Today I had an epiphany. Oh, and Tim O’Reilly recommended a response of mine. And tweeted it. My ego is still convulsing.
Have you ever heard the sentence: live a life without regrets? Did anyone ever encourage you to just do it, a person pushing you to take a chance on them, because in the end you only regret the chances you didn’t take? Speak now, you always regret what you don’t say.
I wrote about 10% of the paragraph above. The rest is popular wisdom, Nike, Abba, Lewis Carroll, and, of course, Taylor Swift! Regret is definitely a popular thing.
I think regret is a natural result of a lived life.
Because, you see, I think chances are like a bunch of colorful cupcakes.
A life of no regret is made of quick bites of frosting from all the cupcakes.
A regretful life is taking your time with one cupcake, eating it with whole mouth bites, combining the flavor of the frosting with the cake in your mouth, seeing the colors of the sugary aromas mixing in the back of your head, clinging to the distinctively smooth feeling inside your nose, then asking about the recipe and trying to make it at home, failing enough times to eventually make it better than the original. And then going through all that with another cupcake. And then another.
But while you perfect one cupcake in your oven, some of the other cupcakes are gone for good. Other people ate them. Some cupcakes are spoiled by all those living lives of no regret, and now have no frosting. Some are spoiled by the passage of time. You’re left with only the ones you can make on your own.
And you wonder.
Did I choose the right cupcake?
Curiosity is the spearhead of arousal. The farther, sharper, pointier the curiosity, the bigger the arousal and the greater the traction on the release anchor. We are all anchored in our current states, and we go out of our way to conserve this state indefinitely. The longer we stay in one state the more it empowers us. Arousal pulls us from the current state to the next, and release is the disempowering climax of letting go in the journey to the new state. We live la petite mort with every eureka, with every aha, with every ahhhhhh, with every geronimo, and with every deep breath we take before we say the words that choke us.
Regret is the curiosity about the outcome of a negated action.
Wishing to have done something else negates what you actually did, and with the power of our experience we throw the sharp tip of curiosity, into the bottomless well of an alternative future. The more time passes, the more we know about the things we regret. The cool thing about time travel is that you go back, but with your current self, this one who knows better, right? Same thing with thinking back in time and reevaluating options, if you only knew then what you know now. The more you know about the thing you regret, the more inquisitive the curiosity and the bigger the arousal. But because it is in the past, and so far the past is frozen, it is a painful experience. But, stay with me.
Regret is a sign of individuality. Cherish it.
The more regret you can wake inside of you, the more choices you’ve made. The more choices you’ve made, the more you know thyself.
The deeper the regret, the more you’ve learned, because when the regret is ripping through your chest it means the spear of your curiosity is thrown with the precision and force of those who know what they want.
To know what you want is the second best achievement in life. To know who you are is the first.
When regret leads to release, that is when you act on your regret, you won’t travel to a mere new state, you move to a different reality. If you lift the anchor of release because the tension of arousal pulled by regret is too strong to hold back, prepare yourself for everything will change. Just don’t make regret a safety exit from your life. Safety exists lead you to safety, taking action on regrets opens a door with no warning sign. The worst outcome of going through that door is when you step into nowhere, it takes an eternity to get back.
Live a life without regrets?
Maybe. But there is a warning at the beginning of the handbook of the how to life a life with no regrets: shallow waters ahead. When the whole ship of life is sunken in the sandy bottom of experiences close to the shore, no curiosity or arousal will ever lead to a release. There are mysteries awaiting in the deep end.
Just do it?
Our entire human history of building this imaginary world we live in, is based on the fact that we’re better at not doing it, at holding back, at the slow boil of continence, or even the permanent stir of abstinence. There should be an addendum to the slogan, just do it, if you know what you’re doing.
Take a chance on me?
I don’t know. I want you to.
Do you only regret the chances you didn’t take?
I regret a lot more. I regret a lot of pride. I regret a lot of anger. I regret all my blind faith. I instantly regret my labeling of humans. So, level up, there is far more to regret than missed opportunities, which you regret because you probably don’t know that opportunity is when luck meets preparation. Don’t regret things you didn’t control, that’s what blame is for.
Do you regret what you didn’t say?
Some say, a word is dead, when it is said. I say, it just begins to live, that day, said Emily Dickinson. Would you have liked if every single intercourse you’ve had resulted in a child? Every. Single. One.
There is one type of regret to be avoided though. Indecision. Oh yes, there is no such thing as indecision, only decision is a real thing. Indecision is a wrong name given to regret when it is projected into the future. Avoid future regret, make a choice and run with it, because like the song says, your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else’s.
Love me, I dare you,
P.S. 1 It is worth noting that chances of your choices are like everybody else’s, not your circumstances, not your starting position, nor your experience, therefore it is a bad idea to choose things because other people have chosen them, simply because while you enjoy the same odds for an outcome, you might not enjoy the outcome itself.
P.S. 2 Paralysis by analysis is not indecision. Analysis paralysis is simply what you get when you try to take a decision you cannot afford, it is the future’s way of saying: insufficient funds.