“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Among friends, I’m not exactly known as a risk taker. Some might politely describe my approach to life as “methodical,” my days a little too organized for their taste.
To a large degree, this philosophy has served me well. (Fate favors those who know what comes next.)
Still, I’ve learned that living life to its fullest requires taking some risks. The common touchstones of life — getting married, having children, changing jobs, buying a home – do not come with guarantees. It would be safest to live life alone in a cave, but that’s not much of a life.
Years ago, I stumbled upon a television show featuring interviews with people who were all at least 80 years old. Each person was asked: “Now that you are in the sunset of your life, what are your biggest regrets?”
The answers surprised me. Person after person – all octogenarians – said their biggest regrets were not things they had done, but things they had not done… the risks never taken. One man still remembered the girl he never asked to the high school dance. A woman reflected sadly on the career she never pursued. Rarely did anyone say “I regret something I did earlier in life.” Most admitted to making a lot of mistakes, but time allowed those decisions to be seen in a new light: life lessons they otherwise never would have learned. By taking the risk and failing, they grew.
The thought reminds me of an old saying: “If you’re not failing at some things, you’re not risking enough.”
Of course, some people live life on the opposite side of the spectrum. They live recklessly and never reach the age of 80, or 50 (or even 20). But if you live too cautiously, will you reflect on a life full of regrets?
Over time, I’ve learned that one key to a happy life is to strike a balance in essentially all things, including the amount of risk in your life.
My hope is to lead my life to reach at least the age of 80, and then if someone asks “What are your regrets, old man?” I want to say with conviction: “I have none.”