Revision of the Past

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Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been” – Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve always been an advocate of learning from my mistakes and brainstorming about what I could have done better. This makes a lot of sense in many situations, as oppose to others where it doesn’t. Rethinking can easily become a sinkhole. It’s easy to get lost in it and lose the clear picture. Sadly, we lose so much time thinking about the past, that we lose perspective about the present.

I could tell some personal example related to that. I often think what could have been different. What would have happened I had followed my father’s advice to leave for a full summer abroad to learn English when I was 18-year-olds? What about if I had been more serious during my College years? What if I had started seriously reading books at 16? I can go on and on about the countless missed opportunities.

These are all possibilities that could have happened, but they didn’t. The result is done and locked in time. There isn’t anything I can do about it today. The only possible way to change things would be to travel back in time. You could dig your past for all these “what if” moment, but it won’t change anything. It’s a dead end.

Our thoughts should simply be where they should. Right here, right now.

The Backlash of Yes

“When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself” – James Altucher

Do you remember the goofy movie with Jim Carrey where he was saying “yes” to everything for a whole year? That movie is so far from reality. You would say “yes” to everything for a year and you would be crippled by hundreds of shitty obligations that would make you want to puke every goddamn day that you wake up.

A while back, when I was younger, I was still going to University part-time to get some knowledge on the side. I had a bit of free time and I wanted to get involved in my student association. I happily volunteered to help. The president of the association asked me if I wanted to be on the committee for the organization of the end of the year party, it would take three hours a week max. I thought at that moment that it was a cool involvement. So I said, “Yes”. It didn’t count the 10-12 emails I had to read and answer every day. You can guess that each email was asking people to do tasks. Since I didn’t want to look bad, I said, “Yes”. What started as a 3-hour gig a week for fun, ended up as 10-15 hours. It was like having a second job. It wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore, it was an obligation.

A quick example of how much we say “yes” is our email inbox. A snapshot right now of your inbox would probably show a good deal of publicity or subscription you don’t care about. I’m in the same boat. I saw a newsletter from Quora today in my inbox, I don’t even remember when I registered to that website (and I sincerely don’t know what it is). I’ve probably used it once 3 or 4 years ago and I’m still receiving newsletters from the website. This is crazy.

Saying “no” more often should be a daily practice. Look at your calendar or agenda for one moment and you’ll probably see a bunch of appointments that are purely obligations. If we want more time for the important, to the stuff that we really want to do, we must say not somewhere else.

That’s the problem with modern life. We have so many choices, so many possibilities, that we end up losing sight of what truly matter.