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Hi, it’s Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title, founder of The Titan Academy, and I’m really happy to welcome you to this Mastery Session, because this one is very philosophical. The title of this session is called “Cemetery Walking as a Life Mastery Tool.”
You might have heard I run this event every year called Personal Mastery Academy. People come from around the world. They want to dial in on exponential productivity. They want to learn how to do world-class work. They want to really learn how to own their games within the marketplaces they are involved in. In many ways the people that show up at Personal Mastery Academy also want to learn how to live a life that is beautiful. With that in mind, I want to share a key idea with you, so that you’ll live a life that is not only interesting, that is not only enjoyable, but is actually really fulfilling. That brings me to cemetery walking as a regular routine.
For the past number of years, I’ve been reading obituaries. You might say, “Robin, that’s negative.” I don’t think it’s negative, I think it’s really positive, because I think few things are as powerful to wake you up, to remind you about what’s most important. To fuel your energy. To get you into the game so you’ll let go of your fears and you do what you need to do to get big things done, than connecting to your own mortality. When you realize that every single day could be your last, or when you appreciate that, no matter how long you live, life is a short ride. You just sort of let go of the fears and you let go of the limits and you live full on, and you seize opportunities, and you have real conversations with real people, and you sort of wear your heart on your sleeve, and you bring on the fullness of your authenticity, and you do whatever it takes to get your loftiest dreams to get done.
I read these obituaries and it reminds me about what life is all about, and relatively recently I’ve started walking in cemeteries. I was in Mauritius a little while ago. I don’t know if you’ve been to Mauritius but it’s this paradise on earth. It’s this tiny island about four hours off the coast of Cape Town. I’ve been to Mauritius a number of times. I was there to give a big leadership event, you know, I talked about leading without a title, so it was filled with iconic CEO’s and people running big industries and big companies and entrepreneurs and start-up people, and it was really wonderful. I also took about a week and a half just to refuel, to work on my new book and to reconnect with my values and to set myself up for the coming months.
One of the things I did, was I went for a long walk. I love walking. I find - it’s interesting - I find a lot of the most creative people and most productive people on the planet, they all have one thing in common. They have the routine of walking on a regular basis. I love walking, I’ve walked in nature for many, many years, and so here I am in Mauritius, and I just started walking. I was actually listening to an interview of Charlie Rose and Steve Martin, and it was done in New York in front of an audience of a few thousand people. It was about an hour and a half long. Steve Martin was talking about his career, and Charlie Rose is one of the great interviewers of our time, so he was asking about how he became so good at what he did, and his life, and his love of art and stand-up comedy and acting, I mean, Steve Martin became an actor after a stand-up comedian etc.
I’m walking and the sun is setting. I’m walking along the Indian Ocean, and I’m looking at the flowers, and I get to this little village. It’s this little village with a lot of character. As I’m walking along the edge of the village, still close to the seaside, I spot a cemetery. I’ve learned to follow my instinct more than ever before, because instinct is more powerful than reason. Life will lead you to an interesting place, if you stay with the flow. I walked towards the cemetery and I walked into the cemetery. I started walking through the cemetery very respectfully and carefully. It was interesting to me, because a lot of the tombstones were just made of wood. Somewhat sadly, some of the wooden crosses were actually really, really small, and you could tell that the grave sites were of kids. As I walked through the cemetery I saw these crosses and I saw some tombstones. Some looked very old, a few graves looked fresh. It reminded me really about the shortness of life.
Marcus Aurelius has written one of my favorite books, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Actually he didn’t write it. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and during a long military campaign, in his journal, he wrote his thoughts and his philosophies and someone found those diaries, those journals, and made them into this book called The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. He does talk about the shortness of life and so does Epictetus, and a lot of the great stoic philosophers. Being in this cemetery and walking through it with great delicacy, it reminded me how short life is. It reminded me we all have hopes and dreams and we never know when those dreams are going to get dashed. You never know when our last day will unfold.
Some people will wake up tomorrow morning, they’ll get in their car, they’ll take a shower and they’ll have their coffee. They’ll say goodbye to their loved ones and that will be the last day that their loved ones will ever see them. Some people on the planet, the day after tomorrow, will go into their doctor’s office to get the result of a routine check-up, and the doctor will say, “Sit down, I’ve got some sad news for you.” They’ll be diagnosed with maybe some kind of a terminal illness. Accidents, illness, tragedy, catastrophe, is also reality of humanity.
What I’m suggesting to you is, do whatever it takes to be in the moment, and to stay positive, and to stay on your game, and to optimize your craft, and to spend time with your loved ones, and to take care of your fitness, and to learn something new every day, and to enjoy the beauty of sunsets and star filled nights, and at the same time, as much as possible, please do not lose perspective. Stay connected to your mortality.
Steve Jobs in that famous Stanford speech said it really well, “You are naked. You have nothing to lose.” He learned that when he connected to his cancer. Maybe you will install a ritual once a month on the way home from work, you will pull over to a cemetery and you’ll spend five minutes even, in meditation, looking at the tombstones, looking at the crosses. Studying the graves, or whatever your tradition is, and whatever nation you’re from, because not every tradition, I know, has the grave sites. Sometimes it’s the funeral pyre. Which really reminds me that life is really short, and you never know when your last day is going to be. Just build some kind of a routine to remind you on the shortness of life, so that you tell the people you love how you feel about them, so you write the letters that need to be written and I know people don’t like letters, but writing a letter to someone you need to express forgiveness to, or gratitude to, is really powerful.
Pursue the projects that will allow you to be the legend of your industry. Taste the passions that fuel your joy, and live every day as if it was your last, because we never know when our last day will show up.
Thanks so much for being with me in this Mastery Session.