I think about my own death quite often. Is this a normal behavior? I have no clue, I've never talked about this with any of you. I know some other people do it. Kevin Kelly keeps a countdown clock with an estimation of his days left on the corner of his home screen. Is this a healthy behavior? I do believe so. On one hand, it certainly helps you gain some perspective on when should you give a shit about something (tip: almost never). On the other hand, it forces you to ask relevant questions.
When I find myself swamped into something I ask: will this outlive me? Is this thing I'm spending time on going to be around when I'm no longer here? It is, obviously, a concern about legacy, about what I'm leaving behind.
When have you felt a sense of contribution? Think about your work. When I see people using a system I helped build 15 years ago, I feel it. When I talk to the people that are today supporting that client I helped on board, I feel it. When I see that pitch book I produced years ago, still being used by the new teams in the job, I feel it. It is that back test that forces me to challenge my own time at work: is this thing I'm working on right now going to be around in 15 years?
When you relentlessly apply that filter, there are things that just do not make the cut. Answering email is one of them. That's why I'm so bad at email today (that, and the fact that I receive around 250 emails per day now). So don't feel bad if you don't get a response, it's just that I think I will die any time soon ;)
You got to be careful though with this approach, because taking a shower wouldn't qualify as a proper activity, so as always a proper balance is due. But the truth is that life gives you plenty of options to spend time on short lived activities, and it is the default behavior to spend all of your time on those. Social networks, reading the news, playing Bouncy Hoops on the iPhone...
And the ultimate test I still struggle with: have I ever done something that will outlive me? The only thing I can come up with is my kids. It's no minor thing, of that I'm sure, but the hard truth is that I've spent 40 years around here and beyond my kids, I'm (still) not leaving anything that will endure when I'm gone. I actually think that these words in the blog are the closest thing to leaving something behind that has some value 40 years from now (for what I need to resolve the persistence problem.)
Now, you can see this as a symptom of the meaninglessness of life, the unbearable lightness of being, or a challenge worth facing for the rest of your time. I'm definitely on option b.
(So don't expect any response to your emails, then...)
See you around next week.
(PS: the more I think about this, the more I realize I should have been an architect)