TED Conversations

Arkady Grudzinsky


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If this were the last day of your life, how would you spend it?

It just occurred to me today that finishing my most urgent project at work wouldn't be on my to do list. I would love to read some thoughts or stories.

...After reading some responses, it seems that most people would do what they always wanted to do and take care of things that they value most. But why wouldn't we do these things in the first place, regardless of how long we have left? I don't mean it as a rhetorical question - it would be interesting to read some thoughts.

Topics: Values

Closing Statement from Arkady Grudzinsky

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in this conversation. Lots of interesting thoughts and perspectives.

Perhaps, most notable conclusions:

1. At the end, we focus on what matters most for us, and for most people it's people we love - most people would spend time with family, friends, write letters, etc.

2. It should not matter whether we live the last day of our life or not. Perhaps, we should just do what we do any other day, like having a cup of nice tea, and enjoy the moment.

It's hard to summarize everything that was said here - worth reading.

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    Jan 30 2013: Just an observation (not surprising, perhaps): it seems, most responses involve spending time with the loved ones. I guess, this is what really matters to most people.

    The company I work for makes semiconductor chips for those devices everyone is crazy about when they are new and forget about them in a couple of months just to get the next one. It's a never-ending chase. Products that seemed exciting 3 years ago are not in production any more. And there is, of course, another "hot", "exciting", and "promising" product in the pipeline. No doubt, it will be forgotten too 3 years from now. I spend, roughly, 1/3 of my life on this stuff...

    When I was in a hospital with my wife when she gave birth to our sons, I envied people who work in the hospital, because what they do, literally, makes a difference between life and death... Weird feeling.
    • Jan 31 2013: I too had a wierd feeling" at a hospital about 7 years ago and it eventually it dawned on me that I had chosen the wrong career path. That I too wanted to have a positive influence during someones struggle with life and death. I eventually gave up my job in Computers to pursue a medical degree.

      So my suggestion to you is to dig deeper into this Weired feeling and to explore what it could mean, it could just be your subconscious giving you hints.

      by the way, i would suggest a book to you, "What should I do with my life" by Po Bronson.
    • Feb 1 2013: Yes, in some fields, products are forgotten faster than in others. But does that mean that short-lived things have no place in our lives? Maybe I used one of your products, who knows! And I built something that was useful to someone for some period of time. I got paid for it, and so did you. In any case, practically all products have their own lifetimes. I bet, even the Eiffel Tower would, one day, have outlived its usefulness, and it will come down.

      Even a cook can look at each burger he made, and say, "with this, I fill one person's stomach". So, why can't you? If no one found the work you do useful, you wouldn't have been paid for it.
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        Feb 1 2013: It's an interesting topic for another conversation - how people look at their occupations and what brings them satisfaction in their job. I can see how filling stomachs or arranging flowers can be a satisfying job.

        Here is an interesting video about "what motivates us": http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc. The speaker says that money work only for physical jobs. People who use creativity and cognitive skills, actually, perform worse when promised large material rewards. They are more motivated by recognition and perfection of their skills.

        As for me, the longer people use something I made, the more satisfying it is to me. In a company I left 6 years ago, I wrote a program for data analysis. I was very surprised to find out recently that people still use it. It amazes me how much hard work and brains go into integrated circuits compared to how cheap they are and how short they are used. Compare this to a paper clip, a zipper, or a light bulb.
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        Feb 1 2013: John and Arkady,
        The question that pops into my mind, based on your comments is...are we doing the work only for someone else? Or are we also enjoying the experience? I agree Arkady...interesting topic for another discussion....how do we perceive our work? I think it is also very relevant to this topic.

        I love what you wrote John..."Even a cook can look at each burger he made, and say, "with this, I fill one person's stomach". "

        How do we move through each and every day of the life experience? I find that enjoying the adventure is very important....for me anyway! I always call my life adventures work/play because I truely enjoy every aspect of it....even the challenges:>)

        I look at everything and everyone as if it is the very first time....with the curiosity of a child. So, yes...that burger I make is filling a person's stomach. The dishes I wash reminds me that I have food....the laundry I do reminds me that I have cloths and a wonderful machine to wash those cloths. I LOVE taking laundry off the line when it has been drying in the fresh breeze and sun....I still notice it, smell it and LOVE it after thousands of times doing the same task. Every single day I walk in the gardens, I realize the wonder and magic of what the gardens produce.....food....beauty....joy....exercize....the wonderful sounds and sights of everything that is happening in the gardens.

        The "jobs" and careers I've had have been VERY educational, and I am grateful for that.....I am grateful that I've been willing and able to really "notice" everyone and everything that has contributed to my life adventure.....grateful every time someone cooks me a hamburger. I take NOTHING for granted, and that is what makes a HUGE difference in the life adventure...in my humble perception and experience:>)

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