Jim Nolan was my best friend from college. The two of us shared many experiences that nurtured in us a glorious sense of brotherhood. 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 company. After several years, Jim left this company to work for the Colorado Department of Transportation and I followed him there six months later. We even moved to the same neighborhood from where we carpooled to work for decades.

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. One day, during one of our regular get-togethers, Jim started complaining about a lingering loss of appetite and the frightening rapid weight loss that followed.  In a matter of a few weeks, I witnessed my friend lose over forty pounds. Finally, he went to the doctor, but by then it was too late, the doctor diagnosed him with cancer of the esophagus and told my friend it was ravaging his body.

Like a man who just sentenced to death, Jim’s doctor gave him three months to get his affairs in order. He barely made the three months before he transcended to his new life. Jim left us in his early fifties.

The knowledge of his impending death was a gift for Jim and me. 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 talked about 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 the same giant table where they could put their bag of problems in front of them and be allowed to trade these problems for that of another, they would probably 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 unique experiments. You cannot replace another in their life nor they you; 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 growing from our human experience. Therefore, it is logical to me that our life is our customized curriculum. We could never trade it with another, nor would we want to. The challenges and experiences in someone’s life were meant for them to learn and develop.

I realize some lives appear to have it better than others, but that is an illusion. One life is no better or worse than another. Everybody has problems and traumas that they must conquer on the way to discovering their authentic self.

Worldly influences

It is easy to find experts on every sphere of cultural, social, political and economic life. Many have much to teach us by their example. But they cannot guarantee for you the same results. 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 calling.


You are stuck with the life you have. This may not seem like a good thing to you during stressful times, but for as long as you are breathing, you are evolving. Your life has made you powerful in ways you don’t yet fully understand. 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, it cannot be measured or judged through the eyes of the rest of the world.

Photo by Zachary Smith on Unsplash