Don’t Take Life for Granted

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“Life is short.” “You only live once.”

Those phrases have become platitudes. But as time passes in my life, I’m acutely more and more aware of how little time I have alive—even if I live to a ripe, old age—and how precious that time is.

Death isn’t something that will always happen to someone else. It will happen to me. And to you. Life has a 100 percent mortality rate.

I’m 35 now. The average life expectancy a thousand years ago was 30. Holy crap.

A while ago, it really struck me when I read somewhere that no one dies of old age. There is no such thing as dying of old age. A stroke, heart failure, cancer—it’s always something horrible that gets you. And one in five of us won’t even make it to “old age.”

So knowing your time is limited, how are you going to use today? What kind of artist do you want to be remembered as? Mediocre? Or a legend?

If you’ve been dreaming about moving to the big city and pursuing your dream, do it. If you’ve been kicking around that screenplay idea, but been procrastinating, do it. Write it now, because if you die tomorrow, the world will never have had a chance to be impacted by it. If you’re being a lazy, self-sabotaging actor, wake the fuck up and commit yourself to the pursuit of excellence in every aspect of your craft. If you’re under-skilled, get your ass in class.

Whatever you are putting off until tomorrow, whatever you think can wait, you are dead wrong. It can’t wait. Do it today because otherwise it will never happen. And wouldn’t you rather die in pursuit of your dream, than never having even begun the journey?

And let’s address another thing: There are a ton of wonderful, inspiring articles, speeches, and books in the world. The Internet and social media have given us platforms to discover and share the most moving, motivating words mankind has ever written or spoken. But if it never compels you to take action in your life, the constant consumption of inspirational words and art is just temporary emotional and intellectual gratification.

If you don’t get out there and start dating your dream, you’ll never get into a relationship with it, and you’ll never get married to it, and have little dream babies.

You can’t live your dream vicariously through others and their words and achievements. Why constantly torture yourself with the just the potential of fulfillment? Right now, if you’re not working towards being someone whose quotes and achievements inspire others one day, what are you doing with your precious, limited time? Dying on the vine, that’s what. Watching the sand pour downward in the hourglass.

In our society, sometimes it feels like we keep death at a distance. We view death as a personal failure. “He lost his fight against cancer.” We avoid the topic. Fail to plan for it. We hide death away in hospitals, retirement homes, funeral homes, and cemeteries. I’ve only once seen a dead body, at a funeral, face reconstructed to look normal after a shooting. He just looked like he was sleeping.

But in other cultures, the reality and subject of death is more present in the experience of everyday life, sometimes tragically, sometimes beautifully, and sometimes even celebrated.

When we keep the reality of death at a distance, or treat it as an enemy, we lose sight of the ever-present blessing and friend it is, in a way. It’s there to remind us, every day, to make the most of our time alive. With every breath you miraculously take, death is telling you to do what makes you fulfilled, and to do it now.

In an ideal world, each of us would act as though each day was our last opportunity to deliver as much of the creative potential of our lives to the world as we can.

My friends, as an artist, don’t settle for less than the world deserves from you. Act. Be a legend.

Because life is short, and you only live once.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.
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Shaan Sharma
Shaan Sharma is a session director, on-camera acting teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.”
See full bio and articles here!