In her beautiful essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” written when she was only 22, Mareena Keegan wrote:
“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place. It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.”
Bronnie Ware, palliative nurse and author of The Top Five Regrets of The Dying: A Life Transformed by The Dearly Departing, interviewed her dying patients, asking what are your top regrets.
The #1 answer was not living their life, not living the life of their dreams. The patients lived the life of society, culture, expectations, norms… They didn’t live their whole life. Constricted by fear, driven by shame, they lived a sliver of life.
They shrank; they didn’t grow. They didn’t thrive; they survived.
So, if that is the top regret, what we want in life is the opposite, hard as it is to describe, no single word does it, to be fully alive, to live our whole life, the seen and the unseen, the desirable and the undesirable, the sublime and the banal, the practical and the impractical. We want to be fully here when we’re here, not just partially here.
This is not the exception; it’s not just for the Yale grads.
It’s the rule; it’s for all of us.
In a way, we’re all Tolstoy’s Ivan Iylich, who, on his deathbed, said, something like, perhaps I didn’t live as I ought.
If we listen to her dying patients, what we want to say, given a deathbed, is that I was alive when I was alive. I fully showed up. I explored. I didn’t let fear take the wheel. It might have been messy but I was fully alive and that was enough.
The Problem Is That We’re Taking The Wrong Road.
That also has different names. There’s no single word.
Success. Fame. Security. Being perfect. Being respected. Me. Mine.
We take the success highway instead of the being fully alive path.
Our mistake is not living all of life. We live the outside. We live what is in front of us. We don’t play the whole game. Then, on our deathbed, we regret not taking the right road.
Small business is the perfect arena to live the life opposite of regret.
Business, especially small business, can be about more than buisness. It can be about more than what is expected. It’s about living the life of your dreams, beyond societal norms.
Marketing can be about more than making money.
Small business is a path for life, not fear, to take the wheel. It’s a chance to be fully alive and help others be fully alive.
It’s a practice for a larger, more connected, more alive life.
It’s like yoga without those pants.
It’s small business as unusual.
Small business is the intersection of money, the mundane and meaning.
If this feels right and you want to take the road less travelled,
I’ll send you stuff.
We’ll travel together.
That’s what friends are for.