If I could do it all again
American humorist Dave Barry said, “You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.” Ouch!
Looking back with regret doesn’t help, looking back to learn does. If I could take my experience and go back to restart my leadership career, I’d be …
… less critical and more affirming. I didn’t realize how easy it is to criticize and how powerful affirmations are.
… less project driven and more people focused. Projects are alluring because they proclaim success. Pouring your life into people is less predictable, less measurable, and yet, more enduring and powerful. “One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them,” Virginia Woolf.
… less eager to offer answers. I knew “too much.”
… less angry. Anger is one pathetic strategy for getting what you want.
… less of a liar and more true to myself. The desire to please others motivated me to hide my true feelings, thoughts, and desires.
… less worried about succeeding and more focused on enjoying.
… a better listener!
… accountable to a coach or mentor.
… kinder and gentler. I hear people saying they don’t regret anything and I think I get that. Regardless, I’m sad I unnecessarily hurt others.
… proactive not reactive.
… a journaler.
Pablo Picasso insightfully said, “Youth has no age.” Even though you can’t take your experience back to your youth, you can bring youth to your experience.
If you could go back to your youth, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Great insight Dan. This post gives us much to think about and challenges our lives. Every sentence is a nugget of truth and an invitation toward change!
Pleasure seeing you. Now, if we can just bring insights from past experience into practice today.
Top of the morning to you,
“Youth has no age”. I strongly agree because it is feeling and feeling never dies. Similarly youth always lives. It is our perception that counts age in number. In fact, age also does not have number. It is what we counts, nothing else. It is the perceived age that really matters. If a person of 25 looks 40, he is 40 and if a person of 40 looks 25, he is 25. In fact, perceived age is closely connected with feeling of youthfulness. More you feel young, less will be perceived age and vice versa.
Maturity does not come with age. Maturity also does not come with experience and exposure. Maturity also does not come with education. Maturity comes with understanding the limitations of human beings, system and environment. It also comes from exposed to odd circumstances and lack of proper support. Maturity also comes when you are exposed to humiliation, criticism and social boycot due to many deep rooted reason and customs. In nutshell, maturity comes from sufferings. circumstances and failures.
If I could go back to my youth, I will make more effort to materialise unfulfilled dreams. I would make full effort to make my parents proud of me and my achievements. I would make more effort to make my society more aware and educated.
Thank you for caring enough to contribute to the conversation.
Your thoughts on maturity are interesting. I hadn’t thought about the roots of maturity in suffering… I’ll add that not everyone suffers well. Some are made bitter, others better.
It sounds like you may be connecting humility with maturity (understanding human limitations) interesting.
On the idea of fulfilling dreams: A local business man recently said if he could go back, he’d start his business sooner. He said, “Why did I wait?”
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
On a similar vein, if I could go back I would focus on being more socially interactive. I was very much a loner in school, which has been a hard habit to break. Not only would it have helped me, but more importantly it would have made me more open to helping others.
I’m printing this one. I’ve been in leadership roles, in charge of millions of dollars worth of equipment and hundreds of people’s lives for years. But I started at a very young age and didn’t always have the guidance of an experience leader/mentor to follow.
I just figured it out as I moved along.
I’m still figuring it out. When I slip into those items listed above, I usually regret it.
The good thing is, I feel like I’m a good student and can learn from others. So I’m going to internalize this as I move ahead along my leadership path. Thank you for your reflection.
I enjoyed this post, and I do find it interesting to juxtapose the feeling many of us have of “I wouldn’t have changed a thing/things happen for a reason” with the idea that things could be different/better if we re-did them with the benefit of our experiences to guide us. That said, I would note two things as among the top things I would do differently:
Managing finances. I grew up as the child of two depression-era parents who did virtually nothing on credit and lived within their means. It wasn’t a “posh” upbringing but we had all of what we needed and a good bit of what we wanted. When I began to use credit, it seemed so manageable and containable. I will spare the LF community the gory details, but a situation that seemed eminently manageable when I was 20 had become an out of control nightmare by the time I was 40, one that left me feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and definitely inhibited my ability to consider the option of being a stay-at-home parent or make a career choice that would result in an earnings decline. There were a couple of pivotal points where this could have been prevented; one of the key ones was when my spouse and I were preparing to get married – we should have covered our values and habits about money a lot more thoroughly than we did. I would ask different, more probing questions of myself and my spouse if I had it to do all over again, and stick to as much of a cash-based existence as possible.
The second is travel. One of my goals for 2010, which has been a bit deferred but WILL happen in 2011 (because I am confirmed on a trip to visit our family’s sponsored child in Guatemala in July 2011), was to use my passport. I remember getting a passport when I was around 20 or so, and assuming that an opportunity to go abroad would present itself. It never did and I was never proactive about it (until now). Seeing other parts of the world makes us better people, better parents, and better leaders – it is so important to understand differences in culture. I am taking my daughter – she won’t be able to say, when she is 46, that she never used her passport!
