Thoughts by Bruno Bernardino

Not dying sets us up for failure

A quick thought experiment on focus

February, 2015

I think it’s undeniable the effect a deadline can have on us. The power that focus generates gets us to do things we otherwise perceived as impossible.

Why don’t we instinctively have that focus?

Why do we need to set a deadline?

We don’t have enough deadlines

Because we only die once, it’s hard for us to learn and appreciate the value of the limited period of time we’re alive.

We always think of death as something that will happen very late from now, hence not a real deadline.

A lot of people talk about how knowing they will die soon (like with a cancer or something similar) puts life in perspective and they change everything. They become more focused. They stop procrastinating. Because now, there’s a “real” deadline.

So, not dying sets us up for failure, in the sense that we only really achieve that level of focus and productivity when we know we’re dying soon.

Could we fix that?

I don’t know.


When I was around 10 I used to think that by the time I was 40 someone would have come up with a way for humanity to achieve immortality or something close to it (like living 500–1000 years, given the current life expectancy).

Not dying, however, would create many logistics and ethical problems. We’ve seen some of those mentioned on Elysium or In Time.

While I love the idea of having more time to learn and experience more things, it could very probably make life more dull, as without a deadline, we’d just procrastinate more, most likely.

Alternatively, it could also create a situation where most people have mastered many things, effectively raising the bar and making 200 years not enough to go through “school”.

Doesn’t seem like it could work out well.

Frequent death-scares

Believing you’re going to die a in 2–3 months a few times year or so could get us all a bit more focused.

It could also make things more chaotic, as some people would have the tendency to simply not pay their bills, go crazy on credit cards believing they won’t need to pay the bills (or rely on insurance to do so), etc.

I’m assuming it would be really believing you’d die, otherwise we’d just get used to the regular death notices and start living “normally”.

How to get focused, then?

What I do and believe achieves great results is setting goals for short deadlines.

Really short. Like today. It’s fine and useful to set something for the week and month, but today’s gotta be really well defined, so you don’t procrastinate.

Also, don’t be too ambitious. If you want to do a month’s worth of work in a day, you will just disappoint yourself.

Try it out and let me know if something else works best for you!

Bruno Bernardino

Written by Bruno Bernardino.
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