Daniel Pink: Turn Regrets Into Gold, Understand Your Emotions, and Live Your Best Life | E189
Daniel Pink: Turn Regrets Into Gold, Understand Your Emotions, and Live Your Best Life | E189
[00:00:00] Daniel Pink: Regret is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. It's one of the most common emotions that human beings have. If we treat our regrets properly, it helps us do better. Not only a little bit, and not only on a few things, but a lot of bit on many things. Overwhelmingly, over time, we regret what we didn't do. I regret that I didn't reach out.
[00:00:26] I regret that I didn't start that business. I regret that I didn't tell that person that I love them. On the surface, they're in different categories, but they're the same regret. You're at a juncture in your life and you have a choice. When people don't take the chance, they regret it. I gotta say the single best decision making tool that I know of when you're stuck is.
[00:00:54] Hala Taha: What is up young and profiteers. You're listening to YAP, Young and [00:01:00] Profiting Podcast, where we interview the brightest minds in the world and unpack their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your daily life. I'm your host, Hala Taha. Thanks for tuning in and get ready to listen, learn and profit.
[00:01:26] Welcome back to Young and Profiting Podcast, Daniel.
[00:01:29] Daniel Pink: Hey, it's great to be here, Hala. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:32] Hala Taha: Yes, I'm super excited for this conversation. So last time you're on this show. It was back in December of 2019. It was for episode number 50. It was called The Science of Perfect Timing. And that episode was actually one of my all time favorite episodes on YAP.
[00:01:44] Everybody who listened to it loved it, and I have a feeling this conversation is gonna be equally as good because in my opinion. You are the epitome of what a great podcast guest is. You're so knowledgeable. There's no fluff when you talk. Everything is backed up by science and research. And so you are the [00:02:00] ideal YAP guest for that reason.
[00:02:02] And here at YAP. We love to go super deep on a specific topic. Today's focus is gonna be on regret. You are the author of seven books and your latest book is called The Power of Regret How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. So let's jump right into this topic of regret. Last time you're on the show, we covered your career journey extensively.
[00:02:20] So anybody who's tuning in and interested in that can go back to episode number 50. I highly recommend that episode. And so Daniel, I'm pretty familiar with your work and usually you write a book because you're very curious about the topic yourself, and you start to research that topic. You call this Me search.
[00:02:35] So let's start there. What was the genesis of this book and what initially got you curious about this topic?
[00:02:41] Daniel Pink: Once again, I've fallen down the trap of Me search, because that's what this is again. So here's what happened in 2019. I had one of those moments in life that you get to when you get to be my age.
[00:02:54] I'm in my fifties and I had a kid graduate from college. So that's a jarring experience because you wonder like, how did that [00:03:00] kid grow up so fast, and how am I possibly old enough to have a kid who's graduating from college? And in the course of this college graduation. Which was very long and lengthy, and my daughter's last name starts with P, there was a lot of waiting around, inevitably your mind wanders.
[00:03:15] And as my mind was wandering, my thoughts turned to my own college experience, and I started thinking about what I regretted. There were a lot of things I regretted. I wish I had worked harder. I wish I had been kinder. I wish I had been a little gutsier, taking more risks. So these thoughts were tiptoeing through my head when I came back.
[00:03:32] And I wanted to discuss them with other people, but I knew that nobody wanted to talk about regret cuz it's taboo. So against my better judgment, I very sheepishly mentioned a few of these regrets to a few people. And I discovered that everybody wanted to talk about regret . That it was a kind of topic, that there was this kind of damn breaking that people said, Oh my God, you have that regret?
[00:03:56] I have that regret too. And they wanted to talk about it. And it, and I think what's interesting from a [00:04:00] writer's perspective is that sometimes I'll raise an idea or concept into people. Okay, that's nice. All right, whatever what are we having for dinner? And that's, that happens a lot and that's cool.
[00:04:08] But this is one where people like literally, and this literally, they leaned in that as their bodies move forward in, in wanting to discuss this. And that's a very good sign. And so that took me on this two and a half year journey to try to make sense of this emotion. Which I think that we've misunderstood profoundly.
