Over the summer, I received unfortunate news that a former high school classmate and teammate had unexpectedly passed away. He was a great guy, a person about whom I've truly never heard others say anything negative. As most of us have experienced with such tragedies, they rock our respective communities to the core.
The next day, ESPN released an article talking about how the Golden State Warriors coach, Steve Kerr, and the team's general manager, Bob Meyers, have kept things in perspective after their crushing NBA Finals loss. Drawing on more intense life experiences, Kerr has helped support Meyers whose brother-in-law, Scott Dinsmore, was tragically killed in late 2015. Kerr's father was slain earlier in his life, and "Kerr shared how he came to grips with losing someone he cared about so deeply for such senseless reasons. Myers was so touched he shared it with the Dinsmore family."
The ESPN article hit close to home because Scott Live Your Legend, which encouraged others to "change the world by doing work they love."Dinsmore was a friend of mine. He was unlike most people you'll meet in life and is sorely missed by thousands of people around the globe. We first connected several years ago when we were paired together in a golf tournament and immediately hit it off. We shared a strong conviction that we should all live with purpose, and Scott was just starting to create his business,
Scott was an infectiously positive individual and seemed to encourage everyone he met to pursue their dreams with reckless abandon. Not surprisingly, his TEDx talk has been viewed millions of times. To me, his memory is a frequent reminder to cherish life and the opportunities it affords.
As with Scott and my former classmate, some losses are horrific and tough to rationalize. But a silver lining may stem from helping us examine our own lives and their finiteness. At first this may sound morbid and downright depressing. However, my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Mike Bommarito, shocked me during a recent conversation when he told me that he had twice beaten cancer and that it was the impetus behind co-founding his software company, DoorStat. Having faced his own mortality, he left a great job to pursue something about which he was much more passionate. DoorStat is now doing well, and I feel that Scott Dinsmore would applaud the decision.
Other entrepreneurs have revealed that the loss of a loved one has served as tremendous motivation for their success. Bill Gates lost a dear childhood friend, Kent Evans, and it is said to have had a profound impact on his life. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs addressed the topic directly in his fabled Stanford University Commencement address, saying, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."
And we actually see many races and religions promote the philosophy to embrace death. For instance, the classic Japanese text, Hagakure, states, "We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism...If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling."
Knowing that we are going to die should be liberating, and our mortality can serve as a driving force for daily lives. For life is an incredibly precious thing, and while we likely don't know how, when, or where, the fact is that we'll one day parish. But our own deaths' shouldn't be feared, they should be acknowledged, embraced, and cultivated into a source of inspiration.
Even though we all know to "carpe diem" and live life to the fullest, it can be far too easy at times to coast in the path of least resistance and often take things for granted. However, it's almost inevitable that various tragedies will befall all of us during our lives. And when they do, we should allow ourselves to process them emotionally and then use them as reminders for what we truly want to achieve. Especially in his own wake, I believe it's what someone remarkable, like Scott Dinsmore, would encourage us all to do.