I've noticed that a lot of times when I do something and I wonder for a moment if it was the best choice or not, I tend to come to the conclusion that I don't regret it, so it must be good. For example, I was debating whether a week or so of sharply diminished productivity was an acceptable cost to go hike around the mountains in Peru.
My first instinct, with the Peru situation, amongst aothers, is to say, "Well, I had an awesome time, learned some good stuff, and had a great experience, so it was the right decision." But does that actually really mean that it was a good decision?
I'm really happy with my life and what I'm doing, so therefore I don't regret any decision I've made. The implication is that even though I didn't make every decision absolutely correctly, everything worked out for the best. To support this idea, I can think of one cool thing that happened, or one really great person I met, and work backwards through the improbable series of choices I made that led me there.
The more I think about it, the less stock I put into these sorts of thought patterns. Rather than reflecting the objective reality of decisions, I think that they reflect my optimistic nature. Really bad things can happen to me, and I'm still happy. Some circuit in my brain finds happiness and then weaves all past events into a narrative that supports that happiness: "If I didn't have hundreds of thousands of gambling profits stolen, I wouldn't have become a writer and put out a few books. Therefore I'm glad that I lost that money."
So although I think that this thinking is the result of a really healthy and good mental attitude, it's important to separate the gratitude and acceptance of events from the objective truth of them. It's better to say that I'm not glad that I lost all that money, but I'm still happy, unphased, and ready to push forward undeterred.
Why does this matter? Because if I look at the past through rose-tinted glasses, I'm not very likely to learn from my mistakes. In fact, I'm not very likely to even acknowledge them as mistakes. Coming back to the Peru example, I think that a really clear way to look at it is to say that I had an amazing time in Peru, I'm grateful for all that I gained by going, but that probably those benefits aren't enough to justify taking trips like that while my attention is needed by SETT. That doesn't diminish my happiness or experiences, but it does prepare me better for making similar decisions in the future.
Photo is a classic example of a mountainselfie from the hike in question.
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Meh, I don't ever think there's a reason to think over past events and debate the merits of choices internally. That will just get you more into your mind and not able to respond to the present. Whatever happened, happened and its one's choice to accept it and surrender to whom you are. We are not our past choices, but the sad truth is vast majority of us live in our past conditionings because we can't accept that this or that which didn't turn out the way we liked. I think we should all devote a period of our day to quiet reflection and watching our thoughts so that the stresses and tensions of our decisions don't accumlate and we end up truly trapped. Beating ourselves up, however, won't get us anywhere.
That is a very good and often overlooked point: In essence, you are talking about the difference between "good" and "optimal" - as well as framing mistakes as "learning experiences." I find a problem with your extreme focus on work, to the exclusion of traveling and other fun things, however. I understand that work is fun for you, as it is for me. However, ask yourself how you will feel at 70 or 80, if all you have to look back upon are a series of days where you are working nonstop on SETT or another project. A more balanced approach to life, more varied experiences, will probably reduce the chances of you regretting things at that point.
This sounds similar to my present philosophy on regret.
About a year ago, I made a Facebook post, stating that after that particular night, I could leave my three year stint in South Korea with no regrets. The reason I wrote it was actually fairly trivial: That night I had hung out with a female friend I had once been interested in, but hadn't seen in nearly a year because she'd gone to Australia. Naturally, I was happy to see her again, and we had a fun night out on the town. However, I ultimately came to the conclusion that while she was a cool gal, she wasn't "the one" for me.
More than that, I realized that though I had met/dated some cool girls in the country, I didn't feel like I was leaving any "open doors" behind. I think most young, single guys have felt this at some point; the "if I had only tried harder, I could have dated 'so and so'" feeling. I'd felt it in the past, but this time? Nada.
So anyway, when I got home, I wrote on my Facebook wall, "After tonight, I can leave Korea with no regrets."
I had meant it in a narrow sense, but obviously people reading it couldn't know that. A while later, a friend asked me, "Hey Henry, you're really leaving with no regrets?"
