Several years ago, I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long while. He had just turned eighty. His mind was as sharp as ever—witty, inquisitive, and focused. He was also a great listener. When he did speak, wisdom dripped from his lips.
At a point of genuine humility but deep uncertainty he asked me, “Michael, do you think I have anything left to contribute? Are my best days over?” Tears welled up in his eyes.
I admit, his question caught me off-guard. I thought to myself, Here I am with one of the wisest men I have ever met. He is a living treasure. I would pay for the privilege of sitting at his feet and listening to his stories. And he is asking me whether or not he has anything left to contribute?
I was flabbergasted.
I leaned in, grasped his hand with mine, and said, “Jimmy, listen to me carefully: your best days are ahead of you. I am not saying this just because I like you—and I do like you—but because it is the truth. I can prove it to you.”
I then began to make an argument that I first learned in The Noticer by Andy Andrews. In chapter six, Jones, the personification of wisdom, makes six points to Willow, a seventy-six-year-old lady, who had given up hope that she had anything left to contribute:
- God has a purpose for every single person.
- You won’t die until that purpose is fulfilled.
- If you are still alive, then you haven’t completed what you were put on earth to do.
- If you haven’t completed what you were put on earth to do, then your very purpose hasn’t been fulfilled.
- If your purpose hasn’t been fulfilled, then the most important part of your life is still ahead.
- You have yet to make your most important contribution.
Jones goes on to say,
If the most important part of your life is ahead of you, then even during the worst times, one can be assured that there is more laughter ahead, more success to look forward to, more children to teach and help, more friends to touch and influence. There is proof of hope . . . for more.
My friend, Jimmy, sat back in his chair and was silent for a full minute. I could tell he was taking it all in. Finally, he said, “Then I better get busy. It sounds like I have a lot of work to do.”
You may be old. You may be sick. You may be divorced. Your kids may not be speaking to you. You may be out of work. You may be broke. You may be discouraged.
But you’re not dead yet.
And that’s proof that you still have not completed what you were put on earth to do.