[00:04:25] And that also gives us. Hints about how to lead a better life.
[00:04:30] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I feel like I learned so much in this book. Like you said, regret is this like kind of misunderstood emotion? And to my surprise, it's very complex and it actually springs from an internal cognitive process. And so in the book you talk about how humans are like time travelers because our brains have the ability to revisit the past, and invent these alternative narratives and scenarios.
[00:04:54] And so I thought that was really fascinating. Can you explain that to us?
[00:04:58] Daniel Pink: So when we think about what [00:05:00] regret is, I mean it's certainly an emotion and it's emotion that makes us feel bad and we should be in awe of our ability to process regret. When you think about it cognitively, let's use my example.
[00:05:10] So if only I had taken more risks, when I was in college. Okay? What I do is I go back in time to when I was in college. All right? I negate what really happened, which was being a little bit of a wimp, and I replaced that truth with a counterfactual. So let's say that I was doing something a little a little gutsier like playing a club level sport rather than just wimp out, right?
[00:05:36] You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna actually try to become like a very skilled basketball player and risk the injuries and risk the feelings of stupidity, and not being good enough and whatnot, rather than just retreat. So I go back and negate that. So not only that, but I come back to the present.
[00:05:51] Now my present is reconfigured because I've changed the past and now suddenly, I don't know, I'm like coaching a basketball team or I'm a better leader because I had [00:06:00] more experience with a team sport or something like that. And so it's really this incredible process that we go through where we get in the time machine, we go backward. We negate what happened, we get back in our time machine. We go forward to the present, and the present magically looks different because of what we've done in the past.
[00:06:15] Now this is one reason why. Regret is a, it's a milestone in our development that as little kids can't do this. Five year olds don't experience regret cuz they can't think counterfactually. It's also why people with certain kinds of brain damage and brain lesions can't reason counterfactually. The more I think about what our brains can do, the more I'm in awe of this lump in our head and how powerful it is.
[00:06:40] Hala Taha: And I wanna dig deeper on counterfactuals cuz you brought it up and it was a term that I've never heard of until I started reading your book and it's super interesting. So talk to us about counterfactuals and the main ones and maybe give us some examples.
[00:06:52] Daniel Pink: So basically what it means is that our brains allow us to imagine a scenario that runs counter to the actual facts.
[00:06:58] There are two kinds of [00:07:00] counterfactuals here. Okay, So I know you guys like to go deep. So there are two kinds of counterfactuals, that are really important. One of them is what you can call a downward counterfactual. Okay. So you imagine how things could have been worse, so you say, ah, I regret that I married Bob, but at least I have these two great kids.
[00:07:21] Okay, so you find the silver lining. Okay. It could have been worse. I could have married Bob and not had any kids. So at least at, So at least make us feel better. . Now there's another kind of counterfactual. If only that's an upward counterfactual. You can imagine how things could have gotten better.
[00:07:36] It could have been better. So you say, Oh, if only I had married Fred instead of Bob, I would be living in a nicer community. I would have a happy marriage. I would be financially secure, et cetera, et cetera. You imagine how things could have been better now if only make us feel worse, but here's the dirty little secret.
[00:07:56] If onlys make us feel worse, but they also help [00:08:00] us do better in the future, and they make us help us do better in the future because they make us feel worse.
[00:08:06] And regret isn't if only feeling right.
[00:08:09] Totally right. Regret is the quintessential, if only it makes us feel worth. This is why it's paradoxical, Holly.
[00:08:17] This is why people don't like it. This is why people like to proclaim. I don't have any regrets. I never look backward. I'm always positive. And the reason for that is that regret is unpleasant. But what we also know from, again, if you look at 50 or 60 years of research in neuroscience, in cognitive science, in developmental psychology, which I mentioned before, social psychology, a lot of experiments in social psychology as well.
[00:08:43] What it tells us is that regret is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. Everybody experiences regret. It's one of the most common emotions that human beings have. I can't emphasize that enough. Everybody has regrets. If you don't have any [00:09:00] regrets, it's a warning. It's a bad sign. It means that you could be five years old, which I guess that's not a bad sign.
