Jim Nolan was my best friend from college. He died in his early fifties from cancer of the esophagus. Jim was a dear friend and the two of us shared many experiences that brought us closer. We graduated from the same civil Engineering Class at the University of Colorado and moved together to Los Angeles to work for the same engineering company. Within a year, we returned to Colorado to work for another. After several years, Jim left the company to work for the Colorado Department of Transportation. I followed him there six months later. We even moved to the same neighborhood and carpooled to work.

Jim and I deliberately intertwined our lives. When we didn’t see each other at work, we arranged to have lunch, dinner or play basketball or tennis together. During one of our visits, Jim started complaining that he had no appetite and had begun losing weight. In a matter of months, he had lost over forty pounds before he finally went to the doctor. By then it was too late, the cancer was ravaging his body. The doctor gave him three months to get his affairs in order. He barely made the three months before he transcended to his new life.

The knowledge of his impending death was a gift for Jim. It caused him to reflect on his life. I spent time with him during this period and we discussed many of his ideas for his next phase. It was during one of these conversations that we touched on the subject of what he would do over if he could, Jim gifted me with one of the greatest statements I ever heard. It is still one of the most important principles in my life. Jim said,

“If God allowed every human being to sit around a giant table, put their bag of problems in front of them and be allowed to trade theirs for that of another, they would just pick up their own bag and go back home to continue dealing with their lives.”

Would you be a movie star, a famous athlete, the CEO of a giant corporation?

Look around you, there is none like you, no one interprets and deciphers issues in the same way you do. For you, there is only your truth. This is what Jim was trying to tell me; all lives are an experiment. You cannot replace another in their life; your path is yours alone and so is theirs.

Even if you could trade places with anyone, you would change it to fit you. You would not interpret the coming events in the same manner they would.

I believe we are spiritual beings evolving from our human experience. Therefore, it is important we accept that our life is our customized curriculum. We could never trade with another, nor would we want to do so. The challenges and experiences in someone’s life were meant for them.

I realize some lives appear to have it better than others, but that is an illusion. That is what Jim was trying to point out, everybody has problems and traumas that they must conquer on the way to discovering their authentic self.

Worldly influences

There are experts about life everywhere. Many have much to teach us by their example. But they cannot guarantee the same results for you. They don’t possess your background, experiences and influences. It is smart to seek advice from others you deem more knowledgeable, but you cannot turn your power over to them. When you do, you begin to live your life for them and that will separate you from your true self.


You are stuck with the life you have. This is a good thing, for as long as you are breathing, you are evolving. Your life has made you powerful in ways you don’t yet fully understand, but you know you are different and see the world best through your authentic eyes. The next time you find yourself wishing you were someone else, stop, take a deep breath and let the gratitude for your life permeate your entire being. You are a special and precious creature, a Higher Power created you with greatness in mind. This prominence is yours alone and it cannot be measured or judged through the eyes of the rest of the world.

Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with joy and contentment.

Photo by Tijs van Leur on Unsplash