20 Ways to Deal With Regrets

regret

I regret losing all of my money and then losing my house. I regret not spending  more time with my kids when they were little and I regret not saving the life of my dad when I could’ve.

In 2000 I was buying every IPO I could. It was already after the dot-com bust. I bought 50,000 shares of GoAmerica at $20. It went down to $1. I don’t know where it is now. I think now they give wireless devices to deaf people. I made lots of decisions like that. I went completely broke doing that. ZERO. So I took all the equity out of my apartment, about $1 million. Then I did the same thing. I lost all of that money also. Someone asked me how much money. The summer of 2000 I lost $15 million in cash. All of my money. I regret it.

I regret going broke. I could’ve helped people. I could’ve started other businesses. I could’ve helped my dad when he had a stroke. There was a new device I had read about that would have rotated him around in the air to stimulate his brain cells. It would’ve cost maybe $100,000 or more to fly him across the country and have him try the device. But I couldn’t afford it. I had no money and I had the IRS up my ass. After everything he had done for me. I couldn’t afford to save his life.

I regret all the stress I felt for years as I tried climbing back. It wore on me. Now my stomach is constantly in pain no matter how much I meditate, pray, relieve stress, do yoga. It will take years to untie the knots in my stomach, if they ever get untied.

There were women. I regret what I did to them. I regret the tears one of them had when she told me I had to go. She hated me. I regret the baby that was killed.

I regret the six days a week I spent working in the city. My daughter, Josie, would have a nightmare at night. She’d wake up crying. I couldn’t climb into her bed and hear about the nightmare of a 4 year old and comfort her until she fell back to sleep.  I was never there. I regret all those moments I couldn’t comfort her tiny voice as she explained things and explained things and explained things over and over again as she tried to understand the world around her.

I regret the two businesses I started when going through a separation in 2008. I wasn’t ready yet to begin a life. I regret getting people involved in those businesses when they were destined to amount to nothing.

I regret hitting a man and breaking both his legs when I ran through a stop sign while driving a car when I was 18.

Everyone has regrets. Historical is hysterical. It’s easy to look back at the past now and see the road signs we missed. The forks in the road we could’ve taken. Those forks are regrets. Is it bad to look back? Of course not. I can’t help it. I have regrets every day.

But you can’t move forward until you move past the regrets. It’s impossible.

20 Ways to Deal With Regret

A)     Ask yourself, “What am I doing TODAY?” Today is the day we care about. Where we can improve ourselves, help people. Move forwards. What are you doing today?  This is a good mental discipline. WHEN Regret comes up about yesterday, ASK yourself,  “What am I doing TODAY?” Practice this. Then practice it again.

B)      The Daily Practice.

Ultimately, it has consistently been the only way I’ve been able to bounce back from events that caused me deep regret. Otherwise I sink into them. They bury me.  In a book I have coming out in a few weeks I write about modifications to the Practice that has made it easier for me when I’ve been totally on the floor and unable to pick myself up.

C)      Some parts of the Daily Practice need kickstarting to work. I start with The Power of Negative Thinking. Or Nine Ways to Light Your Creativity ON Fire. The first post deals with how to build a discipline of labeling thoughts “useful” or “not useful”. You have a finite number of thoughts in life before you die. Might as well make as many of them as possible “useful”. This is hard. For me, it’s like telling myself to exercise every day when I spent the first 40 years of my life not exercising. Something I regret. “Not useful”.

D)     Make friends. Make sure you don’t talk about your regrets with your friends. Are your friends trying to improve their lives? You can be inspired by them and they can be inspired by you.

E)      Don’t judge people. The other day I wrote about a dinner I went to. I was surprised how many people wrote me disparaging the IQ of one of the people at the dinner even though they didn’t know that person. In order to judge someone you don’t know you have to have a lot insecurity and ego. It’s hard to get rid of that insecurity. One way to do it is to never judge people. Particularly people you don’t know. That’s a good way to practice not judging  yourself.

F)      HonestyHonesty can lead to wealth.  Being honest also helps you avoid denial about your regrets. Stop blaming others. It’s important to realize that both Most things don’t work out AND most of the time, It’s Your Fault.  I was often in denial about both of those things. They are both truths.

G)     Laugh. Watch a funny movie. When I was going through a period of deep regret I watched the movie “Superbad” probably about 20 times in a row and I wish I could say I am exaggerating. That movie saved my life. Laughter reduces stress, brings you to Today. Leaves behind yesterday.

H)     Deal with Failure. When I was a kid everyone told me I was a genius. Expectations were really high for me. It was extra hard for me to realize later on that I was far from it. Everyone had told my dad he was a genius also. When it came time for his regrets he couldn’t get over it. It sunk him like a bag of cement in the ocean and he never swam again. I’m always afraid to be like him. It’s ok to fail. Hey, what are you doing today?

I)        Good will. Practice this: everyone you see on the street today – wish them well. Wish that they all make a lot of money and have a lot of health and that they are all having passionate sex with someone tonight.  I never watched that movie “the Secret” but I imagine this is the real Secret: wish enough people good will and eventually good will happen to you.

J)      Stop being brainwashed. A lot of my posts (don’t go to college, don’t own a home, abolish the Presidency) are there because I like to think in opposites. Some people write me and say, “are you just trying to be sensational?” No! I’m trying not to be brainwashed all the time. I know that with 10,000 ad and media impressions hitting my eyes every day that I am constantly being brainwashed by the Zombie Recruitment Machine. Training your mind to think in opposites helps you avoid being brainwashed. This includes reducing the number of ad impressions and media impressions you see each day. Replace that time with time with friends. Or time sitting by yourself. The more brainwashing, the more regrets.

