This is Miles, my dachshund. This year he will be 18 years old (126 dog years!) A few years ago he had a back surgery. He recovered nicely but lately he’s looking frail again. No one knows how much time is left.

As I look at him, with the sun beaming past his body and lighting his way, I think that we are all like Miles.

When the sun is behind our backs, the shadow faces forward. It is darker because there is no clarity.

The shadow is a signpost of the past and the future.

If we let it, the shadow is the hazy memory of past failures. It could of a reminder of what we could have been but never was because we didn’t make so.

Or, the shadow can be the nascent self, the better self, if we can only get past the opaque outline and the uncertainty of what that self really is when we arrive.

The sun lights the way. Are we using the light to choose our path or are we staring at our shadow?

Whatever you do, don’t stare too long. The shadow will move, with or without you, to create a regrettable past or a unexplored future.

Every second, I am dying.

“There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Forgetting That You’re Dying

A little over a month ago my uncle checked himself into the emergency room. Hours later, he had two stents expanding arteries around his heart. A few days later my aunt, his wife, checked herself in for hypertension.

This whole business of “dying” is no joke. Yet, so much time is wasted on doing non-essential things. Hundreds of flicks and swipes through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the list goes on and on. A dozen or so hours lost each week as brain cells melt away in to the social media abyss. It is so easy for inactivity to be the activity.

I decided that I wasn’t haven’t anymore of it so I devised a mechanism to break myself out of the mind-numbing activity of doing nothing — a little hack to promote activity.

I setup my Due app to go off five times a day at 8 A.M., 12 P.M., 3 P.M. 6 P.M., and 9 P.M. to remind of with a simple message:

“Every second, I am dying.”

Remembering Death Is Near

For about a month now, I’ve had this reminder pop up on my phone, my watch, and my computer. The reminder pops up in the middle of meetings, screencasts, everywhere — it just popped up again (the 9 P.M. reminder) as I am writing this.

The reminder is incredibly effective at breaking through the haze of inactivity and pushes me towards doing something productive or meaningful. What I’ve learned this past month is that it is really easy to let yourself slip into doing nothing.

It’s a bit of a morbid message, but it is the truth. To think that death is happening for me every second is a stronger motivator than thinking that death will eventually come sometime in the future.

This is one hack that I’ll keep until I, um, die.