Stop the madness. Please.

I’ve spoken many times about how the best way to make decisions about how to spend your time is to try to envision what the 100 year-old version of yourself would say.

How would 100 year-old Matt want me to spend this day? This hour? This minute?

I spoke on this topic at a TEDx conference if you’re interested in hearing the complete story:

The problem is that human beings make choices based upon short term pleasure rather than the long term goals we have for ourselves. This can be as simple as the moment we choose to look at our phones instead of watching or playing with our children.

The 100 year-old version of any parent will always regret that you didn’t spend more time with your children, so if you try to keep that 100 year-old version of yourself in your mind’s eye at all times, you’re far more likely to put your phone in your pocket and push your kid on the swings instead or pay attention when she shouts, “Watch this!” for the one millionth time.

The same thing happens when we choose to eat the second cookie even though we’re trying to lose weight. Or when we dream of learning to play the guitar but spend the evening watching television instead of practicing. Or when we fail to pursue a moonshot business idea because we’re afraid to take the first step.

The 100 year-old version of yourself would tell you to avoid the cookie, practice the guitar, and stop being so afraid.

That is how I try to live my life.

And yes, I know it’s not possible to always live this way. I realize that short term pleasure will sometimes defeat long term planning. I also know that there are times in our lives when we need to tell the 100 year-old version of ourselves to shut up because “I want the funnel cake, damn it!”

I also know that I once had a gun pressed against the side of my head and the trigger pulled, so I have an acute understanding of the regret that a person feels when he knows with absolute certainty that his life is about to end. It’s a perspective few people share, and while I wouldn’t wish that experience and all that followed on anyone, I also know that it changed the way I live my life forever.

I lived my life since that day trying to avoid the regret of a life unfulfilled. I adhere to this philosophy with admitted zealotry, but if you can listen to the 100 year-old version of yourself just a little bit, I think your life will be better.

To that end, I present this horrifying statistic of destruction and chaos:

270 million people play Candy Crush every day.
9.2 million of those people spend more than three hours every day playing Candy Crush.

I don’t play video games today, but there was a time in my teens and twenties when I played a lot of video games, and I’m not opposed to spending your time this way as long as you’re playing with friends. Challenging yourself intellectually. Fostering relationships. Making memories.

I have incredibly precious memories of time spent in arcades with friends in my teens and networking pre-Internet desktop computers in my twenties so five guys could play the same game in the same room for an entire weekend.

Those were great days, filled with laughter and camaraderie and competition. I smile when I look back on those days.

Even today, Charlie and I will go to Dave & Busters a few times every year - usually on a rainy day - and have enormous fun playing games together.

I smile when I think of those memories, too.

I’ve never played Candy Crush. I’ve never played a single game on my phone ever, mostly because I know how addictive they are purposefully designed to be. Also because the 100 year-old version of myself tells me that every moment spent playing a mindless video game by myself on my phone is a moment of future regret.

270 million people play Candy Crush every day.

9.2 million people spend more than three hours playing Candy Crush every day.

Can you imagine what these people could be accomplishing with that time if they would just put down their phones and recover those lost hours? Imagine how their lives and maybe even humanity would be better off if they spent that time more productively.

Reading. Writing. Painting. Learning to play a musical instrument or speak a second language. Walking. Volunteering. Sculpting. Gardening. Playing ping pong. Walking the dog. Petting the cat. Registering voters. Talking to a parent on the telephone. Meditating. Swimming.

There are a lot of 100 year-old versions of people - at least 9.2 million of them - screaming at the top of their lungs for these phone zombies to stop wasting their lives on something they will someday most assuredly regret.