L)       Should have, could have, would have. These are never useful phrases. Even when analyzing a situation that led to a regret (and it’s important to analyze your losses). Instead of saying, “I could have done X” ( a regret) say, “Next time I’m in a similar situation, I’ll do X”.  If you know you’re never going to be in a similar situation then no reason to do the analysis. Historical is hysterical. What  are you doing Today!?

M)   Don’t deal with Crappy People. I don’t care if you have to see them every day. At the dance. I see every girl but I don’t have to dance with every girl. Don’t dance with the crappy people. Always check yourself on each interaction – did I just dance with them?  You don’t need them to like you. Who cares if crappy people like you?

N)     Don’t drink. I know a girl who is filled with regrets. “Was I bad to my ex-husband?” “Did I eat too much?” “Did I miss this opportunity?” I asked her, “What did you do last night?” She tells me she hung out with people she’s constantly trashed to me in the past, she ate at the fanciest steakhouse in town,  and she drank and had a hangover in the morning. I said, “can you stop doing that?” And she was honest and said, “I don’t think so.” That was one of the last times I spoke to her. I used to drink all night with her. I know what it’s like. She won’t be able to stop the regrets. People don’t usually give this as advice because it’s so built up into our culture to have a drink occasionally. Fine, have a drink occasionally. But the drug is a depressant so just limit the number of depressants you put in your body.

O)     List the positives. List all the good things that came out of the moments you regret. If I had never lost all my money a decade ago I never would’ve started other businesses, this blog, I never would’ve met all the amazing people I’ve met since. I never would’ve met Claudia. I never would’ve had the relationship with my daughters I have now. I probably wouldn’t be living right by the river, in relative peace.

(Superbad)

P)      Mourn. We often regret actions we’ve done that caused us to lose things that were important to us. In most traditions, there’s a mourning period when people die and then you are told to move on. So mourn for those things that were important to you. Mourn the money you lost or the people who left you. Pray that everything works out for the best. Give yourself a time period for mourning. Then move on.

Q)     Look to your left and look to your right. When I was in school a common refrain used by  professors was, “look to your left and look to your right. One of the people you just looked at is going to fail this class.” You can do the same here: look to your left and look to your right. Both people you just looked at have done things they later wished they could undo, have done things they deny in order to survive the pain, have done things that have cost them severely. Just acknowledging that helps you to deal with your own regrets. We’re all trying to be happy. We all have expecations that are probably too high. We all do stupid things along the way. It’s not the stupid things that makes us worse people, it’s how we deal with them afterwards. What are you doing today?

R)      Sorry. Say “I’m sorry” when you can. It doesn’t matter if your apology is accepted. That’s the other person’s issue. But if you say you’re sorry, you’ve at least acknowledged that you’ve made a mistake and you’re ready to move on. If you regret something you did to yourself, say you’re sorry to yourself. Accept the apology. Try to be friends again with yourself.

S)      Eat What You Kill. Reduce reliance on others. Even a boss or a job. Learning how to eat what you kill will reduce the things you will later regret. It will also force you to focus on what’s going on today instead of the past. Else you don’t eat.

T)     Be passionate about your work. If you aren’t, then quit. Don’t blame the recession or the job market. Those are media myths. They aren’t about you.

Why did I write this post?

I wrote this because many people in the last three or four weeks have asked me how to get off the floor after doing things they deeply regret. It’s not easy. It doesn’t happen in a day. It has to happen EVERY day.

I think a lot of people have lost money in the most recent stock market downturn. Or a lot of people are afraid by the horrible and misleading headlines in the media. Or a lot of people are afraid of the worst case scenario of what’s going on.  I know I am. I lost money also in this downturn. I regret it.

Today I’m going to make sure I can practice The Daily Practice I recommend. I’m also going to attempt to be creative. I’ll play games with my daughters. I’ll watch a funny TV show. I’ll return emails to people who were kind to me. I’ll attempt use my own advice to not be angry at the people who try to bring me down. I’ll fight the fears that constantly come up.

I think every day about the money I’ve lost and the people I could’ve helped with that money. I also regret what I’ve done to certain people. But I expected too much from myself. I expected too much from others who have let me down. Look to your left. Look to your right. What are you going to do today?

 

Enjoyed This Post? Get Free Updates

  • Ruth Hickerson

    you have no idea how much I needed to read this today — and I didn’t even realize until I started reading. thank you. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ruth, thanks. I’m glad this article was able to help.

  • Guest

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buSv1jjAels

    Here is a good laugh, and shows how to turn lemons into lemonade.

  • Eric

    Wonderful post!  Just curious, what blog post did you remove?  Would you consider re-posting it?

  • pjc

    I love “Superbad”. 

    When that movie came out, 3-4 different high school friends tracked me down and told me I had to watch it. Apparently, the resemblence between my high school self and the Michael Cera character is uncanny. I was that kid – looked like him, acted like him, hung with a Jonah Hill type kid … even went to the same college (Dartmouth). 

    When I finally watched it, I could close my eyse and hear my own voice. Not as I hear it when I speak, but the way it sounds when I listen to recordings of myself. Sort of high pitched, weird pauses interspersed with very rapid spurts. 

    Of course, the Cera character is funnier than me. Still, it’s a bizarre resemblance.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Michael Cera is my favorite. Have you seen the webisodes for Clark and Michael? Claudia thinks I’m a “michael cera” but i dont look like him.

      • pjc

        Like, me, you sometimes seem to talk like he does … or at least how his characters speak. 

        A long pause, followed by a rapid flurry of verbiage.

        He’s pretty nerdy for a Hollywood heartthrob. I always find it sort of odd when he’s in a movie – like some programmer took the wrong exit and ended up on the soundstage. 

        I like all his stuff though … Clark and Michael included.

  • Vicky J.