[00:09:06] Like you'll, you gotta grow up. It could mean that you have brain damage or lesions on the orbital frontal cortex of your brain, or early onset Huntingtons or Parkinson's. It could mean that you're a sociopath. Those are truly the only people who don't have regrets. The rest of us have regrets.
[00:09:22] It's one of the most common emotions that human beings have, and this is a puzzle, right? It's like you have this thing that is widespread, but it makes us feel crappy. So you have to ask the question why does it exist then?
[00:09:32] Hala Taha: Exactly. So we obviously evolved to have regret for good reason, right?
[00:09:36] It's a survival instinct. I imagine it makes our lives better in the end. Talk to us about that. Why do we actually need regret?
[00:09:44] Daniel Pink: Exactly. That's the point. So we're not perfect organisms at all. We're not perfectly efficient, but there are adaptations that we've had. So you have to figure like, why does something that make us feel bad?
[00:09:57] Why is it everywhere? It must do [00:10:00] something. It must have some benefit to us. And you got it exactly right. The benefit that it has. It helps that if we treat our regrets properly, it helps us do better. And not only a little bit, and not only on a few things, but a lot of bit on many things. And here's the key.
[00:10:19] If we reckon with our regrets properly, we don't ignore them. We don't put our, When we feel a regret, we don't put our fingers in her ears and say, Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I don't hear anything. That's a bad idea. But also, and this is also important, Hala, we don't wallow in them. We don't ruminate on them.
[00:10:36] We don't stew over them. We confront them. We use them as signal, as information, as evidence, as data. When we do that, again, we have the research showing that it can help us become better negotiators. So there's a lot of experiments where you put somebody in a negotiating session. Then they do it in their negotiation, they come out.
[00:10:59] The [00:11:00] experimenters say, Okay, I want you to think about what do you regret doing or not doing in that negotiation? So they encourage people to invite this negative feeling. What happens next? They do better in the next negotiation. It helps us become better problem solvers. It helps us avoid cognitive biases like confirmation bias and escalation of commitment to a failing course of action.
[00:11:20] There's some interesting research among executives, showing that executives who actually embrace and acknowledge their regrets are better strategists. Than those who simply try to escape past them. It helps us find greater meaning in life. And so what we have here, again, just to distill this, make it a little bit simpler, is this regret makes us human and regret makes us better.
[00:11:42] Everybody has regrets, and the reason everybody has regrets is if we treat them properly. They're incredibly useful.
[00:11:49] Hala Taha: I heard that one of the main reasons, why you went on this journey is because you heard this like no regrets kind of philosophy and culture that was going on. How everybody just wanted to be positive.
[00:11:59] You're [00:12:00] supposed to just accept your journey for what it is and never look back about the mistakes you made and just everything happens for a reason type mentality. So let's talk about that before we go even deeper on regrets and how to evaluate them right or wrong ways to do that. But let's talk about that first.
[00:12:14] What's wrong with the no regrets? World view.
[00:12:17] Daniel Pink: Okay, there's a lot wrong with it, but I'm gonna try to be kinder and gentler in, in how I bash it. The problem is that it is a woefully misguided philosophy for a life well lived. And the reason for that is this I'll give you an example of it. So I have the people who I wrote about, from the book.
[00:12:41] To get these tattoos that say no regrets. So they believe in this philosophy that you should always be positive. Never be negative. Always look forward. Never look back. They believe in this credo, this philosophy. So ferociously, they have the message enshrined on their [00:13:00] bodies. That's a commitment, man. All right.
[00:13:03] Like you gotta believe in something to have a tattooed on your body. But here's the thing, if you say no regrets, you say, I never look backward. You might as well get a tattoo that says, No growth, no learning, no progress. Nobody's getting tattoos like that. And so it's really misguided. The key here is what we do with our regrets, and this is I think a bigger problem that we have Hala, which is this.
