Things We See Clear In Retrospect

A few months ago, I wrote about a great line from Stephen King’s book 11/22/63.

In addition to that line, I also jotted down another thought that stuck with me.

Stupidity is one of two things we see most clearly in retrospect. The other is missed chances.”

In the story, King is writing about a sports bet that the main character shouldn’t have made. This bet makes him money, but it alerts the mob that he is back in town, which puts him in danger.

So in this case, the thing the character sees clearly is his stupid decision to make the bet. Only he doesn’t entirely realized it until it is too late. Thanks a lot hindsight.

I like this line especially based on my post from yesterday about the things we most regret in life. As King says, and Bronnie Ware’s experience with terminal patients has confirmed, missed chances stick with us. And they become more powerful as time goes on.

We see them clearly in retrospect and then we have a hard time getting over them. Even in our final days.

They say “hindsight is 20/20” as in perfect vision. But pre-hindsight (a term I think I just made up), aka the present, often feels like “50/50” as in the flip of a coin. In the moment taking a chance could lead to us looking stupid. There is no guarantee it will work out. But if we don’t try we could end with a missed chance.

Both will only become clear in hindsight. But as we read yesterday, only one do we think about on our deathbed.

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

I stumbled upon an article from by Bronnie Ware titled, Top Five Regrets of The Dying. I just had to read it after seeing an attention-grabbing headline like that.

Ware worked for years with patients who had gone home to die. She was with the patients as they experienced a whirlwind of emotions, such as, “denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance.”

Ware says, “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert writes that people regret not taking action more than they regret taking action. Gilbert says this is because if we make a decision and it goes horribly wrong, we can still console ourselves by feeling that we learned a lesson. We tell ourselves that some good can come out of the bad decision.

But when we do not make a decision, or do not take action, we are not left with a lesson to be learned. All we are left with is regret and the question of what could have been.

Ware’s list of top regrets of the dying greatly reinforce Gilbert’s point. All five of the regrets are examples of not taking an action earlier in life.

1. Not taking action to live a life true to myself. 

2. Not taking time off from work.

3. Not being able to express my feelings.

4. Not staying in touch with my friends.

5. Not letting myself be happier.

Author Gretchen Rubin says that when faced with an important decision, “Later on, you might feel worse about not taking the risk at all, than you will about a risk that doesn’t succeed.”

If you ever start to doubt that fact, just take a look at the top five regrets of the dying.


Click here to read the entire article by Bronnie Ware.

5 Good Things

Having a rough week? Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up?

Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

  1. Woman Goes From Homelessness to Graduating Harvard – After losing her job several years ago, Norma became depressed and entered a downward spiral that left her homeless and drug addicted without any stability to finish school. But then everything changed thanks to Rosie’s Place – a women’s shelter in Boston, Massachusetts.
  2. Pittsburgh Woman Loses 40 Pounds To Donate Her Kidney To A Friend – Would you be willing to do this for a friend? I hope I would, but who knows.
  3. In First At-Bat Since Mom’s Death, College Player Hits Game-Winning Home Run – It had been eight days since his mother, Susan, 59, died from ovarian cancer. It had been 17 days since McCready, a backup outfielder, had even batted in a game. But what came next was magical.
  4. Good Samaritans Rescue Driver From River – The driver of a minivan that plunged off a bridge into the Indian River on Saturday was rescued with the help of some Good Samaritans who were nearby.
  5. Military Mom Surprises Son After He Throws Out 1st Pitch at Baseball Game – Watch this video and try not to get chills.

More Things We Choose

Yesterday I wrote about some of the things we get to choose. Here are a few more…

We choose to try.

We choose to help.

We choose to laugh.

We choose to forgive.

We choose to be polite.

We choose to try again.

We choose to be humble.

We choose how to respond.

We choose when to respond.

We choose why we respond.

We choose to learn a lesson.

We choose if we learn anything.

We choose to try again, and again.

We choose what we make a priority.

We choose which one of the seven dwarfs we want to be like today.


We choose more than we think.

Things We Choose

On Tuesday, the NBA held their Draft Lottery. This is the process the league uses determine the order of the draft. The event features ping pong balls, anxious teenagers and constant suspicion that someone is up to something. Not unlike a college frat party.

