How Embracing My Inevitable Death Has Enhanced My Life

Craig Stanland
4 min readApr 11, 2022

I got these tattoo’s a couple of years ago, and I love them.

If you and I were having a conversation, they would be upside down to you and possibly challenging to read, especially since they’re in Latin.

But they’re not for you.

They’re for me. They are my reminders, and this is what they are and why I got them.

Memento Mori:

Remember that you must die/remember you will die.

Amor Fati:

Love of fate/love of one’s fate.

Prison taught me the preciousness of time and how once it’s gone, it’s gone.

I’m forty-eight at the time of writing this piece and I accept that I’m on the back nine of my life.

Which has me thinking about life, goals and regrets. Memento Mori keeps me grounded in that mortality and is a filter I use to take action.

When I was single, I had a crush on someone at the gym.

She was, in my mindset at the time, “out of my league.”

A cheerleader for an NBA team, and an incredible all-around person, I desperately wanted to ask her out but was too afraid to.

After I got the tattoos, I had a chance to ask her out, and I backed down. I was too scared.

Until I looked at my arms, remembered the shortness of life, and said, “Fuck it.”

It was probably not one of my smoothest moments, I stumbled over my words, but she said “yes!”

It didn’t work out, and that doesn’t matter.

I would have regretted not asking her out, and that’s what matters.

It, rightfully, took me years to process being arrested by the FBI, sentenced to prison, losing everything, and the overwhelming shame that led me to plan how I would kill myself.

The idea of loving my experience seemed impossible.

Delivering my TEDx was an inflection point. I was as raw and vulnerable as I could be in that talk.

I spoke about how far shame carried me downriver, how my mind concocted a short film depicting what it would look like to blow my brains…



Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.