Joe has another special segment for us today. He’s talking to us about how he keeps death reminders around to help him focus on what’s really important in life, and how that has helped his real estate investing. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, I’ve got a special segment for you, and every now and then I’ll be doing these special segments when I come across something that I learn in my entrepreneurial journey and I think it will be helpful for you as well… So I hope you enjoy this episode, and more importantly, I hope you get some value from it that you can then apply to your life.
The outcome of today’s episode is to show how focusing and incorporating death and death reminders into my regular life helps me be more effective as a real estate investor, as well as being more focused on the moments that are truly going to matter to me throughout my life, and ultimately what else is there that’s more important than focusing on those moments, as long as those are empowering moments for myself and others… So that’s the outcome for our conversation.
Where this is coming from is very recently I got an e-mail from the Dean of the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. He said, “You’ve been nominated and voted in as outstanding alumnus for Texas Tech University College of Media and Communication.” I said, “That’s amazing!” I’ve been looking forward to this; for about 10 years I’ve been on the board and I’ve attended the ceremony at every one of those years. During the board meeting, that same weekend, there’s a ceremony for people who are being inducted into the group… And I said, “I’m very much looking forward to this!” and I said “What weekend is it again?” and he mentioned in the e-mail “November 3rd.” And I thought, “Oh, doggies…! November 12th is when Colleen, my wife, is due to give birth to our baby girl that we’re having, our first kid… And that’s kind of close, cutting it close…
We live in Cincinnati, therefore Colleen is giving birth in Cincinnati, and this award ceremony is November 3rd, nine days prior to when she’s due, in Lubbock, Texas. There’s a conflict there. But I thought I could do both. I thought “Hey, there’s a nine-day difference, and it’s okay if I need to hop back as quick as possible to get back to Cincinnati if something were to come early…” So I said, “You know what, dean, I’m likely in, but on the off-chance that Colleen is giving birth, then obviously I’m not gonna attend” and he said “Fine.”
Well, last night at [1:45] AM I’m reading a book called “Not Fade Away” by Peter Barton. I highly recommend the book, and I’ll give some other recommendations on death in a little bit… I highly recommend this book. Basically, the book’s about Peter, who is a successful entrepreneur; he was diagnosed with cancer at around the age of like 45, ended up passing away at the age of 51, and he brought in someone to write about his experiences as he was leading up to his death, since he had terminal cancer…
This book is not a book on his career, but rather how he internalizes what is going on, what’s important to him, and ultimately the purpose of the book is to simply document his experiences for others who are facing that type of experience with death, or just need to have a reminder to live fully, which is what it did for me…
And in the book, the passage I was reading last night, he talks about one of his most cherished memories – being there with his wife as she was giving birth, each of the three times that they had a kid. He would cut the umbilical cord, he had a shirt as a tradition that he wore, and he loved it. And it showed through the words that he used, and that was one of the most – if not THE most – precious moment each of those three times.
Immediately after reading that, I e-mail my assistant and I tell her “Please tell the dean, as well as all my family members, that I will not be attending the awards ceremony. It’s too close to when Colleen is supposed to give birth. I will be with her the entire time.”
That is something that absolutely would not have happened, at least that night, last night; maybe I would have eventually figured it out later, but I wouldn’t have made that decision last night if I didn’t read a book about a person dying… And ultimately, that is what I want to mention that I learned through one of the books that I read about death, and I surround myself constantly, as I mentioned earlier, with different things that remind me that my time is limited.
Steve Jobs talks about this in a commencement address to Stanford’s graduating students, and he says “Remembering you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
There are constant reminders I have in my life that remind me to think about the importance of the moment with those around me. And how does this tie back to me as a real estate investor? Oh, it’s super simple. I don’t procrastinate. I’m guilty of it in instances, but by and large, I don’t procrastinate… Because I know that the moment is all I’ve got right now, and hopefully I can string together many more moments in time, but I don’t know. So I take advantage of the moments that I have.
One reminder that I use for this is books, videos and podcasts. A book I recommend is Not Fade Away by Peter Barton. A video I recommend is that commencement address by Steve Jobs to Stanford students; you can find it on YouTube real easy. A podcast I recommend is a podcast that Tim Ferriss did with B.J. Miller, who is a doctor who works with hospice patients. I highly recommend those three things.
Another way I constantly incorporate the living — it’s not necessarily living like today is my last day, because I think that’s kind of ridiculous… Because if I did live every day like it was the last day, I might be running naked on the street right now. Who knows what I’d be doing…? I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it, but I probably wouldn’t be doing this at this moment in time; I’d probably be doing something a little wackier than this. So I don’t live like every day is my last – I think that’s a little silly – but I do live in the moment, and I do focus on being present with those who I care about and I love.
The second way is a death clock that I have. I have a clock that looks like something you’d see at a basketball arena, but instead of a countdown clock for the shot clock, it’s got days, hours, minutes and seconds on it. It’s about four feet long, one foot tall, and about six inches deep, and it’s hanging on my wall. It’s constantly counting down from my 90th birthday to now, so it’s constantly ticking seconds away, minutes away, hours away, days away. When I look at it – it’s to the left of my desk – I can see, and it’s a constant reminder that this moment counts. Be present, do what you need to do that is important.
So having a death clock is important. You can order through Amazon just a countdown clock. I had to get mine custom because I went up to my 90th birthday, and most of them (or anyone I’ve found) didn’t have that. So if you want the company that I ordered from, you can just e-mail infor@JoeFairless.com. I make no money off this, by the way, but it is like $300, so it is an investment… And think about the amount of time that — it could save you time as a result of you paying attention to time, so certainly I think it was worth the $300 investment, but that’s up to you.
The third is I volunteer for hospice, and I meet with patients who are – as doctors say – going to die soon. Those patients, when I speak to them, they focus on the memories they have of their family and of experiences, and there’s no way that I’d intentionally put myself in jeopardy of missing the experience of the birth of my kid; there’s no way. So even though it was nine days away – November 3rd is the awards ceremony in Lubbock, Texas, November 12th is when she’s supposed to give birth. Even though it’s a nine-day difference, absolutely no way I’m gonna put myself in the situation where I could miss that… Because it is possible that I get to Lubbock and then I immediately have to go back because she’s in labor, and then I miss it because the flight’s delayed, or something else. Who knows…? It’s possible.
I’m not gonna put myself in that situation because I know by surrounding myself with death that the important things that we’re gonna remember when we’re taking our last breaths are the time we have with those we love and the moments that we cherish with them, and the experiences that we have.
That’s why I’m so grateful that I’ve got this podcast, that we can share experiences other real estate investors have about what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, because that helps you maximize your time, it helps you get some shortcuts for achieving success, so that you can then spend your time in the way that you want to spend it. That’s why I’m so passionate about this stuff, because ultimately it’s about what you do with your time, and focusing it in the areas that you deem important… And my guess, if it’s like other people who I’ve read about, watched, studied and experienced myself, what you think is most valuable is ultimately going to have to do with some sort of companionship with others: those you love, those who you wanna serve, those in your community etc.
That is how being surrounded by death has allowed me to continually fully live my life. I slip. Of course I slip. I procrastinate. I do things where I’m not always productive or I’m not always putting family first, I’m doing other business things or I’m checking e-mail when I should be focused on a conversation, but I have some safeguards in place to pull me back in and to constantly remind me that it’s the moments with each other and it’s the relationships that I’m likely going to care about at the end, so therefore I’m gonna put more priority on right now.
Thanks for listening. I hope you got a lot of value from it. Talk to you tomorrow