The worse the team is, the more likely they are to receive a good draft pick. But overall, they do not get to choose where in the draft order they get to pick. And keeping with the theme of not being able to choose, the draft prospects do not get to decide which team picks them.

Markelle Fultz, generally thought of as the best player available, does not get to choose whether the Boston Celtics, the team with the first pick, draft him. He does not get to choose where he is living never year (although he will be making enough money that he will be able to live in lots of different places).

Fans of NBA teams do not get to choose who their franchise selects. I may want the Suns to draft Przemek Karnowski, but I have no say in that.

So the teams do not get to choose where they pick, players do not get to choose who picks them and fans do not get to choose who their team picks.

Makes you start to think that we do not get to choose anything these days. If that is what you think (and not just about the NBA Draft), here’s a reminder that there are, in fact, many things we get to choose. Here are just a few…

We chose to be mad.

We choose to give up.

We choose to waste time.

We choose to stop learning.

We choose to hold a grudge.

We choose to worry too much.

We choose to listen to the negative voices.

We choose to bite off more than we can chew.

We choose to think we need to control everything.

We choose to think that we have no control over anything.


The Podcasts I Listen To

Yesterday I wrote about the 5 things we can learn from podcasts. In honor of that, I thought I would share the podcasts I currently subscribe to. What do you listen to? Let me know if you have a podcast suggestion in the comments section below.

(In order of the Adam Baker podcast ranking)

  1. Brickhouse – Unconventional and hilarious basketball analysis.
  2. CBS Sports Eye On College Basketball Podcast – Fun college basketball talk with shout outs to your favorite random players.
  3. Freakonomics Radio – Have fun discovering the hidden side of everything.
  4. St. Patrick Catholic Community – Previews of the weekly readings and replays the Sunday’s homily.
  5. Catholic Stuff You Should Know – A lighthearted exploration of various prominent and obscure Catholic topics.
  6. Happier with Gretchen Rubin – Practical, manageable advice about how to be happier.
  7. The Seth Davis Podcast – Smart conversations with interesting people in and around the world of sports.
  8. Stuff You Should Know – Learn how everything works.
  9. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know – Journalism wrapped in a game-show package.
  10. Side Hustle School – A daily show for everyone who works a regular job and wants to start an income-earning project on the side.
  11. The Way I Heard It With Mike Rowe – Great storytelling of popular stories…with a twist.
  12. Grammar Girl Quick And Dirty Tips For Better Writing – Short and friendly tips to improve your writing.

The Worst Time To Ask For Something

The other day I turned on to the freeway and I saw a hitchhiker holding a sign asking for a ride. It took less than one mental snapshot to know that, not only was I not going to pick him up, but he would be waiting there all day long. 

How did I know he wouldn’t receive a ride, you ask?

Did he look deranged? No, he was well kept and wasn’t holding a human head or doing anything that screamed, “villain from the Saw movie franchise”. 

Was he unclear on where he wanted to go? No. His sign was very clear. It was simple and said “I-10 E” in big letters. Signifying that he wanted to go to the I-10 freeway going east. He even put a fun smiley face in the 0. 

Was he asking for too much? No, the location he needed to go was less that 5 miles from where I entered the freeway. Not too much to ask at all. 

So how did I know he wouldn’t get a ride?

Because he was set up halfway down the freeway’s on ramp. He wasn’t right on the corner where he could actually get in the car of someone willing to pick him up. He was standing on the side of the road almost all the way to the entrance of the freeway. 

Even if his mother was driving by and saw him, it would be too late for her to give him a ride

Which reminds me of a very important aspect of asking for something. Timing

In the past I have written that studies show that one of the biggest reasons people give, is because they were asked. But as my hitchhiker friend illustrates, we need to know when to ask. To put it more clearly, we can’t ask for something when it is too late. 

Children who ask for a list of toys on December 26th will get laughed at by their parents. A man who asks his high school crush out on a date when she is married with 3 kids is going to be shot down. And a hitchhiker who asks for a ride when doing so would cause a 10 car pile up is going to get left in the dust. 

Timing is a critical part of asking for something. 