    Few years ago, when I was at college, I met a girl and wanted to marry her I was 19 at that time. We had sex, she got pregnant, I used my college fee to get her aborted. I ruined my 4 years trying to settle things. I had all F in most of classes.

    I do not blame her for everything, but she started insisting me to marry her at the age of 22. She completed her degree, I couldn’t. I had to broke with her, otherwise I would have killed myself. Now she tries to reach me, her message are about that I destroyed her life.

    I am at a time, when life demands me to stay focused in order to learn and make myself up. But I always feel regret about this all shit, more my wife recently talked to my ex-gf and she told her all. We had few very tough days, but looks like my wife understands me.

    I am passionate about my work, and really liked your post Kill what you eat. What would you advise to me and to my wife?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Completely disengage from the other person. She needs to stop harassing you and stop causing you problems.

      Most people are in denial about the psychological affects of abortion. But it’s a real post-traumatic stress (I’m 100% pro-choice, its the pro-choice groups that will not let this be acknowledged), Many women who have abortion are affected by this very real psychological disorder.

      What she needs is real help. And you guys need to not respond to emails, calls, any form of contact whatsoever. You can’t even tell her to get real help. She needs to realize this for herself. She won’t listen to you.

      Now, I say all of this not knowing the real details. So take with a grain of salt. but your current marriage and job and career and life come first. I hope she also finds the help she needs.

      You can’t regret anything. You were young. Bad things happen. Life happens. Sad things and suffering happen. This is not to excuse that suffering. Clearly you are a good guy and want the best to happen. But you are not trained to help her.  You and your wife will have a family. You will have a career. What are you doing today?

      • Vicky J.

        Yes, I am re-starting my career. My wife also works with me, we help small and mid-size businesses use technology, and internet. And also I write about technology as a paid writer.

        Life will be good, I apologize to myself for all what happened.

  • Anonymous

    James, I am a walking pile of regrets. Been having a hard time putting things behind me. This will help. Thanks.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Not only has it been a hard 3 weeks, its been a hard 3 years, and a very hard decade. For many reasons, not just financial although much stems from that. The key now is rebuilding and achieving greatness and happiness. Regret and happiness have a hard time fitting into the same brain.

  • Billy

    That’s deep, man…and honest.  You’re a brave man to display this kind of transparency and openness.  You’ve got real balls to talk about this.  I’m sure that you’re experiences will teach others.  Good on you.  Peace.

  • lane bieler

    I disagree with you about not judging people. Judgements based on logic are necessary. I would like to recommend a short book by Ayn Rand called The Virtue of Selfishness. It points out a lot of commonly held misconceptions by all of us. It’s not only the media ads that have brainwashed us, but also the “collective” philosophy that has permeated the culture. I read your blog because you are an entertaining writer, but I think you will be better with a dose of her philosophy.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I’ve read all her books. But I think her objectivism is largely misinterpreted. I think she writes more about the rewards of competence (and the reverse, the punishment of incompetence, which one may or may not believe in). I  like her stuff because it makes me strive to be competent. I would certainly never use her philosophy to judge others. That won’t be a path for my own personal happiness.

      But I still would never judge someone I didn’t know. There’s a line, of course (Hitler is “bad”) but too many people draw that line very closely around themselves.

  • Syren

    A little harsh on the Padma Lakshmi thing. I’m not sure those of us who remarked on her IQ were actually ‘judging’ her so much as making an observation based on her public persona.  I also don’t know Snookie but based on her public persona, I’d be confident making a $100 bet that she didn’t attend MIT.  It’s also not a judgment on her; I have none.  If Padma is a smart and accomplished person, I’m happy to hear it.  But frankly she appears not too bright on television.  No judgment, just an observation.  

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re right. I was harsh. But I was just surprised at the sheer number of reactions.

  • Rachel Pasqua

    James, like almost all of your posts, this is sad and beautiful at the same time. Which pretty much up sums life up. I find myself regretting so many things every day – the things I have said or done and the things that are completely out of my control. But then I look at the good things in my life, like my family, and know that if I could back and change any one of those things, they might not be here.

    My husband and I were talking about this lately and agreed that most of our personal regrets – at least the ones we might have had any control over – stemmed from fear, anxiety, insecurity.

    I’m 99% sure you’ve read Frank Herbert’s Dune – do you remember this? It’s been in my head all day today with the memory 9/11 everywhere.

    I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Dune was great. I wanted to be a Mentat when i was a kid.

      I look back at all the times I’ve felt fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Almost all of those times all of the fear was a waste. i could’ve been doing just about anything else and my life would’ve been better as a result (if better means, “less fear”). I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time with it. That’s a big regret I have.

      But even that regret is not useful for me. Only the question “what will I do the rest of today” is useful whenever a regret comes up because there’s nothing I can do about the past. But there’s lots of things I can do about dealing with fear and anxiety today.

      We live in a scary world. Today even (9/11, 10 years later) is a scary day. But its also a resilient world and we are fortunate to be on the web, living in resilient places, and with people who love us. That last part is the key.

  • Bob

    Great post! 

    I recall another post where you said you went to 0. Then wrote about cashing out your apartment and I thought “yeah right.. 0 cash but he still had a equity”. Now I read you lost that too and I’m shocked and amazed at your resilience. Adds to your credibility.

     It’s nice to see someone write who’s honest about it. I recently read a book “nothing to lose” – how some guy came from the streets and is now a multi-gazillionaire. But, after reading – it was apparent that is was all BS. He was just another rich trust-fund kid with a wealthy step daddy whos now trying go get people to join his MLM.. UGH!!!!

    your honestly is truly inspiring!!

    • James C

      Yeah.. I read that book too.. It sucked. The guy comes off as a snotty rich kid and seems to be trying to push his business of “false hope”.

      The MLM crowd seems to be full of zealots that really believe they will get rich buy paying $500 for a “distributorship” and selling other people’s diet goo. insane!

