I have the pleasure of interviewing people about their life for a job. Trust me that I know that I am one lucky SOB. I get to ask people about their childhood and adolescence, about memories of love and loss, what scared them, and what they were most proud about. Before we wrap up, I throw out the big bombs, but only after we’re both comfortable talking to each other. The answers to these questions stick with me because they are the ones with lessons to impart.
What’s something that you’d do differently?
It’s a gentler way of asking about regret. Regret is a strong word. Many of us don’t want to admit to them or have made peace with those areas of our lives that we once felt shame about. But if we’re being honest, most of us might do something differently if given the chance.
A big reason for telling and preserving your (or your parent's) life story is to encourage understanding and impart some wisdom. There are so many lessons hidden in the lives of the people that come before us! That's why I ask these tough questions. We all make mistakes, but what good are they if we don’t try to put the lessons out in the open?
So, what's their answer? Time and time again, I hear, “I wish I hadn’t worked so much.” I hear this A LOT, especially from fathers and grandfathers who felt it was their role to work hard and provide. Their stories of perseverance, persistence, career growth and success came at a price. Many missed out on their children’s lives: the dance recitals, the baseball games, the science fairs, even just running around in the backyard because they were working towards a promotion, a bonus, a paycheck. These are moments that we can’t get back, even if our bank account is fuller because of it.
Others mention, “I wish I hadn’t worried so much.” Perhaps they were around for their kids, but were too preoccupied about their to-do list, keeping up a clean house, or the appearance of a perfect life to enjoy the laughter, the play, the mess, and the joy. The gift of perspective and some distance from whatever was causing the worry makes them now see that life played out exactly how it was meant to be.
These stories of other people’s parents and grandparents might as well be my own. Like many of us, I come from a long line of hard workers and worriers. While trying to grow this business and raise two children to be secure and happy young adults, I remember their answers.
What's something I'd do differently?
I don't want to say that I wish I had worked less, worried less. So despite a busy workload, I took a vacation and enjoyed every minute of it. My to-do list is long, but my freckles are out and my shoulders are light. I chose swimming in the pool, reading a book, and snuggling with the kids on a chaise lounge over my laptop. I hugged my mom a lot, who we had flown 1,700 miles out to see, even going back to give her an extra squeeze before heading in to the airport. Thanks to the many wise people I've talked to over the years, I realize that these are the moments we can’t get back. Their stories are my own, and their lessons are mine to learn.