All external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.Steve Jobs, Cancer Patient, Apple CEO

Heavier than it looks.

When I was 7 years old I died, face crushed under the back tire of my dad’s Isuzu Trooper. While the team of surgeons* were rebuilding my face over the next 13 years, I earned the right not only to nod along with Jobs on this one, but to echo him: in the face of death, there is nothing to fear.

It’s not possible to overemphasize this point. Living in fear of losing what you have—both material and social—is insane. Think about this:

  • You live in a universe of possibility. There will always be more stuff, more people, more love. Whatever you lose, you can replace, probably with something better.
  • The stuff we worry about losing comes at a cost. By acquiring a house, we are saddled with the need to have a steady income of a certain size. Friends demand time. Lovers demand attention and often exclusivity. When you lose one, you gain another.

Lying on the cold bedrock of your life, with nothing left to lose, you gain the ultimate freedom to do what you want to do, go where you want to go, and be who you want to be. To rephrase:

  • You will never fail so badly that you can’t try again.
  • Having fewer things means having more freedom.

Blocks to Freedom

If you don’t quite feel what I’m telling you yet, I want to make you aware of a couple well-known problems with your brain:

  • Sunk Cost Fallacy. You think the investments you have made in life obligate you to finish them or follow through on them. You are wrong.
  • Loss Aversion Bias. You will work harder to avoid losing the things you already have, than to gain the things you might be able to have. That is a mistake.

the biggest threat you face is apathy and boredom

It’s important to understand what these are and how to beat them because they are diseases that can tie you down. They will make you feel as though you are taking risks by just living and experiencing life, even while the biggest threat you face is apathy and boredom. Always remember that you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Go change the world.


Note: My primary surgeon is a genius and a saint. His name is Dr. Kevin Yakuboff. He saved my life, and literally rebuilt my head using techniques he invented for my case. He’s not only an extraordinarily talented surgeon specializing in complex hand reconstruction and burn cases, but also a paragon of altruism. When my parents couldn’t afford my medical bills anymore, he offered to waive his fee to make sure I got the care I needed. This is a man who travels across the world to work on children in impoverished countries. This is the man you want to be like.