Tick Toc On The Clock

Tick Toc On The Clock


If you were given a button that tells you exactly when you are going to die, would you push it?

My vote is yes. Even if the information is painful, I’d like to know what could be the single most valuable factor in altering my immediate future. To illustrate, let’s take the following scenarios:

1) The hopeful and most likely scenario: I die ~ 50 years from now. Daily life doesn’t change at all. Business as  usual.

2) Still very possible: I die ~ 25 years from now. Daily life remains the same, but future plans are altered. I consider not having kids or having them immediately. Vacations are taken more readily. Liquidate 401k. Why save for retirement?

3) I have ~ 10 years to live. Huge changes are made. Travel much more frequently. Put bucket list in full effect. Skew goals toward immediate changes and influence. Commit more time to writing. Hold off on the little ones.

4) I have ~ 1 year left. Drop everything except two or three activities: write a book, visit Paris, eat at Noma. Spend more time with closest loved ones. Abandon all long term plans.

The closer we get to our expected death, the more important the information becomes. The most effective strategy for action packed living and increased quality of life is when we assume we have little time to live. It seems the optimal course of action is to live our daily lives as if we only have five years left. (This still allows for long terms goals: kids, retirement, etc).

Remember the semester long homework assignment your teacher gave you? Almost everyone does two things:

1) Assumes the assignment must be hard because they give you so long to complete it
2) Doesn’t start working on it until the last week

When we deal with abstract amounts of time we become overwhelmed. As a result we under perform. We believe that it’s too hard to realize our goals. And like the long term project, we procrastinate until there is no time left.

Time is our most precious commodity. I would love to know when I’m going to run out. In fact, I would propose a trade: Give away a fraction of the time I have left in exchange for the information I want. That is, of course, assuming I still have time left to give.


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  • Robinduval December 30, 2011 12:12 am

    What a beautiful mind you have….Yes you summed it up..Live and love like you are dying! Tomorrow may never come…

  • Andreas K Rieger March 2, 2012 7:08 pm

    Just found your page…read through most of it. very interesting blog, well written and never getting boring. What stung me was that picture of the clock/watch in this post…any chance you know the brand? Can't find it anywhere… 🙁 Keep it up!

    • Alec March 2, 2012 7:11 pm

      Hey Andreas,

      Thanks for the praise. Much appreciated. I'm ashamed to admit but I found the picture on google images (google "tick tock"). I wish it existed though. I would definitely own one!

    • Alec Torelli March 2, 2012 7:13 pm

      Hey Andreas,

      Thanks for the praise. Much appreciated! I'm ashamed to admit I found the picture on google images (search "tick tock"). I wish it existed though. I'd definitely own one!

      • Andreas K Rieger March 9, 2012 4:47 am

        No worries Alec…Get a Tag Heuer Pendulum instead 🙂 What are you up to these days, where you residing? All the best!

        • Alec Torelli March 9, 2012 10:06 pm

          I'm in Vegas, but I'm not there a ton. I've been traveling through Asia recently with stops in Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok and Bail. Indonesia was by far my favorite. I'd love to live there someday. My time is coming to an end soon. Heading home for a break and to prepare for the series. You going to be there?

          • Rieger Ak1 April 12, 2012 3:00 am

            Late reply…I've been there two years but that was 08/09, since then I went a bit more serious, currently getting r*ped in investment banking…Just got married to, my wife's Indonesian (has Australian passport though). Been to Indo/Bali xmas/NY, was really nice I agree. But the humidity is a bit tough for me as a pale continental European! All the best for the series and every other life decision. If I might make it to Vegas, I'll let you know.

  • David Campbell June 22, 2012 12:45 am

    Me thinks you may be a little dead already. Imagining the date of your end is not about what you can fit between now and then but the idea that you now have an absolute for the first time. The managers dream come true. I find it horrid we have all become mangers…

    • Alec June 22, 2012 11:13 am

      Hey David,

      Can you elaborate on the "absolute" and "managers". I'm interested, but you lost me!

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