This morning I received a message from a man in Pretoria, South Africa. He had found my website and signed up for the Mortality Manifesto. In his message, he said: “the one sentence of the manifesto that really hit home is ‘fear is based on an imagined future…‘. These words brought so many things into perspective for me.”

I love getting messages like that first thing in the morning!

DespairBut then he had a question for me.

“Why, in light of the fact that we will die, does anything we do make any difference?”

Wow. That’s a big question, isn’t it? Especially first thing in the morning. Why does anything we do make any difference?

I think there’s a trap hiding in that question. The trap comes from the scale we use to define “making a difference”. If we think about the global scale, it is very rare for a single individual to do anything that “makes a difference”. If we think about the historical timeline scale, again it’s difficult to “make a difference” that will last for any length of time.

I like to think that the work I do (speaking, writing, coaching) makes a difference. However, if I think about my book or my blog, or any presentation or speech I ever give, will any of these things truly “make a difference” in the world? Will they have an impact on people? Will any of them “make a difference” 10 years from now? 50 years? 100 years?

I refuse to go to the grave without living my life - that is how I make a difference in the world.Instead, I suggest we look at a much, much more personal scale. I choose to do the things I do because these things (no matter how trivial and inconsequential they may seem) are within my power to do. Maybe I’m not able to have a positive impact on the global environment, but I can certainly pick up a piece of litter I find on my street. (And you know something? That one small act will make my street look better, even if I’m the only one who notices. I’ve improved MY environment.) Fundamentally, I do the things I do because they make a difference to ME.

When I decided to become a professional speaker and later to write my first book, I had no idea what difference it would make. I didn’t know if my message would resonate with anyone or not. But I started speaking and writing because I refuse to go to the grave without expressing myself – without sharing the lessons I’ve learned. I refuse to go to the grave without living my life – and THAT is how I make a difference! I do it because it makes a difference to ME.

And if that happens to impact someone in Pretoria, South Africa… that’s a bonus!