— Herbert Bayard Swope
— Steve Jobs
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’
And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that you are going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.”
What I love about Feynman was his determination to think for himself and to be honest about his own limitations. In his books, he tells remarkable stories that can help even humanists think like scientists.
When Feynman was young, his wife, Arlene, was dying. Every day, she would send him little gifts at his office to show how much she loved him. Among them were bespoke pencils she’d had made with lettering along the lines of “I LOVE YOU, RICHARD. ARLENE.” (I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like that.) Embarrassed lest his colleagues see these emotional messages on his pencils, Feynman scraped them off with a knife. Soon, the next round of pencils arrived. This time, the message on them read: WHAT DO YOU CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK?” From that, he – and all his readers since then – have learned the importance of disregarding the opinions of others when important matters of the heart (or mind) are at stake.
My other Feynman story involves the time he was asked by the state of California to sit on the committee that approves science textbooks for schoolchildren. He requested a copy of every single book on the list and read each from cover to cover. At the final committee meeting, the other members all said their favorite book was X. To Feynman’s astonishment, they had picked the book with the prettiest cover but without a word of text. It turned out that none of them had even opened the textbook; they liked how the cover looked and picked it as “best” on that basis alone. From that I learned the importance of always reading the source material, rather than relying on someone else’s representation of it. It still amazes me how many people who say “studies have shown that…” have never read the studies they are citing.”