Think of every single mistake you've made in life. I've made plenty, more than I can count, but that's not important now. What's important, in my opinion, is that you place all of those mistakes in a giant mental bucket and pour them down a giant mental drain?
I had a wonderful manager, when I first moved back to San Diego, who used to talk about head-trash. That's the stuff that accumulates in the brain and too often caused me to incessantly ask the question, "What if?" What if I'd invested more in my retirement accounts and less in real estate? The 2008 crash hurt my real estate holdings tremendously and by 2010, my 30-year broadcasting career came screeching halt. I could no longer afford to maintain my real estate portfolio and all those thousands of dollars invested in an array of rental properties were gone, just as I was embarking on a new career, the one I'm in today. I was starting over, at age 50. My income had fallen dramatically (I'd gone from News Anchor and Reporter, to Financial Advisor newbie), I'd recently purchased a condominium, my wife was not working and we just had a baby boy.
What if I'd stayed inside the insurance company, where I started, instead of leaving to become and independent Financial Planner? It's scary to deviate from what you know, but now I see growth opportunities I never imagined.
What if I never left San Diego, my home town, to pursue work in Chicago? I would have stayed safe and warm, but I never would have known the exhilaration that came from the challenge of trying something new. Sure, I got knocked around, froze my hind parts off many days, but I never would have met my wife, who is the most fabulous woman I've ever known and who gave me the most glorious son I could have ever imagined.
Amazingly, despite all the stirring and wild swings, I find myself precisely where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do - back in San Diego, building a highly efficient and streamlined financial planning practice. I appreciate warm, sunny winters more than ever. I chuckle quietly to myself at the sight of folks, with chattering teeth, when it's in the mid-40s. That's downright balmy compared to the sub-zero temperatures I used to know.
I have found a way back from financial set-back and have learned volumes from my mistakes. It's knowledge that I'm eager to share with my clients and friends. It's great to be book-smart, but life experience may be the best teacher.
Ruminating about all those what ifs takes away from the better, higher function of the brain, the forward-thinking part. The past is gone. It's unchangeable. Revisiting it time-and-time again will not reverse the good or the bad, it simply occupies the mind, causes you to look back, while life and beauty of it is there, unfolding in front of you.
I'm old enough to remember a band that hit big in the '70s called Boston. Everyone in my age range remembers the group's debut album. Not as many remember the second album - and cut one, on side one was a song called, "Don't Look Back." The bands' architect was the brilliant guitarist, Donald Schultz who wrote the song and in it he said, "Now I see what I am is holding me down. I'll turn it around." No one is standing in the way of me, but me. No one can correct that, but me. It's an iteration of what that terrific manager I mentioned earlier used to say - you are the problem, you are the solution.
Don't look back. Embrace change. The possibilities for achievement are unlimited. Risk can be a conduit for reward, if handled properly. Chaos can be a marvelous precursor to order. No, I have not accomplished all that I want and no, life is not perfect. My wife and I still experience all the tension that is associated with striking out on our own. What I have learned is, life is not about destinations. If you're determined enough, you'll get where you want to go, eventually. Life is about making it a joyous journey and all of the "what ifs" from the past are nothing more than a diversion. Send them down the drain.