Death… Our Greatest Teacher

beautiful deathEarlier this week I attended the celebration of life for one of our beloved Realtors, after she lost her battle with cancer late last week. She had a magnetic personality; she was tough, and strong, and tenacious, and kind, and loving, and funny, and fiercely loyal. Her celebration of life was pretty incredible. There were hundreds of people in attendance, which was an absolute testament to her time here on earth.  Her friends and family shared beautiful stories about her last few months – her smile, her gratitude, her grace and strength, her acceptance, and her pride for her son’s strength. It was a beautiful death, surrounded by loved ones. She was so respected and loved by her friends, family, and colleagues.What a legacy to leave.

And there is nothing like death, to teach you about life, is there? Buddha said, “Let death be your greatest teacher.” But what does that mean?  Carpe diem? Live each day like it’s your last? Yes, but that’s almost too simple, too cliche. This cannot be summed up in an inspirational quote on Instagram.

Let’s break this down. The majority of western society fears death (there are endless articles and research about this – just get on the old Googler. I’ll let the professionals handle that conversation). But why is that? My mentor, Gary Keller, once told me that he doesn’t understand the race to accumulate material things. Sure, it’s great to have material possessions, especially if it is something for your family or was a big goal. But do your possessions own you, or do you own your possessions? Are you able to give them away at any moment? Can you give away your possessions or your money without it changing who you are? The reason I mention this is because we as a western society live in immense abundance. Unlike other societies who face death daily, we are rather removed and sheltered from it. These are pretty big generalizations, but they are true. For many of us reading this (and I know this is true in my network), our experience with death only comes a few times throughout our life. Therefore we fear it, avoid it, keep it as far away from us as possible in case it rubs off.

But I believe that we are all spiritual beings having a minor physical experience and that death is our greatest teacher. Why? Because the last time I checked, we were all 0 for 100 in this world. If you embrace death as a inevitable part of your spiritual journey, then you will have no fear about living the biggest life possible.  It’s arrogant to think that we know how long we have on this earth. None of us know when we will take our last breath. Whatever you are doing right now, someone was doing when they left this world. We just never know.

I have a huge sign in my office that says NO LIMITS. NO REGRETS. It is my way of reminding myself to live every day full-out, giving everything I have to myself, my family, and my business. Steve Jobs probably said it best,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Death is a part of life. There is no escaping it. In fact, death is a gift. Why not use that to our advantage? Let’s leverage death in order to live the biggest, most passion-filled, most purposeful, and productive life possible. Thinking about death is not morbid, rather it’s fuel to live each day fully, to stay focused, and in the moment. There is nothing like death to make every action you take purposeful and full of intention. What conversations would you have? What actions would you be taking? Who would you be connecting with? What would you STOP worrying or obsessing about?

Think about it. Most of the stuff you worry about, you worried about the day before and probably the day before that. Are those things really that important? Practice putting things into perspective. You might be having a “bad” day, but how important is it in the grand scheme of life? Will it matter 6 months, a year, 3 years from now? Take a step back. Get into gratitude. And think about the bigger picture. You are above ground and breathing!

live deeplyUse death to your advantage. Remind yourself daily that you will die and that every choice you makes determines what sort of life you’ll have and shapes the legacy you leave. How can you live on the edge in perpetuity? Businesses must constantly disrupt themselves in order to stay competitive. How can you disrupt yourself to continue to grow and live, really LIVE, not just exist, every day?

Leave your thoughts in the comments. This is a topic that will elicit much debate and philosophical conversation, which I wholeheartedly welcome. I’m looking forward to discussing and embracing life and death with you!

The idea that we only live once is false. We only die once. We LIVE every day!


  1. Erich Cuadros

    Love it Adam…..You are alive, aware and able in a world of limitless possibilities. Take a moment to consider what a very good thing you have. With intention, thought and action applied over time, you can bring new richness to your life. If that’s not a miracle, nothing is.Remind yourself of the limitless possibilities in which you’re immersed. Look around, and let yourself be inspired by the Endless beauty of this moment. Feel the purpose and the possibilities that live within you, and commit yourself to expressing them fully and without restraint. This world has its problems, yet amazing beauty exists within an overall context of goodness and abundance. You can tap into that abundance and live that goodness every moment of every day. Open your heart to the abundance, and allow yourself to appreciate how good you have it…..All we have is today….The idea that we only live once is false. We only die once. We LIVE every day! ‪

Leave a Reply