[00:13:26] And I think it's an American problem more than others. We, Americans have a problem with negative emotions. We don't know what to do with them. Here's the thing, just go back. Positive emotions are great. I want to have a lot of positive emotions. I want you to have a lot of positive emotions. I want all the YAP listeners to have lots of positive emotions.
[00:13:47] Okay? Positive emotions are great gratitude and joy and elation, and they're great. Okay? They're part of what makes life worth living. But here's the thing, people shouldn't have only positive [00:14:00] emotions. That's not healthy. It goes back to what you were saying before. We have adapted to the world.
[00:14:07] Negative emotions are adaptations. So if you think about this, I'll give you an example, right? Let's take fear. Fear is a negative emotion. , do I want to go? If somebody knocks at my office doors, I'm weird person knocks at my office door. Hey Dan, I'll give you a an operation. Hey, we're gonna open up your head, but it's gonna be completely no pain.
[00:14:25] We're gonna seal it back up perfectly. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna do a little tweak in your brain to ensure that you never experience fear again in your life. Do I want that operation?
[00:14:34] Hala Taha: Absolutely not.
[00:14:36] Daniel Pink: Of course not. Cause when I'm in a burning building. I wanna experience fear, so I get the hell out.
[00:14:43] It's helpful. Again, I don't wanna be burdened by fear. I don't wanna experience fear all the time. That's debilitating. I don't wanna experience. Think about an emotionally grief. The reason we experience grief is because we experience love. So I don't wanna banish grief. [00:15:00] I don't wanna banish negative emotion.
[00:15:02] I want to actually reckon with them. I like what you said at the top of the show, Hala, is that there's evidence here, Okay? This is not some kind of philosophy of mine. We have 50 or 60 years of evidence telling us, that when you line up the emotions, all right? When you line up our negative emotions, we're gonna do a little police lineup, fear, guilt, shame, but that regret ends up being the most common and the most useful. If we treat it right. If we treat it right, and again, we haven't been treating it right because what's happened is we're totally over index on positivity. We think we have to be positive all the time, and when we're not, especially younger people. When they say, when they feel negative, they feel regret, they feel bad.
[00:15:49] They say, Wait a second, I'm feeling regret. I'm feeling bad. That's terrible because not only is it make me, is it inherently like unpleasant, but I look around and everybody [00:16:00] else is perfect. There must be something wrong with me, and they get brought down by that. Rather than saying a negative emotion is a knock at the door.
[00:16:08] Someone's trying to tell me something, let me listen. Not drawn it out, not get freaked out by it, but listen to it. Learn from it, and do better in the future.
[00:16:17] Hala Taha: Hold tight everyone. Let's take a quick break and hear from our sponsor. What's going on Young and Profiteers? Today's episode is sponsored by Land' End Business.
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[00:21:03] Yeah, and like you said, regret is so common and it's universal and it's normal, right? It's a normal feeling to have. It's just about how you manage it. How you process it, and what you do with that information.
[00:21:14] Daniel Pink: Amen.
[00:21:15] Hala Taha: Yes. Okay. So in this book you did a lot of research yourself, but there was also years of research prior .To that about regrets in the common regrets that people have.
[00:21:25] So can you talk to us about the research that was available. Before you started and then maybe why you ended up doing more research and what you found?
[00:21:32] Daniel Pink: Yeah, so I was also curious about what people regretted. I was really curious about that. And the reason I was curious is that when you looked at the existing evidence. Most of it in social psychology, Initially researchers said, Oh, the big, this is American sample.
[00:21:49] That Americans, they have education regrets. Education is the biggest regret that Americans have. Scientists believe that for 20 years. And then somebody finally realized wait a second. All these [00:22:00] studies showing that education is the biggest regret were done on college campuses with college students.
[00:22:05] And if you had done all this research in hospitals, or maybe health would be the greatest regret if you had done it in banks, maybe know whatever. So it's huh, maybe there's not something there. And so in, so actually not that long ago 16, 17 years ago, researchers started doing more systematic looks at what people regretted.
[00:22:22] And they found that people regret a lot of stuff. It was all over the place. They have career regrets. They have romance regrets. They have finance regrets. They have health regrets. They have family regrets. It's all over the place. So that's the lay of the land. So I said, I'm gonna try to crack the code here.
