I was having a conversation
with a friend a couple of weeks ago and he asked me if looking back, I had any
regrets over the 22 years I spent with my former organization. He wasn’t asking about mistakes – we’ve all
made plenty of them, and I’ve certainly made my share – but rather the kind of
deep regrets that haunt you for a long time. It
seems to me that the difference between a deep regret and a mistake is that a deep
regret comes from something you did which violated your Core and a mistake is
something you did based on the best information you had at the time, but which may
not have turned out so well. I know for example, that I made hiring mistakes
that I don’t regret because I made them on the best information I had at the
To my friends question I thought
for a moment and said “yes, one.” There
was a situation about twenty years ago when I destroyed a relationship because
of what I thought at the time was truth.
Truth is important to
me. I like to know and understand the
truth and I believe it’s worth fighting for. Is global warming true? If it is,
then let’s fight to solve it. If it’s
not then lets fight those who are lying to us. Is universal health care the true solution? If it is, then let’s demand it. If it’s not, than let’s make sure we protect
ourselves from it. Is Bordeaux the best wine in the world? Yes. But I digress.
The point is, there are
things that are true and they are worth fighting for, but in that one instance
of deep regret so many years ago, the truth wasn’t nearly as clear as I thought
it was and the loss of the relationship was far worse than I thought it would
be. In the process of holding on to what
I thought was the truth I violated the most important truth – the truth about
who I am.
I am a Relationships “Core Motivator” and “who” I am is more important
than the principles I hold on to. Principles
– like truth – are important but they are not as important as the “who.” At my core I am about relationships and truth
is secondary. Order is important.
There is a lot of rhetoric
today about being “principle-centered,” and it’s mostly good stuff. It’s good to have principles and to stand for
something. But to build our lives on
principles falls short of building our lives out of our Core. It is a case of the good being the enemy of
When I wield the truth saber
at the sacrifice of my relationship core then I am committing a suicide of
design in the name of principle jihad. In other words, if I become a truth terrorist then I will kill the very core
of who I am in order to advance the cause of a principle – in this case, ultimate
Organizations and their leaders
are always tempted to do this. The
apparent crisis of the moment tempts a leader to sacrifice the core of the
organization in order to fix a problem based on a good principle. Great leaders understand this and are able to
keep core things core. They realize that
good principles, while important, are secondary.
My mother died in April and
it has been harder than I ever imagined it would be. I was driving one of my closest friends to
the airport after the funeral and he said to me, “One thing I don’t hear from
you is any regrets.” I thought for a
moment and said, “No, I don’t think I have any.”
We were there for every
Christmas, and almost every summer we took some vacation time to be with my
parents and my extended family. My kids
had many opportunities to know and love their grandmother. My parents came to
visit us often and we spoke on the phone on a regular basis. Despite living far away we stayed close, but
that is not why I have no regrets.
I always enjoyed being with my
mother and she never let me get away with being anyone but who I am. She knew me too well. With her I was always able to let down and be
me, and the times spent with her were always ones of connection and
Relationship. In other words, the
Christmas’ and vacations were important but they were not the core thing. The freedom to be me and the enjoyment of my
relationship with her was the core thing, and that is why I have no regrets.
The shortness of life and the
need to live it to the fullest has been impressed upon me during the past two
months in a way I never imagined. Knowing who I am and being all of who I am has become even more
important to me.
The goal of the Vision for Your Life process is that you
and I would be able to live our lives to the fullest, having no – or at least
few – regrets because we know the difference between Core things and secondary
The principles we build out
lives around are good, but they are not as important as our Core. When we live
out of our Core Motivator we maximize our lives and minimize our regrets.
Know who you are and be it!