A week before my sister-in-law turned 50 years old, her daughters (my nieces), surprised her with what they'd gotten her for the big five-oh.
"We're taking you skydiving," the girls excitedly told her.
"Skydiving?!" their mother asked. "Why would I go skydiving?"
"Because if you don't do it now," they countered, "you'll never do it."
The kids knew what they were talking about. Their mom was about to enter a new chapter of her life, and they wanted to remind her that age is just a number. And guess what? They all went skydiving on her fiftieth birthday. They boarded a plane. They jumped from its door. And they all soared... including the birthday girl!
I love that story because it so perfectly captures everything I believe about life. Why should we pin ourselves behind our desks, or chained to our mortgages, or even tucked into bed and hiding from the world when there's always a giant blue sky to sail through. It doesn't matter where you are in life, or what your age is, or if you're going through a job-switch, or even if you're dealing with a crisis -- like a divorce -- that sky is always up there.
There are so many people -- too many people, actually -- who tell us, "Face the facts -- you can't do that!" or "You can't have that" or, worst of all, "You shouldn't try that?" My philosophy is simply, "Never face the facts. Because if you face the facts, you'll never get out of bed in the morning."
I continue to be inspired by those who venture into the unknown, fight back against their fears, and don't spend an ounce of thought on how someone else might be judging them. Whether you know it or not, these heroes are all around us. Like Japan's Tamae Watanabe, who at 63 became the oldest woman to scale Mount Everest, then repeated that remarkable feat at 73. Or Bobbie Weiner, who, divorced and broke at 46, parlayed her natural talent for cosmetics into a blazing career as a Hollywood makeup artist, including work on the blockbuster Titanic. Or Tennessee native, Joel Alsup, 32, who lost his arm to cancer at the age of seven, fought back and, today, plays golf one-handed, and has become a fundraising athlete and employee of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the hospital that saved his life.
And then, of course, there are those familiar faces who continue to astound us, each in their own way. Like 41st President George H. W. Bush, who parachuted from an airplane on his 75th and 80th birthday, and plans to do it again on his 90th. And white-hot comedian and Daily Show regular Lewis Black, who'd spent years screaming at the world as a playwright, and then at age 50, began screaming into a TV camera and instantly shot to stardom.
These are the people who continue to prove to me -- and, I hope, to you -- that each day is a new adventure, and it's up to us to write our own storyline. Or, as Groucho Marx once said (so perfectly, of course), "I intend to live forever -- or die trying!"
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