What would you do if you knew you were going to Die?

My intention is not to freak you out, make you depressed by asking you ‘What would you do if you knew you were going to Die?”

Why I am asking this question?

I am at a point where I making a big transition in my life by moving back home to Cape Town after being in the UK for 11 years.  And every time I doubt myself I remember what I felt when I was in hospital last year.

Last year I had an ablation on my heart to correct a rare condition called Wolfe Parkinson White Syndrome, commonly known as ‘Sudden Death’.  I am pleased to say that everything went well and the procedure was successful.  However, there was a moment where I was waiting to go into surgery when the reality of death was blatant.  Although the chances of me dying during the procedure were less than 0.6%.  I couldn’t help face the reality that I am mortal and one day I will die.

The day after the procedure was successfully completed I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that one day I am going to die.  And this experience was one of the most valuable I have ever had.  Because I really, I am mean really, started questioning what I was doing with my life.

Steve Jobs said, “Death is very likely to be the single best invention of life because death is life’s change agent”.

He also said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

From that moment on I dedicated my life to doing what I love without compromise and continuously ask myself ‘What am I going to do in this moment now that I know I am going to Die?”.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, or the next week, or next month or perhaps 12 months time.  What would you do differently?  Would you being doing the same work?  How would your relationships change?  What would you do in your spare time?  What would you do in this moment if you knew you were going to Die?”.

Acknowledging that you are mortal will give you the courage to give a stranger a compliment, ask a person out on a date, tell someone that you love them, apologise for something you have done, forgive someone who has done you wrong and make you go on that adventure that you have kept putting off.

After all, you don’t want to be in the moment when you are facing death regretting the things you haven’t done.

The next time you heart tells you to do something and your mind butts in with excuses or fear.  Remember that one day you are going to die.  So, take that leap, follow your heart and do what you would love to do in that moment.  Before it’s too late.

Love and Magic,

Ryan Pinnick

PS: I would love to get your feedback or questions on this article so please leave a comment. Thanks.

12 Responses to “What would you do if you knew you were going to Die?”

  1. Davide De Angelis

    Hi Ryan,

    An excellent article and a powerful reminder that we are here in this amazing, strange, difficult and mysterious life for such a short time….. we never have anything to loose.



  2. Anne Scott

    So true Ryan – as a society we colllude to avoid being reminded of this. It is a greet touchstone to remind ourselves to reveal what we would truly love and also to oriente ourselves when we have stepped across the threshold into the unknown and the craziness of living a life less ordinary. Goodluck bro – looking fwd to seeing you fly in Cape Town!

    • ryanpinnick

      Gosh Anne, if we haven’t been experiencing the unknown over the last few weeks then I don’t know. Loving our adventure and thanks again for your comment.

      Love Ryan

  3. Craig H

    Hell boy… glad to see (a bit belated admittedly!) that you pulled through this….

    Another great article… thanks!
    Agree with all of this although I don’t often enough remember it and act accordingly… too many excuses and too much focus on the irrelevant stuff that is in front of me now.

    I have another thought bouncing around my head recently, and the more I think about it the bigger the impact it is having: “Live you life like you dreams have come true – and let reality catch up with you”.

    Will keep you posted how it turns out over the next few months… it is still early days…

    Guessing it wasn’t an ostrich steak?
    Can’t seem to get that here but Bison is fantastic!

  4. Shaun Lindbergh

    Interesting question, great response to the wake up call. For the first part of this year I meditated on a similar question; If given a choice, what option would I go with?
    >> To live ONE perfect year and then die.
    >> To live the next 20 to 30 years struggling to thrive and then die.
    There is no question in my mind, I would unhesitatingly go with the first option. No doubt.

    But I meditated for months until one morning I woke up with the realisation that it didn’t have to be academic, I could simply choose to live as if I would be dead in a year and see what shows up. And so I planned out ONE perfect year which started on 8 September and counting down to 7 September 2013. That one decision has changed perspective, some things are much more urgent and important while other seemingly important things are no longer urgent. But staying mindful of the value of each day is easier said than done :)

  5. Jesse

    A truly encouraging experience mate and I often find myself asking this question every single day of my life, what if today is my last???. In my line of work I deal with life and death experiences everyday, and the moment when it something happens I often think ‘that could’ve been me’ I have no regrets and I knew what I was doing when I enlisted and if I was to die today or tomorrow I would have lived a full life knowing that I have done everything at 100% and nothing stood in my way of doing what I love doing best even the inevitable fact of death

    J Raymond.

  6. Manuel Rosales

    I am going die soon. I have been dealing with perhaps the worst disease, ALS. My brother died of the disease two years ago. He battled it for 6 long years. I watched him go from a college football player to a man could not even feed himself.

    My wife is in denial and wont do anything different in her life until I receive a diagnosis (a death sentence of 2-3 years). I have always lived life like I was going to die the next day. I escaped a poverty plagued city, attended Whittier College, and then became a teacher a the very high school that I graduated from.

    I am not sure what to feel anymore. I am mostly just mad. I would like to say that I am mad at God, however, I am convinced that the form of God that we humans have created does not exist. Our human religion is a sick joke. I do believe, however, that there is a higher existence that we all return to: the source, sort of like in the Matrix.

    I will continue to live life to the best of my ability, even when I can’t even wipe my own behind. I have two children (10 and 4). I have accomplished a lot, despite my social and cultural challenges.

    You are right, death is a change agent. However, I did not need change. I am an outstanding person. I love my children more than I love myself, I think of others first, and I contribute to society in a positive way.

    • ryanpinnick


      I am really touched by you sharing your story and being so vulnerable. You are a very honourable man and I believe you have a lot more to richness to give and receive in life.

      Much love to you and your family.


  7. Maggie Petry

    Hi Manuel, take heart,dear I can feel your pain,I think that the fact that you have kids and still that young,you worry more about your kids than yourself ,death is envitable,fact is all living creatures are mortal beings we come literally naked on this earth,helpless and depended, we learn, we acquire we adopt,either we are born in riches or poverty,whereas I don,t believe in riches or poverty.Life is what you take it to be,when is a Man considered rich and when is a man considered poor?? We tend to categorize Riches with material things,things that we amass with vigor during out short stay in this Earth, .Even if you can’t, wipe your own behind but at least you can breathe on your own,you can Write and Read, you can see and communicate with your kids.and am sure there’s a lot more you can do,focus on these things and stop blaming God.
    Life is very fragile,it’s like a thin layer of ice underneath our Feet, it can break anytime taking us with it,without prior warning.Nothing is everlasting ,not even our loved ones.chose to live in the moment coz what tomorrow brings,no one knows,don,t waste your short time with bitterness,anger and grudge.
    I wish all the best, make the best of your time with your family,tell them how much you love them.
    Much love to you and your family.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>