Living Forever and Other All-Consuming Pursuits

Bryan Johnson is in his mid-40’s, worth a few hundred million bucks, and spends most of his energy in pursuit of eternal life. The lengths to which he will go include consuming more than 100 pills every day, drinking a smoothie that looks “like the stuff that washes off a duck after an oil spill,” meals consisting of vegetables and lentils “blended until they resemble a mush the color of a sea lion,” and lots of lasers. “Un-dutched” chocolate that “tastes like a foot” counts as an indulgence. This is just the tip of the iceberg–you can read the full Time piece here–and he estimates the full regimen costs him around $2M a year.

Mr. Johnson’s pursuit is in vain, of course, and it’s easy to snicker and cast aspersions. But there are some important lessons to be had.

First, optimization is great . . . to a point. Looking back 20 years, the Time article tells us that Mr. Johnson had a successful business, a wife, and three kids, but “was 50 pounds overweight and miserable.” Though I’m no health expert, I would guess he has received a far bigger return on the investment of his time from improving his mental and physical health than from the time he spends every day under a light-therapy lamp “to reset his circadian rhythm.” At some point, every additional act of optimization yields diminishing returns.

Second, I found myself asking “Why?” and “What?” over and over again as I read the article. Why go to such great lengths? What about his life does he hold so dear? We should all ask ourselves these questions. Your pursuit probably won’t be an eternal earthly life, but it might be a higher income or net worth, a bigger house, fancier car, a vacation home, a more significant title. Goals are important and none of what’s listed is inherently bad, but we should occasionally step back and ask ourselves “Why is this important to me?”, “To what end?”, and “Is there a cost to this?”

I was discussing this with a friend a few days ago and he reminded me of a mutual acquaintance who is a successful lawyer here in Raleigh. About ten years ago the law firm he worked at was acquired. During that process the attorney, in his 30’s at the time, began negotiating with his new employer to work less hours. They couldn’t understand it: “If you work less, we have to pay you less. You know that, right?” He did, and I imagine he got to this point because he wrestled with questions similar to the ones I pose above. Yes, he could make the same income (or more), but he and his family had what they felt was enough. What would the cost of continued long hours be on him and his loved ones? Would more income translate to a more fulfilling life, or was time together more valuable?

The desire to achieve and accomplish is normal and healthy, but it’s important to check in with ourselves from time-to-time. Have we over-optimized? Have our pursuits taken over? Are we keeping “the main thing the main thing,” as Stephen Covey says in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?

Life’s short. Spend it in the pursuit of what truly matters.


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Ryan Smith
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Born and raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts, I moved to Raleigh in 2011 to marry my wife, Emily. We have two kids, Jack and Gwen, a golden retriever named Olly, and are members of Church of the Apostles. I have been a Financial Advisor since 2005 and earned a Master’s of Science in Financial Planning from Bentley University in 2007. I became a CFP® professional in 2009, a Retirement Income Certified Professional® in 2015, and a Certified Tax Specialist™ in 2023.