A day to remember

David Niddrie photoPhotograph by David Niddrie

“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”  — Maya Angelou

There’s a certain kind of person who, should he accidentally wander into the self-development section of a bookstore, will recoil like a terrier jolted by the forcefield of a buried electric fence. This guy’s with Seinfeld in his priorities: No hugging, no learning.

I get that, kind of. No one wants to be to be hectored into self-improvement. And true enough, many Big Days are about trying to get better, trying to be better. Either you’re aiming to get a whole boatload of meaningful work work done, or you’re trying to grow and test your limits as a human being.

But there’s another kind of Big Day even Seinfeld could get behind, I think. It’s not “productive” in any professional or even personal sense. It’s just, well, memorable. And sometimes that’s enough.

Think about the month that just passed. How many individual days in it can you remember? Most people can recall about three. The rest chased each other down the drain to oblivion. They happened, they didn’t really register, and now they’re gone.

This factoid is deployed by a young man named Dustin Garis in a memorable TEDx talk — memorable partly because he brought a goat up on stage with him without explanation.

Garis is known for a concept called LifeProfit. It’s a metric he made up. LifeProfit boils down to the ratio of the part of your life that you remember to the part of your life that you don’t. To live a richer existence, in his view, you need more memorable days and fewer unmemorable ones. To have more memorable days, you need to plan to have them. You need a system that forces you to break routine as much as possible on a regular basis.

After Garis did his TED talk, people started contacting him with stories of changes they’d made in their own lives to increase their LifeProfit.

“I learned to roll sushi instead of ordering it,” one reported.

“I went on my first ghost hunt instead of watching them on TV.”

A lot of folks realized that creating memorable days involves flipping the switch from “receive” to “transmit.” It’s about being a verb instead of a noun. LifeProfit is the difference between the cool new thing you could be doing right now verses the safe habitual thing you are doing — which is often just hanging fire while stuff happens to you and around you.

I like that idea of switching from passive to active mode as a matter of habit. And I do think LifeProfit, as a concept, has a fair bit in common with Big Days.

(It also makes me think of the ingenious art project hatched by my friend Jeff Harris, whom I wrote about here.)

The main difference is this:

LifeProfit is driven by novelty. Big Days are driven by intensity. By emotion.

Emotion is the handmaiden of lasting memories. I could choose to disrupt my routine today by doing something novel, like flying a kite at lunch, and that small thing could well boost my mood till nightfall. But a truly memorable day might entail building a kite from scratch and then flying it with my little nephew whom I have travelled by train to see. The real payoff comes from the ambitiousness of the goal, the size of the commitment.

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