Lessons from 1,000 Deaths

Abundance Well-being


Key Point: We can all live a little better by thinking about dying. This weekend I needed a little reminder about death and its wonderful lessons. I was dragging my behind after a very long week, complaining about having to get on a plane and then drive on Sunday to give a speech Monday morning. I seemed to ache all over, and then came a little kick in the behind when listening to a podcast involving Dr. BJ Miller! I’m on the plane writing this and “feeling” a heck of a lot better. I’m grateful for the aches and much, much, much more! 

“At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? And how can knowing this help you live better lives now? ” These were questions posed by Tim Ferries in the wonderful podcast noted above, interviewing Dr. BJ Miller (@zenhospice). BJ is a palliative care physician at Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, where he is deeply committed and involved in how to create a dignified, and graceful end of life. BJ is also a triple amputee, (due to a horrific accident as a sophomore while at Princeton). Miller’s 2015 TED Talk, “Not Whether But How,” is a powerful story and is ranked among the top-15 most viewed TED talks of the year. I encourage you to watch it, and/or listen to the Ferris podcast. He is an expert in death, AND as a result he’s learned how we can dramatically improve our own lives, often with very small changes. Miler has guided or been involved with approximately 1,000 deaths, and he’s observed patterns we can all learn from. One is how any pain is a good sign of being fully alive. (So Lorne… Embrace that pain and be so grateful to be alive). Here is a related “thought to consider,” as noted by Kim Forrester in her article, “Tips for Transformation & Inspiration,” posted in Maria Shriver’s website:

“Death is nothing to fear, and neither is life. Research into the process of dying has revealed one, unwavering detail; the process of passing from this life is a blissful and peaceful experience. In the moment you choose to leave this life, there will be no pain, no sorrow and no trauma; just a complete understanding of all that you have experienced and the vital contribution you have made to this world. Therefore, life is not about being tentative and safe; stepping carefully through your days in order to avoid that dreadful chasm of death. It is about grasping the concept we call life; throwing yourself into this miraculous experience with joyful abandon and with a clear understanding of the incredible gift each and every moment brings.” 

Character Moves:

  1. The small stuff does matter and yet so much of what happens in our life is out of our control. Most often, however, we do have a choice in how we react to how we choose to live. We all know what the ending is. So live!
  1. “Do it now, be kind and give more” is the short form version of The Character Triangle. The research behind promoting the personal power of these combined values was very much influenced by the lessons learned from hospice nurses. BJ Miller’s insights reinforce the Character Triangle and more. Listen to the podcast if you can, and live The Character Triangle  

Feeling the beauty of aches in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I’m not sure I’m out of that stage of “feeling invincible.” I don’t often get sick, I drive pretty well, and in the day-to-day life, I don’t really have to take care of anyone but myself. “Danger” isn’t really something I deal with often. If you think that sounds ignorant, well, so do I. I can’t think like that forever, and it’s probably about time I stop to appreciate the small things a little more. I may not think about death much, but I’d certainly like to think that I enjoy living, but if you can’t appreciate the beauty of “aches” then you’re probably not living to your full potential.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis