“We all want to be seen as successful. Being admired is another form of being loved, and everyone wants that. And for many people, money and power are the ways they measure success. It’s a never-ending game, because the person seeking love by trying to get a million dollars will not feel loved at one million. So they will try to get to two million. Guess how they feel then? The same. ”
When a consumer buys a product on the market, he can compare alternative brands. … When you elect a politician, you buy nothing but promises. … You can compare 1968 Fords, Chryslers, and Volkswagens, but nobody will ever be able to compare the Nixon administration of 1968 with the Humphrey and Wallace administrations of the same year. It is as if we had only Fords from 1920 to 1928, Chryslers from 1928 to 1936, and then had to decide what firm would make a better car for the next four years….
Not only does a consumer have better information than a voter, it is of more use to him. If I investigate alternative brands of cars …. decide which is best for me, and buy it, I get it. If I investigate alternative politicians and vote accordingly, I get what the majority votes for. …
Imagine buying cars the way we buy governments. Ten thousand people would get together and agree to vote, each for the car he preferred. Whichever car won, each of the ten thousand would have to buy it. It would not pay any of us to make any serious effort to find out which car was best; whatever I decide, my car is being picked for me by the other members of the group. … This is how I must buy products on the political marketplace. I not only cannot compare the alternative products, it would not be worth my while to do so even if I could.
”—From The Machinery of Freedom by David D. Friedman (via eyelessseer)
There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?
The subject of Thursday’s Behavioral Economics class dealt with the contradictory nature of risk averse behavior to small bets.
For example, if you were offered a 50/50 chance of losing $10 or gaining $11 would you take it? The class was split: 14 in favor and 17 against. A second bet was offered: a 50/50 chance of losing $100 or gaining $1000. The shift in favor of this bet was overwhelming: 30 in favor, 1 against. Of course what rational character would choose to avoid this bet?
A better example is one recorded by the late economist Paul Samuelson. Over lunch, Samuelson offered the colleague a hypothetical wager of losing $100 or gaining $200 at 50/50 odds. Declining the wager, the colleague found it unappealing, but then stated that if the bet could be taken 100 times in a row, it would be preferable.
Isn’t this a reflection of how all of us are initially hardwired?
Many of us would jump at the opportunity to earn a million dollars or gain the insight of a TED presenter. We want to earn a spot in a top-tier school or go viral on YouTube, but then struggle to muster the motivation to grind through tasks such as researching audiovisual equipment, learning to write a sketch, understanding camera placement and recording levels, and sustaining a network among other YouTubers, in terms of quality and consistency.
In short, I think we settle. We hesitate and opt out of the ‘bet’ in order to maintain our personal status quo. As a result of this irrational risk aversion to small ‘bets’, we often miss opportunities that will lead to others through building key skills.
If I’ve learned anything from Jeopardy, it’s this: while Daily Doubles are key opportunities to gain or maintain a competitive edge, they do very little without a relatively high score to wager against beforehand.
I think the need for credibility is something to keep in mind when assessing potential outcomes of new endeavors or responsibilities. The big changes we, individually and collectively, hope for are a result of the everyday moments that constantly creep by. How can we hope for substantial change without reconsidering the small bets?