I generally like to look forward. I can control my actions in the future. There is nothing I can really do about what has happened in the past.
Every once in a while, I spend some time analyzing the past. I also find that very valuable. Though it is important not to get too caught up in worrying about things you can no longer change. Instead, it’s often best for me to ignore these sunk costs and make the best decision I can, today.
The thing I find most interesting about looking back on our lives is how we view our success. What made us successful in the past and how can we replicate that in the future?
When I’m 60 (hopefully one day), what will I attribute to my success.
If you google famous people and look at their history or bio. You’ll see a list of things that they accomplished when they were younger.
If you go on linkedin, everyone lists all their past jobs and awards they got.
I think “accomplishments” are one way to show your history. But to me, the more interesting and insightful timeline is not a list of the things you got…but rather the things you really wanted to get but did not.
Ezra Klein shared this concept in an interview. He said that,
“The things that I wanted and didn’t get are extreme blessings.”
— Ezra Klein
That quote really stuck out to me. I look back to the times I really wanted something. I am not talking about like oh hey it would be great to do this or if I got this position. No. These were things I worked really hard for and really wanted. I stayed up late and woke up early for these things. I thought I was doing whatever it takes for them.
But, no matter my effort, I did not get them. A good example. As a sophomore in high school (some 4 years or so ago), I really wanted to be in Student Government. I wanted to be the class treasurer. I campaigned, spent a lot of time, and was really excited for the opportunity.
I did not win.
Looking back. I am so happy I did not win. That year, I started two businesses that would be perhaps, to this day, the most defining learning experiences from high school. And, who knows, would I have ever started those businesses if I had won? Probably would not have had enough time.
Last year, I really wanted to be in a social fraternity. A lot of my friends were doing it. I thought it would have been super fun. Again, I got really close. This time, really close. But I did not get it. I was cut.
It is hard to say this and hard to tell, but I am so happy I did not get those bids. I imagine that years from now that view will only become more defined. 2016 started with that “bad news.” But 2016 was the most formative year of my life. I did more, learned more, connected with more people, and grew more than any other year of my life.
Would that have happened if I had did a fraternity? Maybe? Probably not though.
Of course, in the moment — we want all the things we can get. In hindsight, we can often see from a clearer lens. Makes the failures more interesting.
Originally published at Jordan Gonen.