Warning: What you are about to read is extremely personal and challenging to write and share, but I felt strongly compelled to do so. Reading this may forever change you. (But that’s a good thing.)

Most scary stories are a metaphor for the problems facing society. They are told to force us to confront our fears and pay attention to ideas we might rather ignore. By challenging our preconceptions, they shock us out of our complacency and encourage us to follow our instincts and make wise choices. The scary story you are about to read is no different, except for one thing…

It’s 100% true.

Let’s begin.

It wasn’t a dark and rainy night. There was no campfire or spooky sounds emanating from a surrounding forest. It was just another day in New Orleans, with me sitting quietly next to my mom in her bright sunlit room while she took turns napping, chatting with me, and working on her crossword puzzles.

Not the typical setup for a scary story. And yet, here it is. The one-sentence horror story my mom uttered to me as clear as a bell on what turned out to be one of her last days conscious…

“I wasted my life.”

I can still feel the painful sting of those words piercing my soul. How was I supposed to respond?

My inner child felt crushed that raising me didn’t make her feel completely fulfilled. And my adult self, who was struggling at the time to figure out the next right step in my own life, empathized with her completely.

I cannot imagine a more terrifying scenario than being on your deathbed and looking back on your life and feeling that you wasted ALL OF IT.

I asked my mom to elaborate, and we discussed it for some time. This conversation turned out to be the last (and most powerful) lesson my mom would ever teach me. Her life was a cautionary tale, and I vowed not to make the same mistakes she did.

Look at the photo above; that’s my mom at age 24 months. She was a child full of potential who grew into a brilliant and charming woman who was well-read and knowledgeable about a large range of topics. And yet, she still had that heartbreaking deathbed confession.

This is what I learned from my mom’s life experience:

• Do not let fear hold you back from trying new things. Trying new things is the spice of life.

• Boredom is a product of not taking risks. The more new things you try, the more passions you will develop.

• You are the designer of your life. Don’t live according to other people’s rules, demands, or expectations. If you do, you will never be happy.

• Do not aim for perfection because you will never achieve it. Instead, focus on making progress and enjoying the process.

• Do not compare yourself to others. Their values, talent, skills, and purpose are not yours. Only compare yourself with who you were yesterday.

If you have any questions about putting these life lessons into practice, please email me. I want to help you so that one day many, many years from now, you will be able to proudly say, “I lived a very full life of my own design.”