Advice from a 73-Year-Old: Go for It!

By Shlomo Maital


 In his New York Times column today, Roger Cohen writes movingly about the carnage of war and battle. He also includes a passage that caught my eye:

     It seems, as we grow older, that we are haunted less by what we have done than by what we failed to do, whether through lack of courage, or information, or insufficient readiness to cast caution to the winds. The impossible love abandoned, the gesture unmade, the heedless voyage untaken, the parting that should not have been – these chimera always beckon.

      We are haunted less by what we have done than by what we failed to do.

     I just turned 73. I admit that as a fairly ethical person, I am sometimes haunted by what I did. But also, as Cohen notes, I’m mainly haunted by what I did NOT do, by opportunities missed. Like, becoming an economist rather than a journalist or writer, because it seemed safer.

     I think that if young people consulted me today, the main advice I would give them is to think ahead backward. When faced with a great new opportunity, a scary one, one that involves risk – how do you decide?   Think ahead. Picture yourself a decade ahead, 2025. Imagine that you have taken this opportunity. Picture where you are, what it feels like. Feel the emotion in your gut. Does it feel right? Now, imagine yourself in 2025, and you’ve chosen NOT to take the opportunity, or chance. How does it feel? Do you sense regret? Is that sense of regret a sharp stabbing pain in your gut?  

     Do you agree with Roger Cohen, that we are pained by things we pass by and miss, rather than things we do and experience?  

   You cannot try EVERYthing. But you can try more things, and be more adventurous. Even if you fall on your face, you’ve learned, and grown, and always have the warm feeling that you had the courage to give it a shot, which for me is a big part of self-awareness and self-acceptance. And it’s never too late, even at age 73. Right?