[00:22:37] And so I did something called, The American Regret Project, which is the largest public opinion survey of American attitudes about regret ever conducted. We did a brilliant, gorgeous survey of over four nearly 4,500 Americans. Modeling the sample, configuring the sample so that it reflected the glorious diversity of the United States of America.
[00:22:59] [00:23:00] And so I asked these people, Tell me one of your big regrets, and then I had them put it into those categories, career, finance, romance, whatever. Because I said, I'm gonna figure this out. And I found after careful deliberation and data analysis that people regret a lot of stuff. It was all over the place.
[00:23:18] So now that's the bad news. The good news is that I also did another piece of my own research, something called the World Regret Survey. Where I simply set up a website, worldregretsurvey.com. Where I gathered regrets from around the globe. We now have a database of over 21,000 regrets from people in 109 countries.
[00:23:42] It's incredible. And once I looked at those, okay. Just basically just people offering their regrets by the thousands all over the world. And I didn't ask them to categorize it. I just wanted to know their age, their gender identity, and their location. When I started reading through those [00:24:00] regrets. I didn't read through all 21,000, but I did read through the first 15,000 of them.
[00:24:04] What I discovered is that there's something else going on that trying to understand what people regret, by those in those categories that I initially had thought is not the way to look at it. That there's something bigger and more interesting going on beneath the surface.
[00:24:20] Hala Taha: Yeah. So let's talk about that.
[00:24:22] You say that you discovered regret has both a surface structure and a deep structure, right? So one is really easy to see, easy to describe and the other one is not so easy. So talk to us about
[00:24:32] Daniel Pink: that. Okay, perfect. That's exact. You got it. Exactly right. So let me be less abstract. Let me be concrete here.
[00:24:38] Okay, here we go. We're looking at these regrets that are coming in from all over the world. I'm reading them one by one, trying to make sense of them. It's fascinating to hear people all over the world disclose a big regret. So let me give you an example. So I have, again, the volume here is helpful.
[00:24:54] So I have lots of regrets of people who say, here's a weird one. It's like from [00:25:00] American College graduates. I am stunned by the number of regrets that American college graduates have about not studying abroad when, they were in college. I couldn't believe it. Like even if you Google, If you not Google, but you'd go into the database and search a phrase like study abroad, you get like hundreds of hits.
[00:25:16] I couldn't, It's crazy. Okay, so that's an education regret. Okay. People say, Ah, I wish I had studied abroad. I was a little bit too scared to go away and I thought I would miss people. And now I wish I had taken that, Now I wish I had studied abroad.
[00:25:29] Hala Taha: I've heard that so many times too, which is just so random that I've heard that regret before many times.
[00:25:34] Daniel Pink: But you know what? It's a big deal, man. I have to say I was blown away by that. I actually think that there is a, and this is for the entrepreneurial YAP listeners out there. I think there's a bit, there's a business, a travel agency serving basically 30 somethings and 40 somethings, 20 something, 30 somethings, 40 somethings. Who wish they had studied abroad and didn't, and now have a little money in their pocket.
[00:25:58] I really think there's a viable business [00:26:00] in there, but that's an education regret. Okay, so then I have a lot of regrets. Okay, let's go back to entrepreneurship. I got lots of regrets, again, all over the world where basically say this, I really regret staying in this lackluster job. I always wanted to start a business, but I never had the gumption to do it.
[00:26:15] Okay. That's a career regret. Then I have, and this is again volume, hundreds, and I'm not kidding, around hundreds that basically go like this. X years ago. There was a man slash woman who I really liked. I wanted to ask him or her out on a date, but I was too chicken to do that. And now I regretted it 10 years later, 20 years later, 30 years later.
[00:26:35] Okay, that's a romance regret. So we got an education regret. We've got a career regret. We've got a romance regret. But here's the point I'm making in this little here. Those are all the same regret. Those regrets on the surface, they're in different categories, but they're the same regret. You're at a juncture in your life and you have a choice.
