At the end of the day, looking back at your life, you want to have minimized the number of regrets you have. It’s regrets that will haunt us in the end.” – Jeff Bezos
I keynoted a conference in Toronto this week. My session was in the afternoon so I knew the energy in the room might be a bit … shall we say … low.
I asked myself, “What can I do to make sure this is interesting and interactive?
I know. We’ll play BOOK ROULETTE.
People in the audience can call out a number. I’ll turn to that page in my SOMEDAY book and share a quote and a short story from that chapter.
It’ll be like live TV. They won’t know what’s coming next … and neither will I.”
Co-creating the session in real-time turned out to be great fun for all involved.
I wrapped up with my favorite story from the book. An audience member asked me to please share it online so she could print it out and carry it with her as a reminder to stop waiting.
I promised her I would. Here’s the “Walden Pond” story.
“I was speaking in Boston and sharing adventures and insights form my Year by the Water. In the Q & A, a woman raised her hand and asked, “Is there any place you missed?”
I told her, “Yes, I always wanted to visit Walden Pond, but somehow never made it there.”
She looked at me, eyebrows up, “You know it’s an hour away?”
Well, blow me over with a feather. I didn’t know. So, I changed my plans.
One of the most important lessons learned from my travels is to take advantage of opportunities that crop up that call us instead of putting them off until … someday.
When I got to Walden Pond the next morning, there were only three cars in the entire parking lot.
As I locked up the car and grabbed my backpack, I was surprised to see a man walking by in his swim trunks with a towel thrown over his shoulder.
Why was I surprised? Because this was October in New England.
I asked him, “Is it warm enough to swim?”
He said, “It is if you go to the end of the lake to the cove by Thoreau’s cabin. It’s shallower there and not so cold.”
Well! I was looking forward to writing where Thoreau wrote and walking where he walked.
Little did I know I would have a chance to swim where Thoreau swam.
I headed down the pine-needle covered path under a cathedral-like canopy of trees, rounded a corner and there it was, a scene so beautiful it took my breath away. Trees with red, gold, and orange leaves perfectly reflected in the glasssy smooth, mirror-like surface of the lake.
I wanted so much to go for a swim, but hadn’t brought my swim suit.
I stood there on the shore, wondering, Should I…? Shouldn’t …I?
If I went in, my clothes would be sopping wet and uncomfortable.
But If I didn’t go in, I’d always regret it.
All of a sudden, it occured to me.
CLOTHES DRY. MEMORIES DON’T.
So … I went in.
And I will always be glad I did because it resulted in a memory of a lifetime.
I will always remember paddling around, floating on my back and reveling in the fact that Thoreau had swam in that very lake, had gazed up at the very same fall sky.
Was it cold? Yes. Was I wet? Yes.
But I was also exquisitely alive.
Next time an opportunity crops up that calls you, remember this.
At the end of our life, we will either have reasons or results.
There will always be reasons why not to do what we want to do.
We don’t have our swimsuit. We’re busy. We’ll do it when …(fill in the blank.)
Those reasons will end up casuing regrets.
If we want memories – if we want results – we’ll go in.
We’re not here to stand on the shore of life, wondering “Should I ..?” Shouldn’t I ….?”
We’re here to go in.
Just remind yourself:
Clothes dry. Memories don’t.
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Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create the life of their dreams. Her TEDx talks and books have been featured in NY Times, on NPR, and taught to Intel, Cisco, NASA, Capital One, YPO. This is excerpted from Sam’s new book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week – which shares specific ways to make the rest of our life the best of our life.
P.S. This book has been called the perfect book for book clubs because members can use the support material here (The Happiness Box, The Happiness Interview, Readers Guide) to crystallize ONE thing that will put the light on in their eyes and motivate each other to do it NOW, not later.