      I like Jame’s “kill what you eat” – truly inspiring! Build you own business.. invest in your own ideas and don’t be taken by “crappy people” who try to suck you in.

    • Andrew

      I thought exactly the same. When I read you still had an apartment I lost sympathy because in my eyes that’s still rich. But to read on and see you lose that and really have zero (which is where I am now!)..well I am full of admiration for your determination and courage. Your outlook is inspiring and without being corny I think you are ‘richer’ now than ever because you know yourself better.

  • Anonymous

    I doubt I’ll ever get the chance, but if an instructor/lecturer tries that “look left, look right” nonsense on me and my fellow students I’m gonna raise my hand and say, “And what do ya know? Every time I look to the front of the class I see a guy who has a less than 50% chance of giving a lecture worth a damn.”

  • Anonymous

    Twenty years ago I had an awesome living situation. Six months later my dad got cancer and I moved out of my awesome living situation into my parents’ house, which was horrible and six months later I moved out of there. For two decades I have regretted leaving that house and that friend.

    Last night I found out that the next woman my friend lived with went on a blind date with a guy, who didn’t particularly like her but really, really liked my friend. They’ve been married for 20 years now. My friend had some serious medical issues a few years ago, and her husband is still there for her. 

    If I hadn’t moved out, they might not have met. 

    Suddenly: I have no more regrets about having moved out. I’m sure things worked out better for me overall too, but hearing that they met specifically because the next roommate introduced them changed everything in a moment for me.

    Great post, James.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1845646349 Adam Medeiros

    I love the fact that you had the balls to write this. James, you are a great person and good luck in the future.

  • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

    Thanks James, very supportive article for anyone that needed a plan to deal with regrets. P) Mourn is most important, at least to me. You really have to allow the feeling of regret a fair chance to run, then you can get the strength to move on.

  • cindyluwho

    I make amazing Italian food. For years my friends and family have raved and everyone tells me I should find a way to get a food truck or open a small restaurant. I have always made excuses as to why I can’t. The biggest one of course is that I have no money. I am not going to let that stop me anymore. I love making food and I am good at it. Today I am going to stop making excuses and start doing some research.

    Once again, my deepest thanks for your honest and thought provoking words James.

  • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

    Okay, just added Superbad to my Netflix cue. If it’s bad I will try hard not to judge you too much.

    -DT

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      YOU will definitely like it. I’ll bet you dinner.

    • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

      The art work by the big kid is priceless.

  • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

    Wise people are not distracted by the superficial.  They are able to penetrate to the complete truth of a situation. 

    There are several ways to gain wisdom.  We can look to others as an example and learn from their mistakes.  That is received wisdom.  

    Experiential wisdom is the most valuable type of wisdom.  Mistakes produce experiential wisdom.  Regret is a barrier to it. 

  • schmoe

    James, thanks for being real… I can relate to you on many ways and this post also made my day.  I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    This is one of my favorite posts to date.   Very powerful.

  • http://twitter.com/CLAcevedo222 Carlos Acevedo

    This is your best post yet, James. Excellent. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pleased2check

    will check out Superdad. Your honesty in this writing is your redemption.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thank you. And please let us know if you liked Superbad.

  • Ceh32607

    James for President! :)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      no! for Vice-president!

  • James_Fan_Boy

    James – how can your life be like this? Are you serious? How did you accumulate that $15M in the first place?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Well, there was an Internet boom and I was good with programming.

  • James_Fan_Boy

    James – how can your life be like this? Are you serious? How did you accumulate that $15M in the first place?

  • Adam

    Thank you!  Do instead of stew.  :)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha, good one. You’re a poet and didn’t know it.

  • Adam

    Thank you!  Do instead of stew.  :)

  • jcworth

    I tell you one thing James, no one ever needs to tell you to “keep it real”. You just sit at the keyboard and bleed, don’t you? I love what you write, just because you have the audacity to be as real as you can. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog, sometimes it is the realest thing I encounter in a day. Much love and strength to you friend. jcw

  • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

    So, given some of what I’ve shared in comments lately, I want to add something to the conversation around regret.  But the words aren’t all fully formed at this point.  I want to say something about how there is a great deal about my life that I wish I had done differently, but that I am thankful for what I have and recognize it would not have happened if I had made more “smart” decisions.  Had I been a better student in high school, I would have gone to a different college, maybe had a different experience, never met my wife, never moved to the DC area…none of which I am unhappy about at all.  So, while I would not suggest anyone do what I did, I think it all turned out alright.

    But, regret is different.  Regret is remembering that you were tired and hungry, so you left the hospital a bit early to go home instead of stay by a dying child’s bedside.  Doesn’t matter if you didn’t know you only had a few more weeks together…that decision and the multitude of small, seemingly menial decisions that you made at that time cannot be said to have lead to a life to be happy about.  And, I haven’t even learned my lesson.  Twice since, I’ve not done more in the last few moments I had and missed out on opportunities to spend time with people close to me.  I know, I know…who can tell that it is the end?  How could I have known that my best friend’s father, a man that symbolizes much of what it means to me to be a strong and loving Dad, would not survive his final round of cancer treatment?  Heck, we were going to be at his birthday party in a few weeks…we can wait til then to talk and be together.  How could I have known that when my grandmother told me that my grandfather was being kept overnight because of some irregular heartbeats, something that had happened several times in the past, he’d be gone by morning?  It was late, but why didn’t I just call him that night?

    Regret isn’t about making some change…it is about guilt and not having done the right thing or been the person you wish you could be in the moments when it seems to have counted the most.  I know my grandfather loved me and he knew that I loved him, but I should have called him and told him one more time while I still had the chance.  We all should and I wish I could remind everyone when that moment comes that they need to grab it and do what they need to do.  There is no going back and I don’t think that you can make up for it with platitudes or other, unrelated good works.  You just have to stick around long enough to not feel as bad or to have simply forgotten most of it.  I think the day that I can’t remember this stuff, cannot feel the guilt that I carry, that is the day that I die.