[00:26:58] You can play it safe or you [00:27:00] can take the chance. And overwhelmingly, when people don't take the chance, they regret it. And that's what I call a boldness regret. So on the surface, it's career is different from romance is different from education. But one layer down, it's the same regret. If only I taken the chance.
[00:27:18] And what I found is that is one of boldest regrets are one of four of these deep structure core regrets that people all over the world seem to have.
[00:27:27] Hala Taha: And I feel like it makes sense to go through all four of them. And then I have some other questions about them individually.
[00:27:33] Daniel Pink: Yeah. Rock and roll.
[00:27:33] Cool. One category of what I call foundation regrets. Foundation regrets are if only cuz remember regrets as you said earlier. Regrets are if only. All right. So foundation regret is if only I've done the work, if only I've done the work. So these are regrets that people have. Okay. A lot of regrets about, I spent too much in save, too little and now I don't have enough money and no, now I broke.
[00:27:54] Surprising number of regrets about people who didn't work hard enough in school. If only I'd listened to my parents and worked harder in school. I'd have a [00:28:00] little bit more of a stable footing in the job market. A lot of regrets about health in this way too. If only I had eaten better, if only had exercise, I wouldn't be out of shape and unhealthy today.
[00:28:10] So it's small decisions early in life that accumulate to really nasty consequences later in life. Again, these small decisions, like no single one is cataclysmic. It's Oh, I ate a whole bag of Cheetos once. Okay. That's like people don't regret that. They regret eating unhealthily for a year, two years, five years, 10 years, and it adds up and it's hard to undo.
[00:28:30] So foundation regrets. If only I'd done the work. Third category, we got boldness to, we got moral regrets. Moral regrets are, if only I'd done the right thing. Again, you're at a juncture. You can do the right thing. You can do the wrong thing. When we do the wrong thing, most of us regret it, cuz I think most of us are good and want to be good.
[00:28:51] And when we not good, we feel crappy about it. And so these are regrets that people have about, oh my gosh, the two bigger ones here. Marital [00:29:00] infidelity. I had a lot of people like basically confessing on this world regret survey. It was like an online confessional . And then also a shocking number, shocking to me, number of people who regretted bullying other people. When they were younger.
[00:29:14] So bullying and Maryland infidelity, if only I'd done the right thing. Finally, fourth category. Connection regrets. Connection regrets are about relationships and not only romantic relationships and really not even mostly romantic relationships. Just the full suite of relationships in our lives. And what happens is that you have a relationship. That was intact or should have been intact with a parent, with a sibling, with a relative, with friends, with colleagues.
[00:29:43] It was intact and it comes apart and or should have been intact. Was intact, and it comes apart. And I think what's interesting is that again, if you read story after story. The way a lot of these relationships come apart is not dramatic at all. There's [00:30:00] no. Big fight. There's no screaming or yelling.
[00:30:03] It's just like this drift that takes place over time. And here's what happens. Somebody wants to reach out. Okay, So let's say, Man, I was such good friends with Hala 10 years ago and I haven't talked to her for so long. I should really reach out to her. And then I say, Oh man, no, but if I just reach out to her now. It's gonna be so awkward cuz I haven't talked to her for 10 years.
[00:30:23] It's gonna be so awkward. I don't wanna do that. And besides, she won't care. So I don't do anything. And then two years from now I say, Oh man, I was such good friends with Hala 12 years ago. I really should reach out to her. But oh my God, it's even more awkward now and she's gonna carry even less. And so we don't do anything and the, and sometimes it's too late and that's a big mistake.
[00:30:42] Let me just double click on that for a moment that's a huge mistake. We have piles of evidence showing that when people do reach out. It's way less awkward than they think. We're completely over indexed on awkwardness. My view in general, in life, reading the research. Is that if you're feeling awkward about something, [00:31:00] just fricking push through it.
[00:31:01] Don't let awkwardness, feelings of awkwardness be that barrier. Awkwardness is not a strong enough signal to stop you from doing something. Second thing is that we save people but Hala's not gonna care. People almost always welcome it. We're completely wrong on. We say it's gonna be awkward and they're not gonna care.
