Living life to the full

Richard Branson, England

Entrepreneur and founder of The Virgin Group.

(Submitted by the author)

Living life to the full is an often-used but misunderstood expression, but one which I truly believe in. To me there is no easy excuse for the words “can’t be done” uttered so often by people who really mean “I don’t want to do it and I don’t want to bother to find out if it can be done”.

We only have one life and I strongly feel that every day that we live is precious time … be it spent with family, friends or working with colleagues, and have always believed that separating the work side of living from the relaxation of recreation, fun and family is too rigid a divide if one wants to be successful in the art of living. I include my family in my work and for that reason I suppose my wife, Joan, has long been my closest advisor and sounding-board about ideas, people and issues that one has to face in daily life. I often take my family with me when I have to travel with my work and they also know many of my colleagues as well. This actually helps to reduce the stress of a fairly hectic schedule and lifestyle.

Being true to one's beliefs and ideas
It is also important to be true to one’s beliefs and ideas, and here is an example: before the last Gulf War I became convinced that someone of the stature of Nelson Mandela might be able to persuade Saddam Hussein to abdicate power if he could be convinced that the U. really would invade, and provide compelling non-political persuasion quietly away from the crescendo rhetoric of both sides as the conflict approached. Saddam promised “the mother of all battles” as the US prepared to “shock and awe” us in front of our TVs. Sadly, the plane was on the runway in South Africa ready to go, but the invasion pipped our “can’t be done” idea to the post.

At least try!
Good has come of that thought and Nelson Mandela has now put together a group of former world leaders and advisors, called The Elders, that I am privileged to support in their mission to be prepared to intervene in situations and world issues without the baggage of entrenched political positions, and so allowing them to work behind the scenes where today’s politicians are unable to. Maybe “it can’t be done” but here is a group that can at least try before it is too late, and that to me is the art of living!

'Treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself'
On a lighter note, we should never forget that the art of living a long and happy life is best achieved by following that old saying, “Treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself.” I think we rarely stop to think about what this really means. I try to never lose my temper, I hate it when people lose theirs with me and it makes you wonder how the angry person screaming at check-in staff or on the end of the phone to a call centre possibly imagines they are achieving more than the calm and friendly voice that explains the problem that needs dealing with.

I would have thought that there is more than enough evidence that aggressive, stressed and angry individuals die younger, to have persuaded them to count to ten before launching on the next hopeless crusade, aimed only at inflicting the same misery on others that they clearly feel themselves.

So the art of living may be as simple as learning to count a few heartbeats of time before turning a thought into speech.

Follow your dreams
I am also a firm believer in praising those around me even when I feel the need to criticise, and I also think people should be encouraged to follow their dreams, even if that entails persuading them to throw themselves into what they do with a positive attitude for now, and to pursue the dream in their spare time.

Delight in life!
Perhaps the art of living is best described by the French philosopher and scientist, Henri Poincaré: “The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.”

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1 comment

Submitted by Ron McElroy on Sun, 10/17/2010 - 03:12.

Amen! Just get up and get after it. If you're good at it and create excess, whatever it is, put that to good use for your less able family, neighbor or worthy cause in your community. Complacency is the wayward side-effect of the American dream that kills the meaning behind it, but that's a whole other rant. Life is precious and short, while you're here for that short time watch less TV, do what you think you should do and look after your family and friends. Oh, yeah, enjoy yourself and kite-surf your balls off. Richard, I'll see you at Necker Island soon. This economy wrecked my kite-surfing fund so maybe next year!! Cheers!

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