    By the way, James, your blog is becoming a real problem for me.  Every few posts, I find myself needing to write something like this and I’m not sure why.  I think I’ve written that before, but that is only because I don’t quite know what it is about your writing that gets me to respond this way.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Dave, keep writing. It’s very meaningful and adds to my own understanding of these topics. I don’t profess to know it all (I’ve never been through some of the things you’ve described going through and I don’t even want to imagine) and it’s good, I think, for everyone, to hear how you’ve approached these things and what you see as the subtleties in the word ‘regret’. So I really appreciate the comments.

      Youve been through a lot. So nobody can tell you how to deal with it, least of all me. But should you say to yourself, “ok, that sucked, but now I think I’m going to try and be happy when the demons come up” I think its not a bad idea to practice switching gears and say, “ok, what am I going to do today.” Or any of the other ideas I suggest.

      But there’s a certain horrible sweetness and addictive quality to regret. Particularly with an immense regret (and I have been there). It may never die but just over time subside. I don’t know.

      • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

        Thanks, James.  I don’t want to be a drag and I’m not one in person, so I often hesitate to write this stuff for fear that it is ill-timed or too depressing.

        Believe me, I am grateful for the daily practice and want to incorporate it in some form into my life.  I’m just not there yet, at least as far as having the motivation or emotional muscle to implement it and keep it running.

        Oddly, the most focused time in my life was the also the worst.  Similar in the way that severe physical pain can narrow your senses, high levels of stress and emotion seem to do the same for me.  I do not become wayward or distracted and I don’t retreat or withdraw.  Instead, I find it easy to jettison everything in life that does not matter and focus only one the really critical stuff.  It sounds odd to say it, but I never felt stronger or more driven in my life and there is a part of me that misses that.  It seems almost obscene, frankly.  But, I know what you mean about horrible sweetness and addictive regret.

    • Greg

      Dave,

      While it’s true all of us “could have done more”, it’s also true that you can slowly kill yourself worrying about what you could have / should have done. This very day I had a second cousin that was very close to my Dad (my Dad is gone too) that passed away.  I learned 5 months ago that he had lung cancer.  I’ve seen him, but not as much as I should have.  I was sitting here thinking about regretting that I didn’t get by there one more time to see him when I saw your comment and it made me stop and think.  I thought about all the days I spent with him and my Dad  fishing at the coast, going to family events, etc.  I really believe in my heart that all the times I spent with him and the thoughtful things both of us did for each other over the years are what is most important.  

      The truth of both how much you care for someone, and the question of whether you have done “enough” (if you could quantify that number) are answered better by your interactions over the years than by what you’ve done in the last X amount of days.  From a personal viewpoint, I believe he’s in a better place now, and I think if I could talk to him he’d tell me not to worry.  He wouldn’t want that for me.  

      That being said, any of us that have regrets can only take the time to identify which ones are valid and then work on those that really matter.  It sounds to me like you’re a good person with your heart in the right place, and I hope you remember to not beat yourself up.  

      • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

        Thanks and you are right about the “math”.  There are no simple equations when it comes to doing what we should, spending time with people we love, or just having done enough, whatever the enough is.

        And, maybe not beating myself up, but not letting myself off the hook yet either.  Not even ready to see it as anything other than letting myself off the hook, but who knows how it will all look in time.

  • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

    So, given some of what I’ve shared in comments lately, I want to add something to the conversation around regret.  But the words aren’t all fully formed at this point.  I want to say something about how there is a great deal about my life that I wish I had done differently, but that I am thankful for what I have and recognize it would not have happened if I had made more “smart” decisions.  Had I been a better student in high school, I would have gone to a different college, maybe had a different experience, never met my wife, never moved to the DC area…none of which I am unhappy about at all.  So, while I would not suggest anyone do what I did, I think it all turned out alright.

    But, regret is different.  Regret is remembering that you were tired and hungry, so you left the hospital a bit early to go home instead of stay by a dying child’s bedside.  Doesn’t matter if you didn’t know you only had a few more weeks together…that decision and the multitude of small, seemingly menial decisions that you made at that time cannot be said to have lead to a life to be happy about.  And, I haven’t even learned my lesson.  Twice since, I’ve not done more in the last few moments I had and missed out on opportunities to spend time with people close to me.  I know, I know…who can tell that it is the end?  How could I have known that my best friend’s father, a man that symbolizes much of what it means to me to be a strong and loving Dad, would not survive his final round of cancer treatment?  Heck, we were going to be at his birthday party in a few weeks…we can wait til then to talk and be together.  How could I have known that when my grandmother told me that my grandfather was being kept overnight because of some irregular heartbeats, something that had happened several times in the past, he’d be gone by morning?  It was late, but why didn’t I just call him that night?

    Regret isn’t about making some change…it is about guilt and not having done the right thing or been the person you wish you could be in the moments when it seems to have counted the most.  I know my grandfather loved me and he knew that I loved him, but I should have called him and told him one more time while I still had the chance.  We all should and I wish I could remind everyone when that moment comes that they need to grab it and do what they need to do.  There is no going back and I don’t think that you can make up for it with platitudes or other, unrelated good works.  You just have to stick around long enough to not feel as bad or to have simply forgotten most of it.  I think the day that I can’t remember this stuff, cannot feel the guilt that I carry, that is the day that I die.

    By the way, James, your blog is becoming a real problem for me.  Every few posts, I find myself needing to write something like this and I’m not sure why.  I think I’ve written that before, but that is only because I don’t quite know what it is about your writing that gets me to respond this way.

