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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

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Thursday, December 09, 2010
The Courage to Act Immediately

An excerpt from The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher:

“So ask yourself the question: If I were to die tomorrow, what would I do with the last hours of my life? Would I agree to go on being a shadow of my true self, lacking in self-respect, forcing myself to do something I hate? Imagine you invite a friend over to your house to help you do some chores. Would you give the dirtiest ones to your friend? Of course not. So why force on yourself tasks that you find so degrading? Why be your own worst enemy? Why not become your own best friend?”

There was a moment of silence, and then the old millionaire asked the young man directly. “And what would you do if you were to die tomorrow? Would you do exactly what you’ve been doing?”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“Now, consider the following observation. Don’t you find it highly presumptuous to believe that you won’t die tomorrow?”

The young man felt troubled. The old man had often displayed an uncanny ability to see into the future — was he now announcing his imminent death? The millionaire seemed to read his thoughts.

“Don’t worry,” he said, obviously amused, “you’re not going to die tomorrow. You’ll live to a ripe old age. But allow me to pursue my line of reasoning. Don’t you find it presumptuous of people to believe that they always have their entire lives ahead of them? In many cases, death strikes out of the blue. But people create the illusion that they have lots of time ahead of them, and they constantly put off the decisions they should make. They tell themselves: ‘I’ve got time. I’ll get down to business later.’ Then old age arrives and they find they haven’t done anything yet.”

“It reminds me of a saying I heard: ‘If youth only knew, if old age only could,’ ” said the young man.

“Exactly! The secret of happiness, therefore, is to live as if each day was your last. And to live each day to the fullest by doing what you want to do. What you would do if your hours were numbered. Because, realistically, they are. We always seem to realize this when there’s very little time left. Then it’s too late. So you must be courageous enough to act immediately. Live with this thought in mind: I refuse to die without having had the courage to do what I wanted to do. I don’t want to die with the appalling thought that society tricked me, that it got the better of me and annihilated my dreams. You must not die with the dreadful feeling that your fears were greater than your dreams and that you never discovered what you really enjoy. You must know how to dare.”

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Excerpted from The Instant Millionaire: A Tale of Wisdom and Wealth © 1990 by Mark Fisher. Printed with permission from New World Library.


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