I’m no longer afraid to die

Some of you may know that I was a philosophy major in college…

But I doubt you know the reason why.

It’s because of a guy named Bobby Johnson.

You see when I transferred to the University of West Florida in 2008…

I was originally a Political Science Major…

And I was completely content with that decision – I thought politics and government were super interesting.

During that first semester though…

I elected to take an Intro to Ethics course…

And Bobby was the professor.

Bobby the professor

Bobby was this skinny, shaggy-haired kid…

He was only 26 at the time…

And honestly, he looked like he should be a student in the class, not the teacher.

It was a fairly large class, with a lot of freshmen in it…

And during the very first class…

One of the freshmen – a girl who couldn’t have been much more than 18 – asked Bobby why anyone should study philosophy?

“Well for me, it’s because I’m no longer afraid to die”…

That’s how Bobby responded…

And while yeah, I know it sounds dramatic…

It also caught my attention…

Because I’d never really heard someone talk about death like that before…

Especially not in a way that showed complete peace and acceptance.

So that moment really stood out…

But that’s not the reason why I switched to philosophy.

The switch happened when a month or so into the semester…

I was outside the library, smoking cigarettes with some friends…

And Bobby Johnson came walking by.

He joined us (didn’t smoke but sat down) and we all talked…

And then at some point, it was just me and him, and he goes, “So what’s your deal?”

Well, I had no idea how to answer that…

But I started by telling him that I’m from California…

And I remember him responding with:

“Oh, so that’s why you have good taste in music!”

I’m not 100% sure why he said that – I think he must have been looking through my iPod or something…

And I don’t remember exactly how the rest of the conversation went…

But I do know that Bobby made a pretty impassioned plea for me to study philosophy…

And at the end of the semester, I made the switch.

So why am I sharing this with you?

Well a few reasons…

I think that studying philosophy has helped me to be a better copywriter…

Because it’s all about logical arguments (want to improve your copy? Read Plato/Socrates – it’s an easily digestible dialogue with razor-sharp logical arguments) …

But it’s also about “weird” arguments and thinking outside the box…

And it’s about trying to find concrete ways to explain very abstract concepts…

Which comes in handy when you’re trying to make mitochondria or autophagy sound interesting to people.  

More importantly than that though…

Because I chose to study philosophy…

I basically got to spend two years examining myself, who I really was, and why I did the things I did…

And I spent dozens of hours each week…

Meditating and writing about “big” topics like love, eternity, God, morality, and death.

I think that really helped me in 2011…

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer…

And died five months after.

It was an awful experience…

But because I had spent so much time thinking about the inevitability of death…

And how we only have a finite amount of time on this earth…

It made the diagnosis and death of my fatherless shocking.

Not easier…

But I wasn’t blindsided.

And I think if you can get to a place where you’re comfortable with the idea of death…

It can make a big impact on your life too.

Because here’s the cold hard truth:

We’re all going to die…

Every single one of us…

And every person we love…

So we can either accept that fact…

And use it to empower ourselves and others…

By trying to savor every moment of this life…

By trying to spread love to every person we encounter…

By living big, bold, and fully…

Or we can live in fear and denial.

We can pretend death doesn’t exist…

We can tell ourselves NOT to enjoy anything today, because there’s some undefined time in the distant future where we’ll actually ALLOW ourselves to be happy…

We can slave away in jobs we hate, stay stuck in relationships with people we don’t love and continue to hide our true nature from the world because we’re afraid…

Or we can view life as a beautiful and thrilling journey, one that we’re grateful to be a part of.

It’s really an either/or situation…

Either you embrace the inevitability of death, and you make the most of the time you’ve got…

Or you don’t, and you die surprised and disappointed.

Knowing that you have this choice…

Why the F**K would pick option “b”?

Man…

Honestly, as I’m writing this…

I have to be real with you:

It’s been a while since I thought this way…

Since I’ve pondered my own mortality…

Or since I’ve remembered that my eventual death is one of the greatest gifts I have in this life.

There’s no better motivator than knowing the cosmic stopwatch will eventually hit 0:00…

It’s a motivator not just to “accomplish” great things…

But to ENJOY as many moments as you can too…

Because it could all be over in the blink of an eye

That’s how it was for Bobby Johnson.

You see, during my two years at the University of West Florida, we grew pretty close…

I’d take whatever classes he taught…

But I’d also go over to his house for potlucks and get-togethers…

And these would inevitably end with all of us on Bobby’s patio at 2 am…

Drinking beer and talking about the meaning of life.

As we grew closer, I learned that Bobby had Cystic Fibrosis…

And while it didn’t seem to be affecting Bobby a whole lot at the time…

Sure enough, in 2014…

Bobby passed away due to complications from his disease.

I wasn’t expecting the news…

Because to be honest, we hadn’t talked much since I left UWF…

But when I first heard of Bobby’s passing…

As heartbroken as I was…

I also couldn’t help but think back to that first class, on my first day at UWF…

When Bobby told that girl that he was no longer afraid to die.

And it made me smile…

Suddenly that comment from Bobby made a lot more sense to me…

Because while no one in the class knew it…

Bobby knew it:

He would almost certainly die at a very young age…

And so he used philosophy to come to terms with that reality…

To be at peace with his life and his death…

And it worked…

Bobby was one of the happiest guys I ever knew.

I hadn’t thought of Bobby in a few years…

But he came up last night when Laura and I were at dinner…

And I wanted to write this email and share it with you…

Because by sharing the lessons I learned thanks to Bobby…

It’s a way to ensure that he continues to have an impact on people’s lives…

And that his spirit lives on.

Hope you guys have an incredible Saturday 🙂

– SPG

P.S. This post originally came from an email I sent to my private list. If you want to see more stuff like this from me, you can apply to join my list using this link.

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