  • http://statspotting.com Statspotting
  • Dee Bai

    Thank you, James. Thank you very much!

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    I have had some time to think about this post, and I think I know an answer, but I would like to hear your POV on letter :

    D: “Make sure you don’t talk about your regrets with your friends.”

    –I don’t talk to my friends about my regrets, but that makes me feel like I am not being honest, or true blue.  I don’t talk about them for many reasons – more than I care to examine, and it has caused me to question myself.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    I have had some time to think about this post, and I think I know an answer, but I would like to hear your POV on letter :

    D: “Make sure you don’t talk about your regrets with your friends.”

    –I don’t talk to my friends about my regrets, but that makes me feel like I am not being honest, or true blue.  I don’t talk about them for many reasons – more than I care to examine, and it has caused me to question myself.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Yeah, when i was writing this I had to re-read it a few times. Reminds me of when I was 11 years old and if I “liked” a girl. If I told someone about it, then that means i REALLY liked the girl. I had set it in stone.

      I tihnk the same thing works (with adults) with regrets. Instead of now just the one person dwelling on a regret, now two people are buidling an entire valley of regrets (since once a regret is shared, the other person will also share).

      But, then again, did I take my own advice? In this post I shared with everyone a lot of my regrets. But I feel i then moved on quickly to the next section of the post and didn’t look back.. I guess it all depends how the sharing is done.

      • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

        James and Cassie, thanks for both your answers.  :)  Very helpful.

        It’s difficult to let go of the past,  but it really doesn’t exist except in our thoughts.  So in theory we should be able to look at today without the burden of past regrets, therein lies the challenge.

        I wish it was easier… for everyone’s sake.

        I think once you burden someone else then the regret itself gains a new lease on life, and may live on in idle gossip long after you have chosen to let it go.  

        I don’t have the greatest memory but others do, and there have been times when a friend/acquaintance has brought something up that I chose to forget….I hate when that happens.

      • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

        James and Cassie, thanks for both your answers.  :)  Very helpful.

        It’s difficult to let go of the past,  but it really doesn’t exist except in our thoughts.  So in theory we should be able to look at today without the burden of past regrets, therein lies the challenge.

        I wish it was easier… for everyone’s sake.

        I think once you burden someone else then the regret itself gains a new lease on life, and may live on in idle gossip long after you have chosen to let it go.  

        I don’t have the greatest memory but others do, and there have been times when a friend/acquaintance has brought something up that I chose to forget….I hate when that happens.

      • Anonymous

        A joy shared is doubled, a trouble shared is lightened.

    • Cassie

      That goes along with “Don’t cast your pearls before swine”.  There are very, very few friends and family that you can be totally transparent with.  They won’t kick you when you’re down, judge you or laugh at you.  You just have to be selective.  They have to prove to you that they are deserving of the most intimate thoughts and struggles you are dealing with.  You need friends that can encourage you.  But they have to show you, one revelation at a time, that they can be trusted. 

      And don’t forget…you DO NOT have a right to demand what you are not willing to give.  Be the kind of friend you are looking for and the friends you want will find you.

  • Dan

    Thank you for your post James. “List the positives,” where you mention all the things that would’ve never happened, reminds me of a story.

    —–

    There is a Taoist story of an
    old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse
    ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad
    luck,” they said sympathetically.

    “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

    The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
    “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride
    one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors
    again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered
    the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to
    draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken,
    they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well
    things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I love this story.

      • http://twitter.com/sandman_va Dave Sandrowitz

        Me too.  One of the best children’s books in our household is called “Zen Shorts” by Jon Muth.  This story, along with a few other wonderful gems, are in there.

    • Jim Howard

      I just ordered this book to read to my Grandkids.

    • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

      I just posted this story on our family buzz for my children.  Thank you for posting it, Dan. :)

    • Anonymous

      I first heard this story from Ram Das many years ago. Heard it years after that from a Jungian therapist at a workshop.  Too, it’s included in a variety of literature, including, I think, a book by Steven Covey.  I, too, love this story and have shared it with many people over the years with the difference that instead of the word, “Maybe,” I say, “You never know. ”  And so it goes.  
      Love you James and Claudia.
      Love this blog.
      Love this community. 

  • wsc

    james, 

    good post…

    btw, i was not disparaging padma’s intelligence and actually, i’m a big fan.  i took a moment to re-read my comment on that post and can see how my joke/compliment could have been taken differently but i also think that maybe you, having had to do this on more than one occasion, were a tad quick to jump to her defense…

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re right. I perhaps was too defensive on that. But it was more the barrage of emails I got than the comments, particularly from people who I felt should’ve known better.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      You’re right. I perhaps was too defensive on that. But it was more the barrage of emails I got than the comments, particularly from people who I felt should’ve known better.

  • wsc

    james, 

    good post…

    btw, i was not disparaging padma’s intelligence and actually, i’m a big fan.  i took a moment to re-read my comment on that post and can see how my joke/compliment could have been taken differently but i also think that maybe you, having had to do this on more than one occasion, were a tad quick to jump to her defense…

  • ABL

    Judging others leads to judging yourself. That’s really powerful James. It’s a great corollary to “lying to others leads to lying to yourself.”

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Great corollary. Very true.

  • squarenerd

    Excellent post, great advice.  For me, I have to laugh every day; a day without laughter is a wasted day.  Some days the laughs are extremely hard to find; on those days, I look harder.
    I also make a list every day about ten things I am grateful for.  Some days that list is REALLY hard to make, but it is critical to me to be thankful for all the blessings in my life.

  • John H

    I regret the failure of my 10 year old business and all the mistakes I made that led to the failure. I keep telling myself not to regret anything, that I would have regreted much more not trying to be an entrepenuer in the first place. Is this ever true? Am I just BSing myself, just trying to rationalize the stress and pain? BTW, the Daily Practice has worked wonders in turning my luck around.

