In Daniel Pink’s latest book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, Pink lists four core regrets:
Connection seems to me to be one of the most impactful of the regrets. It’s the time you never spend on those relationships.
I had a friend who was the oldest friend of my life. Our parents were friends after WWII. We knew each other from the time we were months old. Then our lives took different roads. While I was off to engineering school, he ended up in Viet Nam. While I didn’t think bad of those guys who ended up there, it did take our lives in very different directions. Our paths never seemed to cross much after that. Until one day he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He ended up at the Univerisity of Michigan hospital near where I was living at the time. After that, our lives crossed many times as I visited him in the hospital and those old feelings of friendship returned.
Then one day the doctors declared that he was in full remission and was able to go home. Unfortunately, the cancer soon returned and other seemed to be nothing left to do. But, I felt very blessed that we had connected again and many of the old memories of growing up returned.
Then I received a call from his son that my friend was dying and only had a few days left. I immediately headed for his home and got there in time to be with him in his last days. My friend slept most of the time that I visited and his wife told me that he didn’t recognize his surroundings or the people around him. However, with I went in to see him and stroke his forehead it seemed to me that he recognized me. It may have been wishful thinking on my part but I did feel like he knew I was there. The next day his son called again to let me know he had passed away.
This is what Pink was referring to when he identified the fourth regret as connections. They’re fleeting. They slip away easily. They take an effort to stay connected. Here was my oldest friend and, just because our lives took different directions, we lost some of that connection. I’ve made many new friendships around the world since then but, because I didn’t make the effort, I regret that I let one of my oldest relationships slip away. Like many of these lists, the last is often the most impactful. It’s that way with this list of regrets. Letting connections slip away from us created the most regret in the end. Don’t let it happen. Evaluate your connections. Some of them are shallow and the effort is never made to develop a strong bond. However, others are worth the effort to put in the time, make that call, and keep the connection alive.
Worth the Effort
As I said, I have worked all over the world and made “friends” in many corners of the world. But with a few of them, I have developed long-lasting relationships. I was having dinner with one connection that I cherish and have developed over the years. During dinner, he began to cry because of a tragedy in his life. When we finished dinner and he got his emotions back under control, he admitted to me that I was the one person he had cried with about the tragedy. I felt connected.
Another client was having difficulty talking with me about a certain topic. She finally admitted that her boss (years ago) had raped her and she had never been able to share that with anyone except me. I felt connected.