Hearing that made me think about what the words I wrote actually meant. And after giving it some thought, I told him that yes, I was leaving Korea with no regrets. Why? Because even if I made mistakes, and even if I didn't do all the things I planned to do, I was happy with the present. And if my past choices led to that result, then why should I have any regrets?
Since then, I've done my best to live with "no regrets," and I gotta say, so far so good. Do I think it's possible to truly live with zero regrets? Probably not, given how deeply the concept is woven into our cultural fabric; trying to rid myself of all regret would be like trying to rid myself of the English language - not possible. But simply being aware of the concept has really done wonders.
Is the contrapositive also true? If I deeply regret something, does that make it wrong? I'm full of regrets, at least some of which I'm sure are irrational.
I think that regret is a useless emotion. I put it in the same category as jealousy and anger (or any other emotion which is an emotional response that can't improve the situation it's responding to). The focus should always be on the process, not on the outcome. Really the only use for the past is to think of it as a series of experiments and glean what you can from the outcome, whether it was good or bad.
If you regret something in the past, I'd say one of the following is true: a) You made the wrong choice and are making things worse by regretting it or b) You made the right choice, had a bad outcome (like taking a "good" risk that didn't work out), and are still making things worse by regretting it.
Not sure if this answers your question. If not... maybe a specific example would be interesting to talk about.
Good point. I tend to think the same way. Such as: If it hadn't been for all the horrible, inept bosses I've worked for, I wouldn't have realised that I could do a better job and found the courage to set up my own business. But you're totally right. Obviously I'm not glad that I've worked for lots of difficult bosses, I'm grateful for what I learned from the experience. Two very different things. :o)
Life is much more complex than just a series of binary choices, and without a flux capacitor, we'll never truly know if decision A will be better than decision B. Maybe it's a little optimistic, but I feel that every decision we make is the right decision -- and here's the key -- at that exact moment. Otherwise why would we have made it? Sure, looking back it's easy to assess all of the factors that you now can fully understand, but at the time, you didn't have all of those factors to base your decisions on, you had to make a decision based on the information you did have. And that's where the learning process comes into play. 'Oh, so steam coming from a pot on a stove is actually an indicator of a heat that will burn my hand. Now I understand that.' Unless you're Leonard Shelby (Memento) and can't make memories, I don't think we can help but learn from all life experiences. And those lessons learned get recycled and factored into the next decision we're presented with. Hence the saying, hindsight is 20/20.
It's well documented that taking breaks from work can increase productivity. Do you think that sub-consciously your passion for Sett was factored into the decision to go to Peru as way to actually increase productivity and prevent burnout?
Some little voice inside you told you to go- call it a sixth sense-conversely if you reached an age that prevented the experience that perhaps would be cause for regret.
I'm intrigued by the "hundreds of thousands of gambling profits stolen" observation. Example or something that really happened? If so, what's the story, if you don't mind talking about it...
A couple months ago I was minding my own business, reading a book, about to go to sleep. I give twitter one last check on my phone and see a message from my friend Jenna telling me of a deal to go to Lima, Peru for $380 round trip. I have no particular reason to go to Peru, but I decide to start booking it and make the decision as I go through the steps. The deal is about to go-- it's disappearing from different booking sites one by one. Hey, might as well go, I think. For how long? Well, I can't think of anything off the top of my head in Peru besides Machu Picchu (which I already decided I had to see before I died), so I play it safe and book eight days, figuring that will give me enough time for Machu Picchu and maybe one or two other things.
After booking, I begin to do a little research. The thing to do is the Inca trail, which is a four day hike from the Cusco area to Machu Picchu. You have to go with a tour group, and you have to book far in advance. I booked too late for that. The standard alternative is the Salkantay trek, which is typically a five day trek. It's harder than Inca and has better natural scenery, but no ruins along the way and doesn't lead directly to Machu Picchu like Inca does. I try to find a good tour group going there, but none of the published dates fit into my short window in Peru. Fine, I think, I'll just go solo.