  • John H

    I regret the failure of my 10 year old business and all the mistakes I made that led to the failure. I keep telling myself not to regret anything, that I would have regreted much more not trying to be an entrepenuer in the first place. Is this ever true? Am I just BSing myself, just trying to rationalize the stress and pain? BTW, the Daily Practice has worked wonders in turning my luck around.

  • http://kashkawan.squarespace.com Luisa Perkins

    Thanks for this. I’m kind of on the floor today, but trying to pick myself up. Your posts help.

  • Ken Kurtz

    The problem with regret is that you assume you know the outcome of your regretted decision….which no one knows.  Ever decision takes us down an infinite path of possibilities.  Any of those could have lead to an early death, but right now you are alive.  James could have made better investments, be worth $300 million today and die the next being shot by Stephen Cohen because James banged his wife in the coat closet at a black tie gala.  Each day is a new start. Past losses are irrelevant.

  • Katch

    What does it mean when at least 1 person writes “this is my favorite post yet!!” in the comments section of all of your blog posts?  It means keep doing what you’re doing.  Thanks for allowing me in.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post James.  I stumbled upon your blog and feel lucky that I found it.  I have read so many self help/improvement books in the past and feel that your post on how to be the luckiest guy in 4 easy steps distills all of those books down to the essence of how to get along well in life.  I will save that post to share with my children when they are old enough to understand.  

    I am often consumed with regret for the things I have not done and the time I have squandered.  I find consolation in the thought that things are as exactly as they should be.  All of the good and bad decisions I have made in life have made me who I am. If I didn’t lose the people that I have lost or didn’t make the mistakes I have made I would be much different person.  I would be an arrogant, uncaring person who was not interested in finding out how to live life fully and gracefully. 

  • Kb

    R) is a trap.  If you start doing that, you will wind up apologizing for every little movement in your life.  Think you need to rethink this one.  People need to apologize LESS. An apology these days is equivalent to “get out of my way.”  I know people who apologize profusely for everything, that needs to stop.  It’s a crowded world, apologies are not “due” to anyone.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Apologizing profusely for everything is the trap. But I apologize to myself that i have on occasion sabotaged my own success. And I forgive myself. Then I move on.

  • Sovannop

    wow, man, you’ve been through a lot. It’s very hard to keep going when having those kinds of unforgettable regrets that you have.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JZFTWTJ2Q3MUUQG44RUA7VB7RM Tony

    James, you are an inspiration.
    I am at  the lowest point of my life right now and your blog is REALLY helping me.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Tony, thanks a lot. Please keep in touch with us. Low points are good to acknowledge and say “hi” to so you can then say “bye” to them and begin the process of moving away from them.

  • Anonymous

    My aunt who was stressed had an h.pylori infection that led to stomach cancer. It first causes ulcers. The bacteria may be present in all of us but stress keeps our immune system from fighting it back. May be worth checking out if you still have stomach pain.

  • Jim Howard

    You make me mad at times due your total ignorance of American history, but I keep coming back for insightful posts like this.  Thanks.

  • Thomas J.

    James,

    Your blog is like The Wire.  Reading it has completely ruined my casual blog reading, just as the The Wire completely destroyed my ability to enjoy mediocre TV shows…

    Thank you..  :) 

  • Andy

    Shouldn’t we also learn to forgive ourselves for our mistakes?  It’s hard to do, but essential in moving forward.

  • doug graves

    All good stuff, my friend.

  • Elise

    I just put a post-it on my mirror that says “what am I going to do TODAY”.

  • info

    James, I love you. You rock.
    I

  • Michael3223

    edith  piaf..je regret rien.

    I concur. Waste of energy.

  • Dave Fontaine

    Could you put a print format option on your page?

  • murali

    JA,

    Amazing post! 

    Thank you, more than words can say. 

  • Aisling2809

    This all reminds me of many years back.  I was on  a plane heading to Spain for my best friends wedding.  He had asked me to speak at the wedding, similar to a best man speech but more important because it was part of the ceremony.  I sat there on the runway wondering what the hell I could say that would be memorable and worthy of the event.

    Eventually I came up with a question; “How is it that my best friend from no where in Maine found himself in Barcelona getting married to a wonderful Spanish girl?”  It was at that moment that I realized that life happens every moment of every day.  Every decision  you make impacts your life, and amazingly it’s the little decisions that end up changing your life.  I focused my speech on all the little, and sometimes not so little, decisions he had made which had the wonderful outcome we were all there to witness on that day.

    It’s easy to have regrets, but it’s more important to DECIDE to live life all the time and to the fullest extent possible.  Learn from your regrets, mistakes, but don’t focus on them.  As you stated in this post, move on and make a consistent effort to live and be happy.  Notice the small things, never take the easy path.

    James, thanks for this post.  It’s so easy in this life to become a drone and just go about your daily activity not even noticing your alive.  Then the regrets pile up because you miss all the wonderful opportunities.  You have reminded me to notice life and to make a concerted effort to live it.

    • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

      “life happens every moment of every day.  Every decision  you make impacts your life, and amazingly it’s the little decisions that end up changing your life.”  Beautiful.  Thanks for writing that.

  • Anonymous

    Re: List the Positives

    Sometimes if I’m caught up in beating myself up, I break down the “positives” starting with “What did I do right today?” It can be simple stuff like: got out of bed and fed the cat. I find it to be a really good booster when I’m feeling kinda worthless. We all do a lot of good things every day, but we can be primed to overlook them. Then I celebrate small good things, like someone who lets me into their traffic lane. And so on…

    Keep up the great posts about coming back from disappointment and failure. A lot of people will benefit.

