The day I started living Regret Free

Regret Free Life was “born” on September 11, 2001.  At the time, I was a 23 year-old “striver;” the term I use to describe the college educated men and women in their early 20s who embrace a ‘success-at-all-costs’ approach to life.

I had been a “striver” all my life.  In high school, I did everything; joined every group, played every sport, and read every book that I could. I worked tirelessly, imagining the day when I would proudly display the sticker of some old, regal university across the back window of my old 1985 Buick Skyhawk; giving her, and me, the sense of accomplishment, significance, we longed for.

In college (Duke, as it turned out), surrounded by other strivers, my sense of significance came from being able to work hard and party harder.  I spent long hours in the library by day, and even longer hours in the fraternity house at night; trying to make every moment on among those ivory-covered buildings, count.

After college, my first stop was Manhattan.  I found The City to be fast-paced and electric.  Opportunity rich in every way. It was rich rich, too.  And while I was not rich, I certainly intended to be…and soon. As my thinking went at the time, I would make a pile of money, receive the “stamp” of approval from family and friends, then go do all the things that I really wanted to do…

I had been living in New York for about a year when American Airlines Flight 11 flew right over my head as I walked to work down Fifth Avenue on the morning of Sept 11.  Despite the extraordinary sight of a large commercial jet buzzing the Big Apple, I watched it for only a few seconds – quickly turning my attention back to the “striver” book I was listening to: TITAN, a biography of John D. Rockefeller. Incidentally, had I followed the flight path for another 20 seconds, I would have witnessed the impact as it happened.

25 minutes later, when the reality of the situation was fully understood, I raced from my office on Madison Ave, back to Fifth. Along with 100 or so others, I stood in the middle of the street watching as the smoke billowed from the upper reaches of the towers.  Soon, to our collective amazement, the first building began to tremble.  Then, to our collective horror, the first building collapsed; disappearing amidst a volcano-like explosion of dust and ash.  The terror of that moment was heart-stopping; to recall it, even today, gives me chills.  But within that cacophony of sound and emotion, there was clarity: EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT NOW.

Oddly, once the initial fear abated, I felt a wave of…of…relief…wash over me.  I know, relief is an unexpected, even callous, sensation for such a moment, but that’s what it was. More accurately, what I was feeling was a sense of liberation…a freedom from the expectations I had been working, all my life, to exceed.  Now that everything was different, I could be different too.  If everything had changed, then I could simply be myself.  My inner voice was quiet, but clear: Life is short, Ben; time to start living.

From that moment on, I decided to focus less on what Ishould do – and more on what I wanted to do; what I was called to do. From that moment on, I took ownership for my life; no longer content to simply float downstream with everyone else. As The Towers came crashing down on 9/11, so too did the walls of an invisible prison I had built for myself.

Ultimately, I realized that despite all of my hard work and careful planning, I would never be able to create a risk-free life…there was no such thing. There was, however, a way to create a regret free life…and from that moment on I was committed to doing so.

So, what is a regret free life?  Simply put, it’s a life in which the choices you make clearly align with who you are (your values & beliefs; not other people’s) and what you want (your dreams & desires).

Today, Regret Free Life looks to help “strivers” better align their values and desires with their work and life. For some that requires first breaking out of that invisible prison as I had to do.  For others, outside the prison but not sure where to run, it means developing a plan, a strategy, to help them get to where they want to go, faster.

Either way it means more people living the lives they imagined they’d be living – and a better world as a result.

Like the sound of this?  Email me and we’ll set up a free “Life Strategy Review” – a fast and effective way to test how aligned you are today and we’ll figure out a way to get you from here to happiness faster.


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