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Life Isnt a Dress Rehearsal

Jay Forte

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My college roommate was the eldest of 8 children. His mother was one of the wisest people I ever met and though she always had a lot to say, one thing she said has remained with me since the time I met her. She reminded us that “life is not a dress rehearsal. " We have one opportunity to invent the life that is right for us and to consistently live it. We do not have yesterday to live again, so life is not to be practiced; it is to be lived. There is no better wish by parents for their children: “find your role, live your role and love your life. "

Even though there is no truer message, I find in my years of teaching and traveling that most people are either unaware of the choices they have in life, or unwilling to step up and own them. Most people look for others to tell them how to live their life, what they should be, who they should marry, what hobbies they should have. In short, we seem to want and need others to tell us how to make it through each day.

Imagine instead, just for a moment, that your life is really up to you. Image that you have a voice in how you should live, who you should befriend, where you should live and what you do for work. Imagine that every day is to be celebrated because we don't know if the next one is coming and we don't know when it comes what it will bring. So to live the life we should live, we need to consider four things: choice, imagination, passion and ownership.


Our life is up to us. A perspective I heard a number of years ago stated that we arrive on the planet “empty and meaningless. " That means that we arrive with an unwritten book and it is up to us (and the true value of life) is in the story we write. Our books are the sum of the choices we make about life - but most importantly it shows that we have a choice. We can choose to be happy or miserable. We can choose to live with people that love us or those that mistreat us. We can choose to focus on health or do unhealthy things to our bodies and minds. We can choose to fill out books with fun, laughter and great times. . . or not.

Today, see that you have choice. Choose to spend time with people who make life great for you. Choose to live healthy and contribute great value to the world in which you live. Life isn't a dress rehearsal so choose your best life performance today.


After choice comes a look at imagination. Since we can choose, let's choose big. Depending on your believe system, we are here only once. If this is to be the performance of all performances (life), then shouldn't it be the most exciting and imaginative one possible? If life could be ordinary or extraordinary, why not invent and live an extraordinary one? And that means a reconnection to your imagination.

Our brain loves patterns - doing the same things over and over. It can perform the best this way but then life becomes stale. Most lives can be represented by the phrase we use at the coffee shop - “the usual. " So it takes work to fight physiology and challenge our brain's love of pattern thinking. What if, instead, you did the unusual? What if during the day, you select three things and do them differently. Drive to work on a different route - what could you see? Make dinner for friends from scratch if you don't normally cook - what would it feel like? Bring in omelets instead of donuts to a meeting - what reaction would you get? Dress up whenever others are dressing casual - what statement would you make? The list is endless. If the only difference between ordinary and EXTRAordinary is a little “extra, " then what “little extra" will you imagine and put into place to enhance the quality of your life and the lives of others? Life isn't a dress rehearsal so imagine your best life performance today.


We have choices, particularly when we use our imagination. But what really creates an extraordinary life - a full performance life - is a life lived with passion. This starts with identifying the things that you are passionate about. It could be music, writing, gardening or cooking. It could be raising a family, running a company or speaking to an audience. We have the choice to find our passions. We have the ability to invent a role for our passions. And the happiest people are those who live their passions everyday. The sailor who loses track of time sailing along the bay and the runner who runs without regard to time, caught in the euphoria of each step. Or the writer who spends hours wrapped into the plot of a new novel or the gardener who installs the floodlights to light the garden to be able to continue gardening after dark. Passion. The things we love to do. Shouldn't life be filled with passionate moments? Life isn't a dress rehearsal so be passionate about your best life performance today.


Your life is your life. You own it. You own your feelings, your responses and your approach to life. Things affect us -some are more controllable than others. But our response is always up to us. We decide our reactions, our choices, our imagination and our passion. And it is up to us to blend these into creating an extraordinary life.

Many people are quick to point a finger at others as either inhibiting or limiting their lives. They look back on their lives and have many regrets, all attributable to others. Today is the day to step up and own the great life you have been given. Today is the day to create it in the way you want it to be. Today is the day to realize that you come this way once. Remember this life is supposed to be great; life is supposed to be extraordinary. And if it is less than extraordinary, it has been our choice to let it be that.

So, life is not a dress rehearsal. We have the tools to make this the most amazing performance. I don't know about you, but when my time comes to move on, I want my friends and family give me a standing ovation on my life's performance. . . for the difference I made, for the passion I lived and for the lives I touched. And I know that this is my choice. What life do you choose?

Jay Forte is a powerful performance speaker, consultant, author and founder of Humanetrics, LLC. He works with managers who want to be more successful in activating and inspiring exceptional employee performance, to significantly drive customer loyalty and improve company profitability. Jay, a CPA/financial executive turned educator, turned consultant, is renowned for producing significant results. He is a highly engaging speaker and is working on an upcoming book “Sparks! Fire Up Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition; How to Invite, Incite and Ignite Performance" For information on keynotes, seminars and consulting, or to see the daily “BLOGucation, " visit: or call: 401-338-3505.


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