In her groundbreaking book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”, Bronnie Ware, who worked in palliative care chronicled her experience with patients who were at the end of their lives. When she questioned them about the regrets that they had, a common theme emerged.
The #1 regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. While there have been millions of pages written about this, the second item on the list is what we all need to read, re-read and read again.
The #2 regret was “I wish I didn’t work so hard”.
For many decades, the world has been manically focused on “success”, rushing madly towards the ambiguous elusive goal called “success”. They are working 16-hour days, leaving families behind, missing the childhood of their kids, living out of airports and hotels, and virtually killing themselves through work, only to find in the end that it was all meaningless.
While working hard and getting ahead is a good thing, this is not really why we were born. We are human beings and not human doings. What’s the point of having a million dollars in the bank when all those who have mattered have left you?
There needs to be a clear distinction between what we live for and what we do for a living. The two often get muddled and people on the path to success leave behind casualties in terms of broken hearts, spoiled relationships, and failing personal health. There is no point being a legend when you have failed as a human being. Let’s look at two of the most talked about business leaders.
With due respect to Steve Jobs, the man is an epitome of a legend who failed as a human being. While people salute his genius, he was never much liked. He took advantage of the people around him, was ruthless and manipulative in his breathless climb to the top. While he did eventually redeem himself up to a certain degree, it was a little too late and his life ended shortly. Now compare that with Bill Gates, he is a legend who has lived a well rounded life. He worked his guts off in his youth sleeping in his office, but then always took time out for his wife and child, had a good lifestyle, lived well and took meditative retreats.
Later on, he distanced himself from business and worked on a new passion, charity. The Gates foundation has the biggest pool of money in the world and Gates managed to make the likes of Warren Buffett commit a major portion of their wealth to charity, and he is still not done. Now this is a man who is loved by his family, adored by his friends, admired by many, and blessed by countless souls who benefit from his charity.
That’s a life well lived. And, he won’t have regrets on his death bed.