This year was my 14th anniversary and I did what all men do on the double 7th-inning stretch. I looked back at how my life has changed, evolved and grown over this window.
Problem is, I started the process one morning sitting in the barber’s chair.
Now, for those of you who hit your 40s with a full shock of manly 20-something hair, good on ya!. That’s not me. My hair has been deftly plummeting to it’s death, follicle by follicle for the last, oh, 15 years or so. And, no, it’s not in any way related to the fact that I’ve been married about the same amount of time. So, let’s not even go there. Just plum coincidence.
So, I’m sitting in the barber’s chair and and I take a look down 3/4 of the way through only to find that whatever hair I do have is turning gray pretty damn fast. Now, that made me ponder the fact that I might actually have to grow up someday soon. Interesting notion. I resolve to add that to my reflections throughout the day on my 10 glorious years of marriage. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Back in the chair, I quickly put the notion out of my mind. At least for another 30 seconds or so…when the barber with hair so thick it seems to emerge from his brow looks at the small tuft of fuzz at the front edge of my hair, the one that oddly sits as an island in front of the balance of my hairline, starts laughing and says, “looks like you got plugs that went dead!”
Funny, ha ha. A master of client relations.
But, I’m easy, so I laughed it off, too and resolved to make the jump from my hair back to the day’s reflections on my last 10 years. Every time I tried to get out, though, my hairline just kept pulling me back in. In an odd way, my hairline was telling me something about the last decade.
In it’s silvering retreat, it revealed so much about my life.
It was incontrovertible and quite public proof that I wasn’t a kid anymore. That a solid chunk of my life was now behind me. That, along with that, came a certain amount of loss, both in time left on the planet, physical ability and youthful appearance. In opportunities to take risks without significant fallout. But, it also revealed something far more powerful
That I was, indeed, older. And, with that age, came experience in the world. An understanding of what really matters on a level never truly accessible to me even 10 short years ago. A breadth and depth of relationships, interactions, failures and success that made what I do from this point forward that much more informed and purposeful. And, the desire to become far more present in the journey and take more responsibility for the outcomes in my life than before. From this, first in snippets, then sentences and more, a tale worth sharing has begun to emerge. And, the more I live it and share it, it seems, the more people are interested in listening.
I’ve always wanted to teach, though never really in a traditional setting. I look at life differently than most. Not better, just different. Always have. In my late 20s and 30s, I secretly yearned for that perfect combination of gray hair and no-hair that would make people take what I say with more gravitas. But, now that I’m well on my way to both, it’s become clear that…
…people take you seriously once you’ve lived enough of life and participated on a level that allows you the experience to say something that’s genuinely worth listening to.
For some, depending on your lot, that might be age 12, for others, never. Part of it is circumstance, for sure. Look at the children is Sierra Leon, Darfur, Somalia, Rwanda or the prodigal entrepreneur who rose from urban poverty to wealth by age 16. Life-shaping experiences all, though radically different in impact and desirability. For sure, the stories that have emerged out of the former are stories drawn out of circumstances we all wish had never unfolded.
But, for most people, having something genuine, meaningful to pass on is more about being willing to engage in life on a level that takes you regularly to that place of constructive discomfort where the greatest opportunities, the greatest growth, the most inspired adventures, discoveries and awakenings lie ready to emerge. It’s the place that’s hardest to go. And, it’s the world I’ve been breaching with increasing frequency in the decade that lies immediately behind me.
I left a six-figure career in law, got married, launched a business, sold the business, wrote a book, had a kid, launched another business, sold another business, wrote another book, took risks with my heart, my wallet and my ego, suffered many failures, but reveled in far more successes. And those came through my willingness to sit with anxiety, to breath into it and, when needed, to fail in the name of coming one step closer to a far grander success.
Are there things I’d have done differently? Sure. But, regret is a miserable mate. So, rather than dwell in them, I’ve simply chosen to learn what I can from them and then move on.
Fourteen years. Incredible. During that time, my wife has been my rock, my love, my inspiration, my partner, my friend. What an amazing gift that we continue to grow in a way that brings us closer with each year. And, my little girl, sorry, big girl (in case she’s reading). I’m speechless…rare, for me.
Life’s not about perfection, it’s about engagement. Participate fully, and the game’s already been won.
As I sat this week with an old college friend and reminisced, I mentioned a study I had just finished reading that revealed an astonishing fast:
Of some 1,900 successful global executives asked, if given the chance, more than 50% would have taken a totally different professional path.”
To which my friend turned to me and asked, “so, what would you do differently, if you had it to do over?” Without blinking, in a move that surprised even me, I replied, “nothing.”
And, here is why.
Sure, I made a ton of dumb decisions, wasted time, tried a million things that have failed. But, from each of those experiences, I’ve learned.
They’ve shaped who I am, how I act and what I believe and, most importantly, who I’ve surrounded myself with. Are there things I still need to work on? Sure. Are there changes I still plan to cultivate? Absolutely.
But, right here, right now, even with my dopey little tuft of forehead grass, I like my life. And, because everything I’ve experienced in life to date has brought to this incredibly treasured place, the answer is “no,” there’s nothing I’d seriously want to have done differently. Because whatever mistakes I could have fixed or paths I could have reversed would have left me in a different place than I’m in today.
And, frankly, there is no other place I’d rather be, no other life I’d rather be living than the one I an playing through now.
So, I’m curious.
What about you?
Instead of looking back, what might happen if we looked forward instead, with an eye toward what is possible?
What would you like to see unfold in your life, your relationships, your career in the 10 years to come?
What would need to happen for you to be able to look back 10-years from today and say, “you know, I wouldn’t have done anything different?”
Share your thoughts in the Comments below…
[This was one of the first posts written on this blog back in November 2007. I think 6 people read it…3 unwillingly. When I revisited it today, it resonated truer than ever, so I refreshed it and decided to share it with a new generation or tribe-members, meaning more than the original 6 people who saw it, lol.]
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