over the last few years, and somewhat in response to the “YOLO” movement, I’d gotten into the habit of saying, “Life is Long”. It was a means for me to practice patience, go slow, and attempt to get away from instant gratification. For example, “Don’t get worked up about it right now, life is long”. In American culture, we are so fixated on feeling good all the time that we sometimes forget that there are more important things in the world than being happy or entertained right now.
Yet, events like the one this week make me reconsider. In this 16 second clip from 2008, Kobe says, “Enjoy Life. Life is too short to get bogged down or be discouraged..”
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that life is short and life is long.Tweet
When I was six years old and found out my mom was 33 years old, I was certain that she was one of the oldest people on earth. Ten years later, when I was 16, I was a rebellious teenager, in part because I didn’t think I would make it to the age of 21. It just seemed so far away. When I was 21… well, I was 21, so I was an idiot, but what I’m getting at is that 8 years after turning 21, I’m still here today (and it’s still somewhat of a surprise).
Each pair of initials above belongs to a friend of mine who passed away before the age of 30. Four of them before the age of 21. My eyes tear up thinking about the holes left by them and the impact it had (and still has) on their families.
It would be naive to think that friends dying at an early age didn’t impact my views on mortality, or their families’ views on mortality. After losing someone young, does a family feel like “life is short”? Or does the hurt that they experience make life seem long and dragged out? Or Both? Does their understanding of mortality make them live more or less in the moment than someone who hasn’t experienced such tragedy? In my case, peers leaving earth before their 21st birthday encouraged my own thinking that I would never be an old man.
But that thinking wasn’t conducive to me at that time – it created a “go fast and do everything now” attitude, and it prevented me from taking my time with life. That attitude prevented me from paying it forward with hard work to reap the rewards later on. You live enough in the now, and there is inevitably a moment that you are stuck wondering why you didn’t prepare better for the future.
What if you found out today that you only have one year to live? I would probably adopt a mindset similar to the one I had when I was 16 – “I am bulletproof. Go fast and do everything now.”
On the other hand, what if you found out today that you’ll follow the average life expectancy for a person living in the U.S. and live until the age of 75 or 80? Would I live my life differently in this scenario than in the one with only a year left? Of course, I would. I would invest in my health, my relationships, and my future.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day...”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but guess what? Every single day, Rome was being built. And therein lies the juxtaposition. Every single day that we live is just as important, and has the potential to be just as impactful, as the sum of all of our days.
I was too harsh on the “YOLO” movement – we don’t have to all live fast and adopt the motto, “life is short”, but we do only have one life to live. I admire Kobe Bryant because he lived his one life with passion, and in doing so, he acknowledged the conflict between “Life is Short” and “Life is Long”. That is so clearly reflected in his legacy.
If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check out this 2015 film, The Muse, on Kobe’s life, growing up in Italy before being drafted (right out of high school!) into the NBA, and the challenges and achievements of his career.
RIP Kobe. Mamba Mentality