Because I am a freeway-half-full kinda guy I like to think that I just caught this man at the wrong time. Maybe he was working his way up the on ramp and just stopped to catch his breath. Maybe he was trying to improve his positioning and eventually he set up his smiley face sign at the corner. 

For his sake I hope that’s the case. Because where I saw him, he had everything going for him but one vital detail. Timing.

Just The Beginning

I once wrote that I am the Peyton Manning of making decisions. Not because I am a record setting, future Hall of Famer, but because of how long it takes to get things in motion. Like Manning who switched plays at the line of scrimmage, just barely beating the play-clock, I constantly change my mind and take way too much time to make even the smallest of choices.

I kinda don’t know why I do that. I recognize, I am prone to over thinking, but I also recognize that 9 times out of 10, the outcome of the decision morphs so much that is doesn’t even resemble the many scenarios that I previewed in my head. Just another reminder that I am bad at predicting the future (which I’ve also written about).

I guess I just figure that the decision is the most important thing.

Maybe I am wrong.

Maybe the decision (while important) is not the end credits. Maybe it is the opening scene.

Sometimes making a decision feels like we are breaking through that tape at finish line and confetti is floating all around us. But that is not the case. Deciding just starts the race.

Or as Paulo Coelho puts it in his great book, The Alchemist…

making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

Maybe I do not need to run through every scenario before making a decision. I can’t accurately predict what is going to happen, anyway. Maybe I am better off limiting the paralysis by analysis and just choosing. And then spend my brain power adjusting to the many places the decision may take me.

What do you think?

April Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of April:

Questions I Asked –

What Is A Tar Heel?It is, in fact, something besides the team that crushed my dreams.

Why Do We Say “Pull Your Leg”? – There are many theories. Which one is correct?

Things We Learned –

What I Would Have Told Gonzaga and UNC On The Eve Of The NCAA Championship – If I were their coach, I would have told them to write for ten minutes about their feelings and concerns regarding the game. Here’s why.

What I Would Have Told Gonzaga After The Championship Game -Keep shooting. Here’s why.

What North Carolina Would Tell Gonzaga – If I had to guess what advice UNC would give to Gonzaga, I would suspect that they would tell the Bulldogs to find meaning in this obstacle. Here’s why that works.

How To Develop Original Ideas – Would you like to learn research-backed strategies for generating—and recognizing—your most promising original ideas? Well, I have something for you.

What Advice Kobe Bryant Has For Us – Check it out. It is quite helpful.

Fun With Numbers –

5 More Strange But True Facts – Did you know you are more likely to die from a coconut than from a shark. — I can’t wait for Discovery Channel’s Coconut Week.

5 Good Things – Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up? Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life – This great Inc. article looks at a Harvard study that has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations for over 75 years. Thanks to multiple generations of researchers, the study has one power conclusion…

5 Things We Can Learn From A TV Remote – The great thing about learning is that it is not confined to certain times or locations. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

10 Lines From Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life  – Here are some great quotes from a roundup of 30 famous writers and entertainers responding in short essays to their favorite Snoopy “at the typewriter” strip.

A Little Advice From Kobe Bryant

If you have Oprah’s number, you should probably give her a call. And you should probably tell her about your favorite children’s book character, Maury C. Moose.

But that isn’t the only reason you should call her.

Last night, Kobe Bryant was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon talking about the animate movie he made about retiring from the NBA. Jimmy was impressed by the help Kobe had on the film – Glen Keane, from the Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Aladdin is the animator & John Williams of ET and Star Wars fame did the score.

When asked how he got those industry legends, Kobe said he just cold called them. He said he does stuff like that all the time. He’s called Oprah just to talk.

When Jimmy laughed at this, Kobe had some good advice:

If you want to learn something, the best way to learn is to reach out and ask.”

Let’s forget about the fact that the people who will take Kobe’s calls are way different from the people who will take our calls. I wouldn’t even know how to get the first digit of Oprah’s number, let alone the next 6.

The important thing is not that we should try to call the guy who does the music for Star Wars. The message we can take from Kobe, is that if we want to learn something, we should reach out to someone who is currently doing that thing and ask.

Here’s the entire video: