After 50+ episodes of Crossing Borders, my podcast where I have conversations with entrepreneurs, investors and the people who support them with a focus on Latin America, I decided to go back and make a list of the books they’ve recommended the most. There were two books that stood out from the crowd, but be sure to check out some of the other gems below, from business, to history, to finance and fiction. 1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
“I love that book… I remembered the night before I was set to meet with a top tier VC. I woke up and threw up in the bathroom. In the book Ben is always throwing up. There is a problem, he throws up. He is constantly throwing up. And I remember thinking like oh this is what it feels like. And then like ten minutes later I throw up again and I realized it is probably food poisoning… It made me realize stress is part of the experience. That kind of ramp up and gear up is okay.”
“The single most important book I read. I still go back to that book… I realized I was going through a lot of the same things… The struggle is real and hearing someone else’s perspective allowed me to understand that I am not that alone.”
At the end of the segment on NPR’s Forum yesterday, the host asked me if my life or worldview has changed at all since starting a death-focused company. I deal with death on a regular basis. It’s forced me to confront many issues of mortality and the unpleasantness that goes along with thinking about my own demise. I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to think about issues that most people only think about in their 50s or even potentially on their death beds.
So how has working in the “digital death” industry changed me and my worldview?
I no longer take anything for granted. I’ve read so many stories of people dying unexpectedly that I’ve realized how special life truly is. Jesse will say from time to time “Isn’t it ridiculous that we’re alive? Think about all of the things that had to go right for us to be here today. It’s amazing.” It really is true.
If the average life expectancy is 80 these days, it means we only have 29,200 days on this Earth. Before Entrustet, sometimes I thought days were boring, or were simply impediments in time before I got to do something I really wanted to do. Now that I’ve been working on Entrustet for almost two years, I never take a single day for granted. It’s one of my 29,200, and only if I’m lucky.
Dealing with death has caused me to care even less about what other people think. You only live once, so do what makes you happy. In the whole scheme of things, rejection isn’t that big of a deal. Seize your opportunities and take your chances with alacrity. You never know when you won’t have the ability to take them in the future.
I’ve become even less materialistic. You can’t take your possessions or your money with you when you die, so I’ve come to realize that I don’t need things or to make $1b (unless we get hyper inflation!). When I read about people on their deathbeds, they all say they regret not spending more time with friends and family or taking a trip to a foreign country or taking the opportunity to work on the things they loved. They never say they wished they had bought a bigger TV or a nicer car. I’ve realized that it truly doesn’t take much (money) for me to be happy. I know I can live well on a small amount of money.
It’s strange that I’m dealing with these issues as a 25 year old, but I think I’m lucky. Most people push the idea of death down the road and many people don’t end up following their dreams. I’m glad I’m realizing these truths now, not when I’m 50, 90 or not at all. Sometimes it takes a near death experience, but for me, all it’s taken is being near death.
Please watch Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford’s graduation class. Jobs was diagnosed with an extremely deadly type of cancer and miraculously survived. He’s an authority on how to live before you die and his speech is where I got the title for my post. Do yourself a favor and take the time to watch. You only live once, make the most of it!