John Izzo


The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die


This book is based on interviews with 235 North Americans ages 60-105 who were identified as "wise elders" from 15,000 suggested names. The idea is that if we learn the secrets we can apply and integrate them into our lives. The sooner we discover them, the longer we can lead fulfilling lives. Here are the insights:

  1. REFLECT MORE: Live a Life of Intention
  2. RISK MORE: Live a Life of Courage & Adventure
  3. LOVE MORE: Live a Life of Kindness
  4. ENJOY MORE: Live a Life of Joy
  5. RETURN MORE: Live a Life of Significance

Since our lifespan is limited and unpredictable, there is a sense of urgency. Better to die with fulfilled than with regrets.

We want

  • moments: find happiness, contentment (a "good tired" at the end of the day), joy
  • connection: find meaning, purpose, that our being here mattered

We have unlimited choices in life —> choose wisely (three paths to wisdom)

Secret 1: Be True to Yourself (Follow Your Heart)

What do you do that makes you lose track of time?

  • be true to you
  • live with intention: live on purpose, live awake, live with eyes wide open
  • follow your heart, your true path
  • listen to your heart — it knows what's missing — and act
  • continually examine your life to keep on target
    • reflect more and more often; keep asking if you're following your heart

"You can go far by being yourself." — Jack Welch

reflect on the day

  • did you "win" or "lose"?
  • why?
  • what will you do next time to get better?

We're born to follow a path, not to get to a particular goal.

Secret 2: Leave No Regrets (Take More Risk)

What would you older self advice you to do?

  • don't end your life with "I wish I had…"
  • live with courage, move towards what you want (not away from what you fear)
  • take more risks (especially risks of the heart)
  • we regret what we don't try since "mistakes" teach
    • are shot on goal is never a bad play
  • we can't guarantee success, but we can guarantee failure by not trying
    • we miss every shot we don't take
  • in advance, we can't tell what risks matter

"Every time we play it safe, we move farther away from our truest self." — John Izzo

  • we're planting seeds for future regret

"The greatest fear at the end of life is that you played it safe and did not make any mistakes at all." — Paul, age 76

How To Take More Risk

Imagine the best and worst that could happen

  • generally best > worst
  • be guided by the best, not by fear of the worst

Create a "bucket list" of what you would do if you only had six months to live.

  • heal relationships
  • even the wisest have regrets … don't let them crush you (deal with setbacks)
    • dust yourself off and get back up
  • come to peace with your life

"Choose the path which makes for the best story." — Deena Metzger

Secret 3: Become Love (Be Kind)

// How can you become a loving person? //

  • love is the greatest source of happiness and regret
  • three steps
    1. love yourself (example: use affirmations)
      • feed yourself positive thoughts
    2. act with love to those closest to you
    3. become love in all interactions
  • not about feeling loved but choosing love
  • we have little power to get love but great power over giving love
  • feed yourself positive thoughts (example: The Low Noise Life from Riscario Insider)

Make People a Priority

  • people are often ignored in pursuit of a career
  • don't let anger or the unimportant get in the way
  • be present when you're present

See Others with Kindness

  • be what Zig Ziglar calls a "good finder"

"Do good if you can to every person you meet, but always make sure you do no harm." — Bansi, age 63
(Similar to Google's motto "Do no evil")

Secret 4: Live the Moment

// ??? //

Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day from being realized." — Leo Buscaglia

  • since life moves so fast, get more out of the time you have
  • live fully
  • judge less / live more
  • every day is a great gift (the "precious present")
  • I'm here :) versus I'm here :(
  • the president, not living in the past or the future
    • Dale Carnegie called this living in day-tight compartments
    • Seneca: "Count each day as a separate life."
  • live your life versus planning your life (happy if/when)
  • meditation
    • we have the power to train our mind (takes time and practice)
    • choose contentment and gratitude
  • if something is worth doing, do it with your whole heart

Secret 5: Give More Than You Take

  • In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this is called leaving a legacy
  • make your life matter
  • giving —> Greatest joy
  • we control what we get a (not what we get)
    • kindness, service, love, generosity
  • we rarely know the difference we make in the life of another
  • you can't take it with you, but you can leave it behind
  • lose yourself in something bigger
    • we are connected to something much larger than ourselves (God, human journey, nature)
  • leaving the world better than you found it connects you to the past and future
  • giving more than you take connects you to the larger story where we can lose ourselves and give our lives purpose
  • the happiest people are the least focused on themselves
  • we borrow the world from our ancestors and hold in trust for future generations
    • we see light from stars already extinguished
  • we are the most vulnerable (not the most important) since we depend on so many other living things

wise elders or bitter elders?

  • happy: cry for the world
  • unhappy: cry for themselves (disappointments, regrets)

life expectancy = projected lifespan = "best before" date

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