  • Randall

    I ran across this on the LewRockwell.com website today.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by you before, and I’m certainly not the kind of person who adds comments to anything anyone’s ever written.  Be that as it may, I thought it was brilliant — absolutely brilliant.  Thanks.

  • Randall

    I ran across this on the LewRockwell.com website today.  I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by you before, and I’m certainly not the kind of person who adds comments to anything anyone’s ever written.  Be that as it may, I thought it was brilliant — absolutely brilliant.  Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I regret you did not write this post years ago. Today I will embrase my inner cheesecake and my spellchecker as per my teenager’s instructions. (they are good at that)

  • Anonymous

    I regret you did not write this post years ago. Today I will embrase my inner cheesecake and my spellchecker as per my teenager’s instructions. (they are good at that)

  • bob c

    thnx  for the realistic  blog , regrets as told to me is a way of  digging two  graves   and regrets are like stray  cats  if  you don,t  feed  them  they  go  away  , this helped me in my daily stroll thru  life , bob c

  • Nick O’Kelly

    Ahhh, regrets. No better way to prove to yourself that “you” do indeed exist than to look back at the trail and be disgusted with where it lead. Nipple piercing is also an easy way to alleviate a headache. Regret is a lazy distraction from what lies in front of you right now.

    Life experience will eventually prove to you that no matter the course taken, you will end up where you are right here, right now. To expect that if you had not sent that email or executed that one trade or kissed that one girl on that day on the train…you would somehow be someone different or something different…ah, that is the great fallacy of life. Better or worse, the real you will never change-you will always be you.

    I have been poor, rich, poor, rich, free, obligated, free again, sick, healthy, etc. I have seen things and done things that few people ever get to or have to: wonderful things and horrific things. And always I was me.

    So I named my most recent boat, Either Way because i have found that it doesn’t matter which way I choose to go…I always end up wherever I am.

    Simple and trite, I know, but regret is always about dissatisfaction with right now. So be happy about anything right now…like how lucky you are to have found this comment, or that you are breathing or that you don’t have a nipple ring… Anything will do.

    • cooky

      Well said..this and the op.. going to print out for someone close who is going through a difficult time.. ( and for myself) :-)

  • Next time…

    I’m here because I was at a Goodwill and my eye caught a painting or possibly a reproduction,  selling for 3 bucks, but it was way out of my reach on the top shelf.  For a moment, I contemplated climbing up on the lower shelves full of kitchen gadgetry.  The store was busy and no employee was on the  floor; the cashiers were swamped.  I walked around a bit, then out the door to the parking lot.  I sat in my car a minute and said to myself, “I should go get that picture.”   Then sighed and said forget it and drove away. I recently found out the painting is from 1650, painted by a Dutch Master from the Flemish School of Art sold at auction for $190,000.  I live on Social Security with no savings in a house left to me by my parents (which should provide me with enough gratitude).  The  painting would have changed my life, enabled me to help others in my family, and ease my constant worry about pinching pennies and trying to keep this house from decline.  It would represent 20  cumulative years of my income—should  I live that long.  I’m somewhat versed in Eastern thought and I notice reference to some of it here. From s Western perspective,  I read in the Bible that it’s hard for a rich man to get into Heaven—well, thank you, Jesus—at least I got poverty going for me.  It also says where your treasure is so is your heart.  Right now my heart’s treasure  is regret and sorrow—I am poor indeed.   Maybe we are all passengers on a ship of fools, from the top to the bottom.  If you want a perspective on regret, watch McNamara’s documentary, “The Fog of War,” and get a lesson about regret from the architect of the Viet Nam War and whose work led to the dropping of incendiary bombs over Japanese cities that killed 100,000 men, women and children prior to the two A-bombs.  Let’s be grateful we hurt only ourselves and possibly our own—who continue to love us anyway.  And maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to love ourselves for all our warts and wrinkles because of that. It’s a great blessing—to our own shame—to learn that in the end, love is all that remains.  

  • http://officialbuziness.com/ Nick Sparagis

    Regret is really just holding onto the past.  The past is not real.  It’s a memory in your brain.    There is just a present, this moment.  Our repetitive thoughts are just our past reliving itself.  This is what I feel karma is.  My inspiration is the “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. I find myself listening to this book a lot.

  • Searx

    ‘regrets, i have a few but then too few to really matter’–that was from the silly song wriiten by the Canuck, Paul Anka & made famous by Sinatra.

    there is no point to regretting anything. as  Omar Khayyam said almost 1000 yrs ago:

    ‘the moving finger writes and having writ
    moves on; nor all thy piety nor wit
    shall lure it back to cancel half a line
    nor all thy tears wash out a word of it’

    besides, everything is preordained. you can try to change your fate, try a different route, but you will arrive at the same destination.

  • Andrew

    Really glad I stumbled across this. Thanks. It’s given hope to a 40 year old loser who can maybe just maybe begin to look at things a little differently.

  • George Reichel

    And those regrets are so overwhelming at 3:00 in the morning.

  • rachel

    i wish i came across this years ago. i battle with myself over regrets all the time. i have, and am wasting my life and my family miss out because of it along with my battle of depression. ive been selfish and i need to change it. thank you james x

  • wong

    i have been lost all my money and has been depress for the last 10 years no education, no job and big responsible with family and kids thank you for this and i will try my best

  • CC

    Thank you so much for sharing James.
    Funny how we think we are the only ones in a situation.
    Yet there are many people out there going through the same thing and overcoming the odds. Very useful and practical tips.
    Strength and courage to all.
    x

  • Erin

    Thanks for this post, vulnerability is so rare.

  • rumraisin

    thank you

  • joe jack

    thank you this made me feel a bit better
    I hate this feeling of regret it’s messing with me but we have to pull through please stay strong everybody you can do it !