What would I change if I could do it all over again? I think there are two things: 1) I’d be far less selfish. Most youth are only focused on themselves and sadly I was one of them. I’ve come to realize that I will never impact this world in a positive way if all I think about is myself. 2) I’d strive for excellence in everything. Growing up I was more interested in the things I wanted to do (i.e. I was selfish) and therefore didn’t put much time and effort into the things that didn’t interest me. I constantly had teachers tell me that if I studied I’d get straight A’s, my response was something along the lines of “But if I don’t study I’ll get a B and there’s nothing wrong with a B.” I settled for mediocrity in my grades and in a few other areas of life, which has been a very hard habit to break now that I’m older. If I started with an attitude of excellence I am convinced that I would be much further along in my life goals than I currently am. Fortunately I was smart enough to find a great life coach who has been helping me overcome this obstacle (shout out to Roger Lane, life coach extraordinaire!)
I think the opportunity to mature comes through suffering, circumstances and failures, but it is one’s perseverance towards healing that fosters maturity. It is in reflecting on the age-old question “Why me?” that we begin to understand ourselves and our motivations better. All the more reason to have a mentor or coach as a wise voice in our lives.
I would also add to the list: I would be more about reaching toward the future than holding onto the past… making room for new and yet-to-come/opening myself and my heart to receive change.
I am not sure I am one to look back often. It is most likely a mistake on my side, and I realize it’s important to look back once in a while to learn from your mistakes, but I feel like people’s life is already so swamped with present and future problems to look back at past ones. Perhaps I should find time for that too.
On the other hand, there is always that dynamic — something I call, “The Guy Thing” because I am not so sure that it applies to women — that is known as:
“The Older we get, the Faster we were!”
Sometimes, we do not see too clearly back into the past and the memories get “enhanced” in some ways. Sure, it can be negative enhancement or positive enhancement, but what we remember is not necessarily a clear vision of what happened.
Me, I have four years of college that I would like to do over in some ways. But all in all, not much I would choose to do differently, I guess. We DO have to live in the moment and make decisions spontaneously and all that. Do we always make good decisions? Nope. But we should always be learning from them…
Have fun out there!
Good morning Dan. WOW have you opened up a can of worms for me on a Friday. What would I do different if I could go back in time. Hmmm…..Well let me see how far do I go back? Well in grammar school I would have been a lot less arrogant and less of a “smarty pants.” Grades were never an issue for me, really how many 3rd graders type a 45 page turn paper on the Civil war on his newly gifted Olivetti typewriter. OCD had not been invented yet but I certainly would have been a great case study. I finally learned how to spell TEAM when I reached 8th grade. 🙂 a concept foreign to me until then. Seriously and to summarize, I would find more good than bad in all people, I would be less judgemental of others and in particular myself. I would have been more appreciative contemporaneously of my parents and not twenty years later looking back. The most important thing I would do different is get my priorities right. I recently read a post by Mike from N2Growth that really spun my head around and hit home. I am sure a lot of us have been torn between career, personal development, and family. Well the critical thing I would do different is engage with my family and truly connect with them, which I did not. Being busy bringing home the “bacon” and getting all of the fancy accouterments will never substitute for our most precious commodity, “Our time.” There were just too many track events, birthdays, anniversaries, missed but the ones that really hurt are the times of quiet when there was nothing really special other than yourself and your child, your spouse, your brother , your father etc and it was squandered. I agree with the comments made regarding suffering and maturity. I believe retrospective anguish makes adults of us very quickly. I wished I believed in reincarnation so that some of this “void” could be filled with the hope of revisiting all those lost moments. Well Dan I could go on and on, and like I said a can of worms and my “g” spot and the ying missing from my yang. I will end by saying that I pray and hope that all of this turmoil and pain have made me a better person in a 360 degree way. “Success is only another form of failure if we forget what our priorities are.” (Harry Lloyd) (part of the post from Mike). God bless, Al
Awesome post! I’m always thinking about that. But one thing I know is that the best time to make things work fine is TODAY! Thanks for sharing. Have fun.
I know this sounds corny, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The times I didn’t have it all together provided the opportunities that brought me wisdom. The best leaders are the ones who have experienced failure first-hand. Not those who got lucky for most of the trip.
Thought provoking for sure no matter if one thinks about their personal life or professional life.
On a personal level I would have placed a much higher value on the educational opportunities presented to me.
On a professional level, I would be far more patient and a much better listener.
Have more fun Dan, that’s what I would do. I enjoy having fun and yet at times I find I can get so engrossed that I take myself too seriously. Lighten up as they say, cause it is easy to forget that it is all just a game.
I wouldn’t change a thing. I would hate to miss out on even the worst part of any day I have spent with my friends and associates during the struggle to get to today. I learned something each and every day I spent with them. They were always teaching and I hope I was always listening and learning.