People sometimes ask me: “If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life or business?”
It’s the classic “time travel” question. And I understand why people ask. They want me to talk about my biggest mistakes or regrets.
Sometimes, the answer feels obvious. But more often, especially lately, I have a hard time answering it. Because, frankly, I wouldn’t change much—if anything—about the road that’s gotten me to where I am today.
Sure, I’d sometimes like to undo some of my past errors in judgment. I’d love to prevent some of my costliest mistakes. And I’d love to go back and give myself more confidence. Maybe I could convince my younger self that I’m playing too small and need to think bigger.
But overall, I feel the only reason I am where I am today is because of the mistakes I made along the way.
And if progress is about making mistakes—and learning from them—why would I eliminate them?
Seriously, why take away the pain? We can’t have the good stuff without the bad. It wouldn’t be sustainable. And we wouldn’t appreciate how good we have it.
As humans, we thrive on contrast. Take away the bad stuff and the good stuff has little meaning.
For example, the reason we value good physical health is because we’ve all experienced some sort of illness at various points in our lives. If you’ve never had a sick day, it’s difficult to appreciate being well.
Similarly, I appreciate my relationships because I know the value of good ones—having experienced some bad ones in my time.
I’m grateful for my car because I’ve had plenty of crummy, unreliable cars in my life. I remember all too well the sinking feeling of my car not starting when I was trying to get to work. This went on for years in my late teens and early- to mid-20’s.
Now that my car cranks right up, I’m grateful for that!
No, I wouldn’t change my past, even with its ups and downs. Am I tempted to go back in time and give my younger self some life-changing advice?
Sometimes. But most of the time I’m just grateful for the experiences I’ve had—both good and bad.
So, if you find yourself wishing that you could go back and redo the past, think about that wish some more.
Sure, you might avoid some bad things. But you survived. And it’s living through those bad things that make today’s good things all the sweeter.
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