Tag Archives: Fear

Number One Regret of the Dying

If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I’m not a real Debbie Downer. But today’s post is a little more serious. It’s about dying with regrets. In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, nurse Bronnie Ware discovered that the regrets of the dying boil down to five general attitudes. Over the next few posts I’d like to explore their regrets with you, in hopes that we all can avoid them.

This week I want to focus on just one—the Number 1 regret of the dying…

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

As a chronic people-pleaser, this regret hits uncomfortably close to home. How many times have I stifled my dreams, goals and even my identity in order to comply with others? How many times have I yielded to the beliefs and expectations of people around me—instead of pursuing the things that would have brought me the greatest fulfillment.

Here’s some of the “expectations” that I wrestled with for quite some time:

“Starting your own business in this economy is not a good idea. It’s better to stick with a job at a bigger, more stable corporation.”

“This is the way it’s always been done.”

“If you can’t do something perfectly the first time, why try it at all?”

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized something quite profound. The people with expectations of you are not living your life. Deep, right?

But seriously, if I had always yielded to the expectations of others, I would have missed out on the best experiences I’ve had in this life so far!

  • Falling in love with my bride Tina.
  • Starting my own company
  • Writing two books (and working on a third!)
  • Owning up to the fact that I hate eating green things.

In every one of the situations I mentioned, I’ve had some opposition. Sometimes people are jealous of your own dreams and ambitions. Even more often, they are afraid of change. Expect it. Better yet, embrace it! After all, the people you believe are putting down your ideas might actually be some of your greatest allies in your success. Consider their critiques. Let them force you to reexamine your dreams and your plans so that you can refine them and make them even better. I talk about this for an entire chapter in my book Leadership Redefined.

In Ware’s book, she notes that, “Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.” Don’t let the expectations of others hold you back—because one day your body will. Let go of people-pleasing today, and die without regrets.

Albert Einstein vs. Billy Graham: Who’s the Smartest?

Arguably, these two names represent two of the most respected men in American history: Einstein for his amazing brain and discoveries and Graham for his amazing wisdom and integrity.

About 10 years ago, community leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their city’s “Favorite Son” to a luncheon honoring him. Battling the effects of Parkinson’s disease, the 81-year-old Graham, who never liked to chase the spotlight, was hesitant to accept, but he finally agreed.

After lunch and a series of speakers praising him, Graham humbly stepped to the podium, looked at the crowd and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time Magazine as the Man of the Century.”

He continued with a well-known anecdote about Einstein:

As the wild-haired astrophysicist was once traveling by train from Princeton, New Jersey, the conductor came down the aisle, punching passengers’ tickets. When he came to Einstein, the great man reached into his vest and trouser pockets, but he pulled out no ticket. He then looked in his briefcase – still, no ticket. It wasn’t in the seat beside him, either.

The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.”

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued punching tickets down the aisle, and as he was about to move to the next car, he noticed Einstein down on his hands and knees, searching under his seat.

The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry, I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.”

Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”

Always the master of timing, Graham paused as the audience chuckled at that final line. Then Graham continued his story:

See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand-new suit. My children and grandchildren tell me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.

You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear the news that I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.



Focus On Your Strengths

An exhausted and jet-lagged dad had just walked in from a brutal week of working and traveling across the country. As he was unpacking, his son burst into his bedroom carrying a baseball bat and ball and excitedly announced, “Dad, you have to see what a great baseball player I am now!”

“All right, son,” the dad replied. “Just let me change my clothes first.”

“Ok, but hurry! You are not going to believe your eyes! I am the greatest baseball player in the world!”

Baseball-kidA few minutes later, the father followed his son into the backyard, where the little boy proceeded to rest the bat on his shoulder, throw the ball up in the air with his left hand, and then quickly grab the bat with both hands and swing as the ball came back down.

On his first attempt, the little boy completely missed the ball. Undaunted, he retrieved the ball, tossed it back up in the air, and swung again, missing. His dad was starting to get a little embarrassed for him and moved in to help.

“No, Dad!” his son said with a huge grin spread across his face. “One more time.”

With a firm resolution he gripped the bat harder, tossed the ball up, and for the third time, swung the bat – and completely missed the ball.

His father’s heart was breaking for his son when the little boy turned and excitedly pronounced, “Do you see what I mean?! I am a great pitcher! Unhittable!”

Sadly, rather than focusing on what we are good at and enjoying life, we tend to focus on our own weaknesses and shortcomings and that tends to drag us down. Choose to focus on your strengths and figure out how to do “those things” more often.

“No” Does Not Mean Game Over

As I travel in airplanes across this great nation of ours, I have the opportunity to meet many different people. Since I am energized by others, me and my seatmate (or, as my wife would tease me, my new best friend) usually end up having a great conversation. I love to hear about people’s dreams and goals and learn what inspires them. Recently though I have begun to see a pattern… folks who have given up on their dream because they have run into opposition.

From the bank not loaning them the money, to a partner backing out, to the deal falling through, to the economy in general—many are throwing up their hands and saying, “Oh well…I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Phooey! Life is full of opposition. And just because you may have run into a stop sign or brick wall, that does not mean the journey is over!  Here is what I mean:

When the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962, the company said it didn’t like the young British group’s sound, claiming that guitar music was on the way out of mainstream popularity.

When Debbi Fields went to a potential investor for her idea of a cookie store, she was told that it was “a bad idea” and that market research indicated that “America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” Fields went on to found Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (and probably added to America’s obesity epidemic in the process. But I digress.)

A Yale University professor similarly labeled Fred Smith’s paper proposing the idea of reliable overnight delivery service “unfeasible.” Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation, known these days as FedEx.

It’s no secret that every one of the people behind those “bad” or unfeasible ideas created something that has become a household name. Right from the start, they experienced opposition, but they didn’t let it stop them from persevering and taking their idea from dream to reality.

Opposition is a normal part of life. Don’t let it throw you off course or cause you to give up on the dream. Pause, rethink, reevaluate, adjust, and keep moving forward!

The Power of Hope

One of my favorite sayings is “Hope in the future brings power to the present.” You see the truth in that saying played out all the time.

It is the hope of a championship season gives a football player the will to get through two-a-days in the heat of August. The hope of becoming a positive influence on a child’s life drives teachers and educators. The hope of getting healthy and losing weight gives a person the motivation to skip the cheesecake and spend an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill. The hope of a normal life gives an addict the push through rehab and the drive to make the conscious decision not to use. The Bible is filled with Scriptures that relate to the power of hope. The casino industry, and state lotteries, too, are entire industries that play upon people’s hopes of striking it big.

And science even suggests that hope can heal. Think about the well-documented placebo effect: Study after study reports that patients who are given a sugar pill or other form of inactive substance in place of real medication often report feeling better.

A story in The Light, a book by author and journalist Mike Evans, illustrates the power of hope. Evans describes a group of scientists who performed an experiment using rats, aiming to uncover how outside factors affected their will to live.

One rat was placed in a large tub of water with sides high enough to prevent it from getting out. In addition, the room was pitch black. The researchers timed how long the rat would keep swimming before it gave up. The creature struggled for a little more than three minutes before giving up.

In the next part of the experiment, the researchers placed another rat in the same tub of water. But this time, they placed a bright light into the room. The second rat swam for more than 36 hours – that’s 700 times longer than the rat with no light.

The reason for that determination? The second rat literally saw the light at the end of the tub. In other words, it had hope, a reason to keep swimming.

It’s the same with humans. Without hope, without a light to move toward and focus on, we flail about in the tub of life like, well, a drowning rat in the darkness. Reconnect with what gives you hope, focus on it, and move toward it.