What I learnt from the Happiest Man on Earth
Have you ever wondered what makes for a life well lived? Ever wondered what your contributions should be? What will give you a sense of significance? Ever wondered what will be shared in your eulogy one day?
I have studied world changers and purpose and have been fascinated by what gives people meaning in life for decades. How do you live your life to its fullest capacity so that one day you can look back and be really grateful for your life well lived?
He called himself the happiest man on earth and passed away at the age of 101 on 12 Oct 2021. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they mourn their loss. Today I want to honour Eddie Jaku OAM and reflect on the lessons he taught me. He was an extraordinary thought leader who had overcome a lot in life and it was his perspective that made him exuberant with a zest for life and infectious in kindness, wisdom and grace.
Who wouldn’t like to call themselves the happiest person on earth?
Yet, he survived the horrors and utmost evil of the holocaust, endured torture, concentration camps and lost both his parents at Auschwitz. How can he call himself the happiest man on earth? What was his take on purpose? In an inspiring TEDx Talk in Sydney a couple of years ago he shared about the power of forgiveness:
“I do not hate anyone. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy but will destroy you in the process as well. I am doing everything I can to make the world a better place for everyone and I ask you to do the same.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget. It means freeing ourselves from the poison and realising that we shouldn’t give anyone the power to control our lives.
“Happiness doesn’t fall from the sky – it is in your hands.”
He firmly believed that happiness was good for our health and he attribute his old age to happiness and his positive attitude.
There is no doubt in my mind that living happy in old age is more enjoyable than feeling miserable, full of self pity, bitterness and regret. His is an invitation to let go of any baggage early on to make the most of life.
He reminded us to pause and reflect, enjoy the simple yet valuable things in life like friendships, shared meals, walks and love. His sense of humour was poignant:
“Young people forget to stop – They are constantly running – I am not sure where they are running to?”
Given his age, I can’t tell who he was referring to when he talked about “young” people – but I have a hunch midlife counts as young as he sure described me!
Does happiness mean we always have to be happy? Or is it rather a stance to be fully alive and make the most of every moment?
He acknowledged that there was a time to love and a time to cry.
“Tomorrow will come but first enjoy today.”
And what is the secret to making it through life from someone who has been married for over 72 years?
“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasure. Good times made better and bad times forgotten due to the magic of friendship…”
How do you change the world? Does it need to be an insurmountable task? To Eddie it seemed to be in our hands and an opportunity each one of us has each day:
“I was on the bottom of the pit so if I can make one miserable person smile, I am happy.”
Finally, I felt inspired by his take on leadership, a humble, kind, important and timely reflection on the importance of seeing each other as equal:
“Please do not walk in front of me.
I may not be able to follow.
Please do not walk behind me.
I might not be able to lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
I would like to honour and thank Eddie for his inspiring example and sharing so much perspective on life, love, overcoming even the worst trauma and living your purpose well. The world is a better place because he has lived his life in an extraordinary way. May his legacy never be forgotten!
If you missed his TedxSydney talk you can watch it here
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