The YOLO Paradox

You Only Live Once

I’m sure you’ve all had someone remind you of mortality, with the above, as some kind of reason to do something you probably have some good reasons not to.  More recently, your friends may have saved themselves the 3 syllables and shouted YOLO as they downed another shot or shrugged off the good advice that contradicted their next move.

My last post started with the definition of Adventure; I somewhat jokingly commented on the fact that I as a 20 something year old male had a supposed disposition for risky behaviour. That’s more or less generally true for my peers and to a certain extent myself. I often hear “You Only Live Once” touted as a reason for doing something that others may have some reservations about doing. My wife started me thinking about the paradox contained within this common saying – You only live once so don’t let fear stop you from experiencing something, but on the other hand don’t be reckless with your life as it’s the only one you’re getting.



Last weekend I went camping with my son and a friend from work. I didn’t really have the motivation to pack everything in the car for one night and one look at the forecast drowned the last of my desire for pitching a tent – 80% chance of storms on Saturday, 90% chance of storms on Sunday. Seeing as we were only going for the one night I knew I’d be packing up the wet tent in the rain, which meant getting it out again once I got home to dry before the mould set in.

My tent is big though; too big to pitch in my double garage which means waiting for a dry day to set it up to dry and if it didn’t happen in the following 48 hours it was going to be difficult to stop the tent-wrecking-mould forming all over my prized Turbo Tent.

The night before I tried talking my friend out of staying overnight and that a day trip may be less work. He was keen to go camping still. I explained the forecast and my reservations about having to dry the tent once we got home. He was undeterred. I reluctantly packed the tent in the car, hoping that the rain would set in before we were too committed and he’d change his mind. The weather was still hot and dry as we poured ice over the food in the cooler we’d just bought. There’s no pulling out now.

I looked expectantly up at the sky as my colleague deflated his tyres before the 7km trip from White Patch to Poverty Creek camp grounds on Bribie Island. His Nissan X-Trail was the sole vehicle for the weekends trip and we skidded on it’s belly across the sandy inland track to our resting place without issue. In half an hour we’d pitched the tent, gazebo and set up chairs just in time to watch the rain sprinkle in. It started light, slow enough for us to explore the surroundings a little before heading back to shelter, prisoners of the storm which would continue through until morning.

The trip was unremarkable, other than the 4+ inches of rain that soaked the park, save the small patch of ground shaded by the tent. Even the ground underneath the gazebo turned to mud as a stream of water ran under it on it’s way to the Pumicestone Passage. The next morning the rain let up for a couple of hours – long enough for us to pack up without being drenched and for the tent to shed most of the previous night’s tears.

I got the tent mostly dry that afternoon at home and felt reasonably happy with the world. My day could have been a real downer had the rain kept up as forecasted – having to pull down a tent in the rain, everything we’d taken including my guitar and my son soaked and piled into the car, with no way to dry everything at home, etc etc. It turned out ok though and for the most part that’s the way life goes; You take a risk and you make it through ok, a few tales to tell and a working mouth to tell them.

You Only Die Once

There is great positivity in the idea of getting out and doing things that fear would otherwise have you avoid. Almost everyone could use a nudge when it would be easier to do nothing. There is however the potential to use the same logic to rationalise damaging behaviour. You’re only 18 once, live it up, a hangover only lasts a day. What’s one more chocolate bar? I’ll use sun block once I get a tan. We all have to die of something… Sure, but let’s make it count.

The definition of a full life or a meaningless death is subjective, I understand that, so all I am proposing is that we change the saying from YOLO to YODO – You Only Die Once. That way when you justify your decisions to yourself or others you are reminded that the way you live is the way you die. This isn’t meant to sound as morbid as it does – it’s meant to be positive – you only die once so make sure you are dying the death you dream of. If that is base jumping or deep sea diving awesome. If it’s reading books or watching reality TV that’s cool. Make sure you are doing it the best you can though, and don’t settle for easy.

If you like going out and drinking alcohol, make sure you are going to the best club and drinking the best spirits. Don’t shorten your life drinking so many pre mixed sugar drinks you can’t remember how bad they taste, let alone the good times you may or not have had. If you feel like something sweet don’t overwork your pancreas for M&M’s or Mars Bars. If you are going to get Diabetes you want to get it for the best deserts in the world – something like this!

But not this!!!186791

You pretty much want to avoid everything mass produced and instead choose the hand made experience, the things that make you different from everyone else you know. We can all watch Big Brother and tell each other our opinions on who we like or don’t like, but how does that change anything, or make anyone’s life richer? Go and see a Broadway Show and see how it feels to see a real performance by people who have mastered their skills and profession. Tell the world about that and you’ll feel how special it is to have be one of the exclusive few to actually see a performance first hand, and to have experienced it sitting in an amazing building next 500 others experiencing it with you.


I’ve gone on enough for one night. Go out and live the way you want but make sure it’s worth dying for. Scream YODO next time you knowingly do something that shortens your experience on earth because there is no sadness in dying having lived the life you wanted to, but there is no greater waste than leaving here having wanted something and substituted mediocrity.


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