This quote by famous American author Henry David Thoreau wasn’t just geared towards men, in this context he meant all humans.
I think it is a sad realization that most people have at some point in their lives that they could have done more, done things differently, etc. If you have ever spent any time around someone near the end of their life’s ride, regret runs rampant. Even those who have accomplished a lot in their lifetime still feel it. God forbid you were someone riddled with talent and/or opportunity and you didn’t do anything with it. Sitting in the assisted living facility all by yourself, staring at the walls, with nothing but time on your hands to relive all of the things you wish you had done. THAT, my friends, is the definition of misery in my opinion.
Some of the hard part of the equation is that many people don’t know what they want to do. Seriously, so many of us just roll through life, following the path it sets out for us instead of creating a path that we want. How familiar does this sound?
Go to college and get a degree
Get a job
Get married and have kids
Spend the next 18+ years paying bills and parenting
Retire and then start to figure out what to do with the rest of your life
Is this the version of your life you planned out? If it is, and this is what you want, that is fantastic. But for many, there is more to be had, and yet they never even explore the possibilities. This is where the “quiet desperation” creeps in. In the back of all of our minds, we want more. More “what” is the question, but most humans desire more than they have at any point in their lives. It is a blessing and a curse.
If you do know what you want, why aren’t you pursuing it? What is holding you back? Are there really barriers or just answers you haven’t discovered yet. I’ll share an example of how I approach things and maybe you can deploy some of this to your advantage: When I decided that I wanted to play on the Pro Racquetball Tour, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was not the best player in my state, or even in my town for that matter. But I knew I had pretty much maxed out my learning opportunities where I was, and if I truly wanted to see what I was capable of, I had to take that next step. But first, a few things needed to be put in place.
I started asking around within the circle of people I knew about setting up a sponsorship program for myself. Before long, the VP of Paine/Weber who played in my racquetball leagues at the club where I worked is functioning as my business manager, and speaking on my behalf to other corporate people about getting me out on the Tour. I contacted the equipment company who sponsored me about giving me more equipment (because they didn’t want to give me any money) and I was able to sell packages of equipment and lessons to people who were not interested in the sponsorship vehicle that was offered. Before long, I had most of the money I would need to play a full season on Tour without working a real job.
I attended my first Tour event in Las Vegas, got a feel for what that life was going to be like, who I would need to know, who I could room with to reduce travel costs, etc. I committed to a full season, signed the agreement to play on the IRT Tour, and off I went. I repeated the process for several years, allowing me to focus as much time and effort as I could on getting better on the court, and not earning money off the court to get to the next event. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. What I did know was, if I don’t pursue this, I am going to regret it for the rest of my life. I didn’t know where it would lead, how I would get there, but I had faith in myself to figure it out along the way.
If you are waiting to have all the answers before you begin your journey, you will never start.
I am a completely different person, a better version of me I hope, because of this journey. It pushed me, stretched me, challenged me to the fullest and then some. I learned my breaking points, my strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and much more along the way. I grew. I shed my old skin, time and time again, to become the latest version of myself at that time.
I am hard pressed to imagine what my life would be like right now if I did not have the fortitude to plow forward, damn the consequences, and throw myself into the mix. I know that may sound scary, and it was. But that didn’t stop me. Face your fears, grab your nuts and jump. Sometimes its the only way.
Looking back on things, I have a lot more clarity that back then when I was looking forward. If I had kids, would I let them follow that same path? Maybe…I would want them to get all they could out of their pursuits, but maybe with a little more of a safety net than I had. I would want them to have a back up plan tucked away, knowing they would not flounder around like I did when life on Tour came to a screeching halt. Other than that, the bumps and bruises along the way are the most valuable pieces of the journey, and that cannot be replaced. You cannot put bumper rails in place just so you cannot throw a gutter ball and think the outcome is going to be the same. Life doesn’t work that way.
Avoiding the quiet desperation as referred to above is simple but not easy. It is simple to hone in on what you want to pursue, lay out a plan, and go for it Executing that plan, making things a success, and winning in the end is an entirely different undertaking, but at least your in the game. As a minimum you are giving yourself an “at bat” to get a chance to take a swing. You may foul a few off first before hitting a single and getting on base. You may be one of the rare few who hits a homerun in their Major League debut. You can’t know ahead of time, so you have to give yourself a chance and see what develops. GIVE YOURSELF THE CHANCE, that is the key part of the equation.
Give yourself the best chance you can; think things through, map out a plan as best you can, ask for advice. Many people may try to talk you out of something seen as risky, so keep that in mind. If they are poking holes in your idea that really do have validity, then those things must be considered. But if they can’t come up with solid evidence or reason(s) why you should do what you are about to do, then go for it. Let them deal with their own quiet desperation. I am encouraging you to be brave and adventurous, not reckless. I was never in danger on my journey; it felt like it at times, but when I looked from a distance, it was never something someone else hadn’t already done before me. To me, this meant that I could do it too.
Avoid your regrets now. Go for it…otherwise you will be sitting on your deathbed giving advice to loved ones on making sure they don’t have the same regrets you do.