Progeria is a rare genetic disorder that affects the nucleus of a person’s cells. This results in severe cardiovascular complications, and individuals with this disease typically die before they turn twenty years old.

This does not stop people with this disorder from living full lives, however. There are many notable people with progeria, among them is Sam Berns. In his TEDx talk, Sam shared his philosophy on how to live a happy life, which are:

  • Focus on the things you’re good at, not on the things you cannot do
  • Surround yourself with the people in your life that you love and want to be around
  • Keep moving forward
  • Never miss a party

You can watch his full presentation in the video below:

Focus on the things you’re good at

There is a good reason why Sam put this at the top of his list. Progeria is a debilitating disease that severely limits what a person can do. When you get sick with the flu, it feels terrible just laying in bed and not having the strength to do the things you wanted. Imagine having these limitations from the moment you are conscious until the rest of your life!

Sam mentioned that he had moments when he felt bad, as is natural for a human. But in general, he lived a full and happy life despite his condition. The key is what most of us healthy people (including me) miss: to not focus on what you are lacking.

Not on the things you cannot do

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I am focusing too much on what I cannot do, what I lack, and what I miss out on. As a result, this made me envious, bitter and resentful. All this negativity in spite of the success and growth that have been given to me through the years.

Thus Sam’s first point slapped me back to my senses. I have been constantly looking outward. Always seeing the things that other people do, what other people have, and what they experience. In the end, it serves me nothing as it only made me blind to the gifts and blessings around me.

Now the flowers in your garden
They don’t smell so sweet, so sweet
Maybe you’ve forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet

“Learn to Be Still” by Eagles

Sam enjoyed music and percussion but he was so frail that he cannot lift a snare drum. His legs are so weak he cannot march in a band. But instead of drowning in self-pity, he asked help from others and was given a drum that he can carry. Instead of dwelling on the fact that he cannot do something, he focused on the things that he can still do and enjoy like listening to music and reading comics.


In one scene from the series Honey and Clover, Hagumi, a prodigy artist, is pondering about the time it takes to bring art into the world. She is struggling with the fact that to complete an artistic piece, the artist had to exert tremendous effort.

She wanted to create a lot of things and open all the boxes, but paused when she saw the horizon.

Just opening one box took a lot of time and effort to finish. And to realize that there are boxes out there as far as the eye can see just cements the fact that you will not live long enough to even glimpse at most of them.

Back in 2015, I was knee-deep in the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) movement. I read books, consumed lots of podcasts, wrote articles, and discussed the concept of financial independence to my peers. Almost a decade later, I came to realize that early retirement is a remote possibility for me (for various reasons).

Even after decades of doing boxing, I am still not good at it. No matter how hard I train, I will never be a pro boxer. Nor any professional athlete for that matter. That box is out of my reach and will never be opened.

Cherish the boxes you opened

No one, even if you work as hard as you can, can go beyond their lifespan. There is a hard limit on the time we are allowed to move, to experience, to explore new things. This should not make us bitter, as this limitation has its own gift: to prevent us from diluting our happiness and excitement. Knowing that we cannot open all of the boxes in our lifetime makes us appreciate more what we have.

In terms of career, I am probably one of the lucky minority who love their job. Web development has been my interest since I first knew the internet, and there are no signs of me stopping in this field.

And even though I will not achieve financial independence, I have the luxury of being able to work from home for more than a decade now. This opened up a lot of time and freedom to work around my schedule. It allowed me to spend more time with my family, especially my daughter.

Be happy for others when you see them open their boxes, but be happier that you have opened yours.

You do not mourn about the boxes that you are not able to open, but you celebrate the ones that you can.

Photo by Roma Kaiuk on Unsplash

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