Not Dead vs. Truly Alive

“When it came to growing up with concentration camp survivors,” Esther began.

“There were always two types of people. Those who were not dead

…and those who were truly alive.”

Not Dead vs. Truly Alive

I’ll get back to Esther in a second, but first…

It’s time to do an inventory of your current-day life. Yep, intervention time. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle (or will I?).

If you were to look at your life right now, which category do fall into: Truly Alive or NotDead?

Some questions to do an honest assessment:

  1. “Kid-on-Christmas-morning” type excitement: When you look out 3-6 months, what’s on your horizon that sparks unbridled excitement? I mean “kid on Christmas morning” (or insert holiday of your denomination) type of excitement.
  1. A little bit of puke in your throat: What decision have you made in the last 90 days (or one you’ll have to make in the next 90) that makes just a little bit of vomit bubble up because it confronts a fear, represents a significant shift or there’s a risk of failing?
  1. Adventure on the horizon: Do you have a trip or experience planned that you’ve never been to/done before, where there may be a bit of mystery in the process and whose outcome is uncertain?

You’re smart enough to know how this goes. If you couldn’t put a check next to these 3 questions, then you ain’t living in that Truly Alive camp…

Wait, Who’s Esther and Why Should I Care?

I spent the last week in Ibiza, Spain at the Afest conference – actually, it was less a conference than a foundation-shaking experience – on Love and Relationships.

Esther Perel, the #1 world renowned therapist and authority on relationships, took our breath away for 3 consecutive days.

If you’re unfamiliar with her work, the NY Times has called her the most important and influential relationships expert since Dr. Ruth. Her TED talks have accumulated over 18M views and her book Mating in Captivity is an international best-seller (and quite frankly changed my life with respect to building attraction in my relationships).

In other words, she’s kind of a big deal.

Esther Perel grew up in Antwerp, Belgium in a community of concentration camp survivors, including her mother and father. In that community, you had two types of survivors:

  1. Those who were not dead.
  2. Those who were truly alive.

There were those who had physically survived the horrors but so deeply wounded that they would never fully recover.

And yet there were others who had survived the same horrors, but managed to emerge with a new vibrancy on the other side…

Cultivating “Aliveness”

When asked what evidence showed up for those who were truly alive, Perel mentioned two things:

  1. Their ability to TAKE RISKS
  2. Their ability to PLAY

Taking Risks: Some survivors had lost so much that they clung to what little they had left for fear of losing anything more. Because of this constriction, they narrowed their prospects for future growth, opportunity and possibility.

Yet the Truly Alive survivors saw their new life and decided to play a new and bigger game. They took risks, experienced wins and losses, grew in the process and ultimately took full command of their lives.

Play: Some survivors had witnessed such tragedy that lightness, laughter and play had been buried along with their loved ones.

The Truly Alive survivors found a way to heal through telling stories, laughing, injecting lightness and levity into their daily actions (even work!)


What We Can Learn

As a speaker and coach, I work with many of you who are so successful yet desperately clinging to the life you possess for fear of losing anything (no matter how temporary that loss may be).

And in the process, you’ve wrung out any semblance of play and fun in your daily life.

Go back to the 3 questions above. For any of the 3 you didn’t get a check, ask yourself:

  • What could I do right now to turn this into a check?
  • What one thing have I been avoiding because it’s too scary/expensive/uncertain where I can finally take action?
  • Who else in my life do I need to get on board for this?

Pack your bags. It’s time to move from the Not Dead camp.

Truly Alive awaits.



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