The Death Bed Test

April 17, 2008

When I was 12, I decided in a creepily conscious way to do good things with my life. I reflected on how I wanted to live: I knew I could be a scam artist and a liar. I also knew I could live well, and spread joy. How would I decide which path to take?

That’s when I first came up with a method I use to this very day to make important decisions, especially ones of conscience: the Death Bed Test.

There I was, 12 years old, imagining myself as an ancient man, lying in a hospital bed, with breathing tubes all around me like the plumage of some dystopian mutant. Vague shapes oscillate in my blurred vision that may be my children, their children, and all my friends. I gasp to draw air into my aching lungs. As I lay dying, a distant memory floats into my mind. It’s of myself, only 12 years old, thinking about my future…

Death Bed

The test is this: on my death bed, as I draw my final breath, will I look back at this moment and think “I’m so glad I…” or will I look back with regret and think “I wish I hadn’t…”

That’s how my decision is made: I choose the path I’ll be glad I took when I look back, moments away from the end. This method has a profound effect on my thought process in different ways.

Don’t be a Jerk

It reminds me to treat people with respect, and try to touch their lives in positive ways. It reminds me that even if no one ever finds out that I’ve done something rotten, I will forever know, and I will die with regret in my mind. It guides my actions to be consistently helpful and productive.

Keep Important things Important

It allows me to put decisions in context. If I can’t imagine being concerned about something on my death bed, then I know the decision is trivial and I don’t worry about it. In the same light, it’s a good way to evaluate whether events are important or not.

Grab life by the horns

It also teaches me that I will regret not trying things far more than I’ll regret failing at them. This guides my ballsy approach to relationships, and to business. Who would call their boss’s boss’s boss’s boss to tell them the business isn’t being run properly? A person who knows he would regret it on his death bed if he didn’t try.

Don’t ever regret anything, ever again!

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One Response to “The Death Bed Test”

  1. Aroma Says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this. People need to use this thought process to make decisions. You are true, and very wise beyond your years.


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