I order a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and mattress pad, and that's the extent of my planning for over a month. With a week before I leave, I figure I ought to see if I need train or bus tickets. That's when I learn that Cusco is almost 24 hours away from Lima by bus, and that getting to the trail from Cusco takes several hours as well. Long story short, it looks impossible for me to Salkantay. But I've had it in my head for a month now that I'm going to do it, so I don't give up easily. Finally I find a way I can take a bus to Arequipa near the end, and then take a flight from there to Lima just in time to catch my flight. The problem is that this leaves me only about 3 days to do the trek, and less than 24 hours to acclimatize.
A week later, my trip begins. I'm overjoyed when my tent stakes make it through TSA security. Actually getting to the hiking trail is contingent on several fairly unlikely assumptions, the first of which is that the titanium stakes will make it through. The flight to Lima is long, but I somehow manage to get an exit row seat to Panama, and a whole row to myself to Lima. I get the best plane sleep I've ever had.
Play to Win - First off, its important that I look at life like a game. When I look at it like a game, I am able to objectify it and limit the impact my emotions have on the decisions I make. When I look at life as serious, and making mistakes as terrifying, I become nervous, anxiety ridden and always looking over my shoulder. When I look at it as a game, I look for ways to "game the system". By that, I mean that I look for the most effective ways to do something and give them a shot. A majority of the time, these ideas don't turn out as planned, or fail even if they do turn out as planned. When I played tribal wars, the first step to winning was learning how to play the game. Learning how to break out of conventional norms and expand my horizons. This also meant doing the exact opposite of what I had been doing. Effort and trying hard doesn't mean a thing if your doing the wrong things or going in the wrong direction. The next thing I learned is that it is A LOT of work to be the best, you need a whole lot of luck on your side and even then, your still 95% likely to fail. And that saying on top is nearly impossible. In the initial stages, I worked far harder than any of my other teammates, I had focused rules and regulations that dictated my actions and did my best to stay under the radar and not get noticed. This is the point where luck came into the equation to a large extent. I had built only offensive units and was nearly 100% open to attack. It is a paradox that at the times that I am the strongest and in the most powerful position, they are also the times that I'm the weakest and most venerable to attack. All that I really had to protect me was appearances and whatever bluffs I could manage. The second part of the luck equation was my surrounding environment. To start off with, I had a strong tribe with me to help me in my conquest. The second was that I had a non tribe member who was a solid player and had invested a lot of time and energy into building up some plump villages that were ripe for the taking. The more I look back, the more I attribute my success to good luck and my failures to lack of skill, effort and time, coupled with burnout. It takes a lot of effort to get to the top of the top, but I've learned to be careful and heed the warning of the tortoise and the hair. Natural ability and skill won't out last persistence and determination. I believe that those, regardless of skill, with the burning fire in their bellies will always come out the victors of the war.
Internal Locus of Control - The importance of an undying fire in the belly in unquestionable, but the question becomes, what is fuelling that fire. Is it the desires of friends, family, and society, or does it come from deep within. Would you follow this path no matter the thoughts and opinions of anyone else. This is an aspect that I've been slowly developing, and that I don't believe you ever finish developing. For me, it started off with taking control of my emotions. I used to put my emotional hot buttons out where everyone could see them and push them. This caused particular problems in past relationships. I didn't look at myself as an independent person anymore, and felt I needed their approval and acceptance to be a complete person. Looking back I realize how that creates a lose lose situation for everyone involved. Today it drives me crazy when people look to me for their self esteem. Not so much in a way that it bugs me, but more just seeing how silly the situation is and the pain of seeing my past and current self in their actions. After I took back control of my emotions, I was able to create my own independent prospective of my life and the things that I wanted to do. I feel this is really where I learn from my mistakes, but also appreciate the importance of taking action. When I followed advice of others in the past, I didn't take credit for both its successes and its failures. Now I do what I do to simply learn and experience the consequences of my actions. No one knows better than me how many mistakes I make, but I love them all in their own little way. Each has their own value and lesson packed into them. Each time that I take a step back to analysis my mistakes, I learn a little bit more about myself and who I am. My favourite learning process is going to the extremes in a category of my life, experiences and then determining my preferences. Looking back at leaving all my stuff at my apartment, I don't regret my choice because of what its taught me. But its also made me realize that being a complete hardcore minimalist might not be exactly what I want. But after voluntarily experiencing the extremes, I have a much better idea of what it is that I want and that which provides value to me. One of my favourite parts about minimalism is the removal of the excess. I learned to question the possessions in my life, how critical are they, what would happen if I didn't have them anymore. I learned that I might miss something here or there, but for the most part, I have ready access to anything that I really want or need.
