On a quiet Friday in May 2008, a work colleague, on a whim, decided at lunchtime to buy an extra burger when she visited a certain worldwide fast-food establishment… and not eat it.
It has been kept in its original packaging in a desk drawer for the past 12 years, only brought out occasionally to stun and bemuse people with the bizarre science experiment.
This burger, for the longest time, looked as pristine as the day it was bought. It didn’t smell and although dry to the touch, many people remarked that if it was heated up, some brave soul could probably be dared to eat it.
On its 12th anniversary a couple of weeks back, I realized that this burger has taught me some profound wisdom over the years.
Here are the three life lessons from a 12-year-old burger…
1) The Outside Rarely Reflects the Inside
The 12-year-old burger, at least until it turned ten, looked much the same as the day it was purchased. But inside it was slowly turning to dust. It may have looked fine on the outside but it was really a dry carcass of its former self.
Life Lesson: Be kind.
You don’t know what is going on with other people. They may look okay, but as they say, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. So always, always, always be kind, people. It may be the most composed-looking who is in desperate need of your kindness today.
Being kind doesn’t need to be flashy or extravagant. Smile at a stranger. Listen — really listen — to your children. Pay your coworker an unexpected compliment. And for goodness sake, call your mama.
2) Not Dying is NOT the Same as Truly Living
This burger obviously should have been eaten many years ago on the day it was bought. Instead, it sat around, not being utilized for the very purpose that it was made for. Yes, now it has become a strange oddity in its longevity but there is something poignant about the fact that it was never consumed.
Life Lesson: Find your purpose.
We need to do what we were put on this planet for. As I say in Find Your Purpose in 15 Minutes, you owe it to the world to use up every single tiny ounce of all the resources and riches with which you were so fortunately bestowed to reach your potential, create value and share your gifts with the world. It would be a travesty if you just settled because you thought you didn’t deserve even more from life.
3) Even a 12-Year-Old Burger Eventually Crumbles to Nothing
Unfortunately, due to the current state of the world, access to the burger is difficult so I haven’t had a chance to take an updated photo. But from the look of it, a couple of years ago, the burger was slowly breaking down.
Life Lesson: Don’t take life for granted.
The ageing burger may have kindled this lesson but the global pandemic has fanned its flames. Stop treating life like a dress rehearsal. Grab opportunities. The world has fundamentally changed so what is stopping you from doing something different?
And if you can’t take action on your dreams right now then at least write them down. As Mark Twain (perhaps) said, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
A 12-Year-Old Burger Proverb
A wacky experiment started many years ago has taught me what living — really living — is all about. Three symbolic lessons I have gleaned from a 12-year-old burger are to be kind, find your purpose and to not take life for granted.
As the proverb says — and I am severely paraphrasing here: The best time to buy a burger for science experiment was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.