Has anyone ever suggested that you think about death to get you motivated to achieve your goals? Did you suddenly imagine someone pointing a gun to your head and saying, “Write the first line of your book, or you die!”? Sadly, this only works for very short-term actions, like opening a safe or handing over the code to your Netflix account. By the way, I don’t know this from experience!

At the recent Speakers Association of Spain TalksX event 2022, where I gave a talk, I met Sébastien Roger de Nuñez (Thought Leadership Academy) who says he challenges potential coaching clients with this question, “You’re dying next week, but you have one last chance to do a talk in public; what would you talk about? Think about that one. Is it useful for you?

One of my favourite TED Talks of all time is Tim Urban’s Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator (for some reason!).

Have you seen that one? I apologise for the spoiler, but he suggests that if you put your whole life (up to 90 years old) in a grid he calls a “Life Calendar”, with each box representing a week of your life you can see how few weeks we actually have left, especially as we get older. And that might cure procrastination. Try it, it’s quite sobering!

In English-speaking countries, we have something called the Bucket List, that is, a list of things we’d like to do before we die, or “kick the bucket”, an idiom meaning to die. Typical things include visiting an amazing place, jumping out of aeroplanes or joining the mile-high club perhaps before you do that, completing a qualification, or … speaking another language fluently!!!

The truth is that for certain goals, the thought of “doing them before I die” is a popular technique used to get you motivated.

It can certainly get you thinking, and is indeed effective to get you started, but you won’t achieve anything without actually putting the action in a calendar and working towards it creating habits and routines and adding a large dose of resilience or “Grit” to quote Angela Duckworth’s book. It’s the same whether you want to complete an MBA, do a TEDx Talk, retire at 60, play the piano or learn a language. No-one can do it for you, but with the right techniques and a coach all of those things become more achievable.

A near-death experience (NBD) can be the eureka moment for many people. Sadly, for me it didn’t work!!

At the end of your life, how do you want to feel when you look back? A quote which helped me do potentially difficult and scary things like jumping out of a plane, getting married, starting Idiomas Advantage and eating snails in Lleida (among other things) ….   is and has been, “You often regret things you haven’t done more than the things that you have.” Or as Mark Twain, the 19th century American author put it,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines!

Below, you can read the poem Instantes, attributed to José Lluis Borges in both Spanish and English. How will you look back on your life at 85?!

So, what do you use to motivate yourself?

 I’m dying to know…

Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida,
en la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido,
de hecho tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
Sería menos higiénico.
Correría más riesgos,
haría más viajes,
contemplaría más atardeceres,
subiría más montañas, nadaría más ríos.
Iría a más lugares adonde nunca he ido,
comería más helados y menos habas,
tendría más problemas reales y menos imaginarios.

Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata
y prolíficamente cada minuto de su vida;
claro que tuve momentos de alegría.
Pero si pudiera volver atrás trataría
de tener solamente buenos momentos.

Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida,
sólo de momentos; no te pierdas el ahora.

Yo era uno de esos que nunca
iban a ninguna parte sin un termómetro,
una bolsa de agua caliente,
un paraguas y un paracaídas;
si pudiera volver a vivir, viajaría más liviano.

Si pudiera volver a vivir
comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios
de la primavera
y seguiría descalzo hasta concluir el otoño.
Daría más vueltas en calesita,
contemplaría más amaneceres,
y jugaría con más niños,
si tuviera otra vez vida por delante.

Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años…
y sé que me estoy muriendo.


Sometimes you just have to go for it. “Just do it”, according to NIKE, “Screw it, let’s do it” as the title of Richard Branson’s book urges us to do, or simply mix the two.

The message is the same; if in doubt, or if you’re thinking twice about something, the advice is to just go ahead and try it. We often hear of people wanting to be absolutely perfect before performing or producing a piece of work, and then endlessly procrastinating, and never getting stuff done.

The above catch phrases may seem trite, but they pack a strong message behind them. Sometimes, you just need to get going. You’ll learn from your mistakes. But, you’ll learn nothing if you do nothing.

You haven’t started that YouTube channel you’ve been planning for two years? Take your mobile, film that footage that you really already know, and upload it.

 You need to speak to your clients, suppliers or international boss in English, but you’ve never dared to, despite investing the last three years in English classes every week, and binge watching those Netflix series, all in their original language version? Contact them and just start speaking. Mistakes aren’t a problem as any polyglot will tell you.

You have a story, a poem or a song you’ve been rehearsing at home that no-one else has ever heard? Step up to the mic and hey, let’s do it! And if it’s in front of other friendly members of Internations in a small venue, even better.

Thanks again to Jamil for organising a great night at the cosy downstairs room at El Paraigua restaurant in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona (02/09/2022). I had great fun listening to the other members and debuting my new song. I look forward to the next one.

For anyone who wants to meet new people and speak English there’s no better association to join in Barcelona.


Do you use a potato peeler for your potatoes, or just a sharp knife? Personally, I prefer a specific peeler, and it can also work great on carrots to prepare your healthy mid-morning snack.

Marketing has given us at least 5 Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, Place and People). Convenience is associated with price, and is an important factor in choice when we decide to buy something; and that’s one of the key reasons for the success on online shopping outlets such as Amazon.

Price is also a key factor, and when I needed to buy the aforementioned kitchen utensil, the Chinese store less than 100 metres from my flat sprang to mind. I chose one that seemed up to its important culinary function, and it was cheap. After 3 months and about 20 potatoes, the blade became lose and then last week, it just broke. There were signs of rust at the joint. I decided to take it back to the shop.

For better or worse, the owner’s teenage son and daughter were behind the counter and set about blaming me for not taking care of it and “What did I expect for what I paid for it.” They didn’t even address me as usted! As my parting shot, I told them I was never coming back there again.

Once I’d calmed down and overcome my indignation, it made me think about what I’d learned from my little crappy potato peeler. Despite the textbook “how not to deal with a customer complaint” treatment, in some ways they were right. If you pay 2 duros for an item, you should go into a transaction knowing what you are buying and lowering your expectations. Your complaint should be based on the price-quality ratio.

Many people still expect to find the utopian quality product at a bargain price. When you buy a low-cost, low-quality product (your perception) you get an immediate feeling of satisfaction, and then later on disappointment. When you buy a more expensive product that you know is good quality, you may feel disappointed in yourself or even guilty at spending so much, but later on, you’re more likely to feel satisfaction. This is obviously a simplification of a topic that hides complex psychology impulses, rationalisations and marketing strategies.

However, your potatoes should provide food for thought, and avoid anger at the friend who smugly reminds you  “I told you so.”  

If you’re learning English, the following phrases may come in handy next time you rationalise your low-cost purchase.

Buy cheap, pay dear (expensive).

You get what you pay for.

Buying cheap is a false economy.

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

En fin, lo barato sale caro.

What do you think?