There is a point in life that the conversation among friends turns to, “If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?” The stock answer is normally, “Nothing. I would do it all again…” But inside, we sometimes think of the failures and mistakes that we have made, the choices that didn’t quite turn out like we planned, and think, “Yea, I would have done things differently, for sure.”
But would you?
Personally, I have made some bone-headed choices in my life. I have made mistakes that literally changed my life. I have tried and failed. There were times when I didn’t take full advantages of opportunities that were laid at my feet. And I have suffered because of them, and have caused suffering for others around me. So these are the things that, if given the chance, should be on the list to re-live and do better.
Not me, though. When I say that I would change nothing, I mean it. Masochistic? No, but let me explain.
In elementary school, I had to learn times tables, long division and diagraming sentences. I didn’t enjoy any of that, and I made plenty of mistakes. I failed tests, got less-than-wonderful grades, and even had to repeat assignments to “get it right.” I eventually learned those tasks, transferred that knowledge to other things, and found success.
In life, you make mistakes. Things don’t work out like you want. Your choices go the wrong way. We don’t necessarily get “grades,” but if you did, there would be a few failing marks in there. But even though you fail, you learn. You learn what not to do. Your next choice is better and you avoid those costly mistakes. And eventually, the long division works out and you succeed.
I’ve been told to put the mistakes and failures behind me, but that to me is bad advice. Don’t dwell on them, but remember them. Use what you learned for the next project, the next decision, the next problem. Keep reminding yourself what is important and why you are pursuing this particular line. Then succeed.
At one point I was working a job where there was a change in the leadership. I was told, “give him two years and see what happens.” I did, and I decided to change jobs. That job was different, more difficult, and only lasted seven years. However, I was able to travel all over the U.S., Canada, the Islands, and Europe. I did consulting work in Moscow and South America. I met a lot of wonderful people, learned a lot, and made some lifelong friendships. It changed me, and changed me for the better. Without that change in my life, my life would have been very different. Oh, yea, also know that I got fired from that job after seven years. It was ugly and disappointing. But I survived and was better for it.
Life is a journey, they say. Make the most of what happens. Enjoy. And if the world doesn’t cooperate sometimes, no problem. Learn, adapt, survive.
And laugh once in a while. I laugh at myself – and I give myself a lot of material.