Why getting a gun to your head is the best thing that can happen to you

December 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

At the bottom of this post I embedded one of my favorite Fight Club scenes where Tyler Durden uses death as a motivator as part of his human sacrifice project.

The last few weeks I’ve been rereading the books that have had the largest impact on my way of thinking – and found that a lot of them discuss the importance of realizing that you could be dead soon in order to start living true to yourself. I wrote about six people who used this technique to create remarkable lives here some months ago.

Below there’s some passages that I’ve passed through recently on the subject.
Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations says the following:

Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.

Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?

Malcolm X in his autobiography:

Anything I do today, I regard as urgent. No man is given but so much time to accomplish whatever is his life’s work.


He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. But he who knows that this was the condition laid down for him at the moment of his conception will live on those terms, and at the same time he will guarantee with a similar strength of mind that no events take him by surprise. For by foreseeing anything that can happen, as though it will happen, he will soften the onslaught of all his troubles, which present no surprises to those who are ready and waiting for them, but fall heavily on those who are careless in the expectation that all will be well. There is disease, imprisonment, disaster, fire: none of these is unexpected – I did know in what riotous company Nature had enclosed me.


And Nassim Taleb on not using death as a motivator:

For so many, instead of looking for “cause of death” when they expire, we should be looking for “cause of life” when they are still around.

Here’s the scene in the Fight Club paragraph in the book, below you find the scene in the film:

Listen, now, you’re going to die, Ray-mond K. K. K. Hessel, tonight. You might die in one second or in one hour, you decide. So lie to me. Tell me the first thing off the top of your head. Make something up. I don’t give a shit. I have the gun.

Fill in the blank. What does [Raymond Hessel] want to be when he grows up?

Go home, you said, you just wanted to go home, please.

No shit, I said. But after that, how did you want to spend your life? If you could be anything in the world?

Make something up.
You didn’t know.
Then you’re dead right now, I said. I said, now turn your head.

Death to commence in 10… 9… 8… .
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club (Chapter 20)



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