Focus - While focus is a double edged blade, I have found it to be a tremendously important tool. I feel like I have a natural ability to focus really intensely on things that I get really interested in. When I first heard a tape about real estate investing, everything really clicked for me. That one drive out to Vulcan sparked a journey that I'd best describe as lifelong mastery. I devoured books on the subject for months. Then moved onto experiencing it for myself. I learned to cut what didn't work and stick with what did. I then developed the fortitude to let my investment grow on its own. I then began to count my chickens before they hatched, which was quite the mistake. I took the prospective that its better to live for today and worry/plan for the future as it comes. I look at this as taking my eye off the ball. I then realized that my financial area of my life really needed my focus again. I think I've done a pretty good job of simplifying and getting down to the basics of whats really important. The lessons I've learned are well worth the cost. I've also realized that skills don't always transfer. I know a very specific skill of buying and holding physical silver in small denominations. That doesn't mean I know what will happen with the bond market, the stock market, or even the silver market. Everyday I learn, everyday the market works to find my weaknesses and use them against me. The best solution I've come up for this problem is the internal locus of control. I love my silver just the way it is, it doesn't need to do anything for me to be happy with it. And even if I lost it, I realize that its not that big of a deal. The learning experience I received is a far greater value than its nominal worth. To be honest, I'm really just trying to game the system. Practice new methods of playing the game, see which works out best, and even just gain some prospective by playing the game for an extended period of time. I love having a longterm time horizon, and I believe its the key reason why I have been successful in the market where others haven't. I'd be perfectly content to hold onto my silver until I die, and passing it on to my children and grandchildren. With that prospective, drops in price have a minimal impact on my emotions. And at times, I even embrace it because it allows me to stack even more metal.
Delayed Gratification - I believe the key features to delayed gratification is a longterm prospective and accepting everything as it is, not needing change. When I enter into relationships now, I first make sure that I'm happy with and can fully accept both myself and the other person fully and completely, just the way they are right now. I understand it is likely that one or both of us will change as time passes, but that change isn't a requirement or expectation. Nobody is perfect, and I know how far from perfect I am, and that I will never become perfect. My only real objective is to walk the path. The path is never ending. While there are forks in the road and different destinations to reach, following the path is the only thing that is truly important. I believe this prospective ties in with having a longterm prospective. I look at relationships and everything else in my life as learning experiences. I don't enter into a relationship believe that she is the one and only girl, I look at her as the perfect girl for right here and right now. That's all we really have. I would never take a girl who might be perfect for what I imagine my future self to be, but she isn't perfect for my current self. It creates the requirement of change, which I believe creates unhappiness. Honestly ties in very nicely here. I don't censor what I say so that I don't hurt feeling or pretend to be someone I'm not. I'd much rather tell a girl the truth as I see it, have her flip out on me and leave, then to lie and pretend that we are right for each. This type of honesty can create short term pain, but I believe it prevents future pain. I find it interesting how much all these different traits or principles tie into each. Its really difficult if not impossible to have one really nailed down, but not the other. They are all interrelated, and as you integrate one feature, the others will be affected as well.