[00:31:18] And when we do it, it's not awkward and they always care. So connection, regrets are if only had reached out. So let me quickly summarize those. We've got foundation regrets if only had done the work. We've got boldness regrets if only had taken the chance. We've got moral regrets if only had done the right thing.
[00:31:34] And then we've got connection, regrets if only had reached out and just remarkable universality all over the world. These are what people regret and it's that deep structure that really matters. That deep structure is really universal. You see these every and every country at every age and every gender identity.
[00:31:56] Hala Taha: And if I remember correctly, connection requests [00:32:00] are the most common regret. And I think especially in covid, this is relevant. I think a lot of us weren't hanging out with our friends for a couple years. A lot of our friends moved away. I feel like this is your sign, guys. If you're thinking of an old friend that you haven't talked to in a while, make sure you reach out to them.
[00:32:16] Don't have any regrets about that . So I'd love to hear about inaction and action and what we need to know about that in terms of regret.
[00:32:26] Daniel Pink: Okay. Really important. I'll give you a little bit of insight in how the sausage is made. Okay. So at one point I had a chapter called the Rules of Regret. Where I was gonna say, Here's how regret works.
[00:32:39] Like works. Basically pull up the hood. These are the rules of regret, this is how regret works. Okay? And I was like, Okay, should there be five rules or seven rules or whatever? So I have this, like these giant bulging folders of research and I was like. Okay, I'm gonna crack the code and I'm gonna figure out the rules of regret.
[00:32:53] And I started going through the research and I'm like, Oh. There's one rule, and the rule is there's a big difference [00:33:00] between regrets of action and regrets of inaction. Everything comes back to that difference and the architecture of regret. The difference between regrets of action, I regret what I did and regrets of inaction.
[00:33:11] I regret what I did and do is huge. And here there is a distinct difference in age. In my American Regret Project, which is the giant public opinion. I put together such a large sample in order to try to find demographic differences in what people regret it. So thinking that whites would have different regrets from people of color, people with lot, lots of formal education would've different regrets from people with less education.
[00:33:33] Men would have different regrets from women, blah, blah, blah. There were very few demographic differences. I was shocked by that. But the one had to do with age, and it's this people in their twenties tended to have equal numbers of regrets of action and inaction. Equal numbers of regrets about what they did in regrets about what they didn't do.
[00:33:51] But by the time you hit basically your late twenties. And certainly into your thirties and forties and fifties and beyond. It's not even [00:34:00] close by the time you get literally to your late twenties. The inaction regrets take over when you get to my age. Okay? And I'm basically like double the age of somebody in their mid to late twenties.
[00:34:12] When you get to my age, it's three to one in action. Regrets over action, regrets. Overwhelmingly over time we regret what we didn't do. I regret that I didn't reach out. I regret that I didn't start that business. I regret that I didn't tell that person that I love them. I regret that I didn't stand up to an injustice.
[00:34:33] That's what we regret in action, over action as we get.
[00:34:38] Hala Taha: And I'm curious to understand, because you did all this research. You heard about so many different regrets. You really started to understand the science behind it and why we have regrets. What were some of the big life lessons that you learned about it that aren't, may not really be scientific or anything, but just life lessons that you're gonna carry through?
[00:34:57] Daniel Pink: I'll tell you a few of them. You hinted at one of them just a few [00:35:00] moments ago. Hala, which is that let's take these connection regrets. This is my philosophy now. Okay. So let's say you're at a juncture and you're wondering. Should I reach out to this person or should I not reach out to this person?
[00:35:10] If you have arrived to that juncture, you have the answer to the question. Reach out. When in doubt, reach out. If you arrive at that juncture and you're wondering the question is answered, always reach out. I'm dead serious about that. I've heard too many stories where it didn't happen and then something horrible arises and ends up not being possible.
[00:35:30] Somebody dies. I've so many stories like that. Always reach out. I'll give you another one and let's go. Let's go back to inaction and action. I think that there's a lot to be said for in general, having a slight bias for action. That is for, so for just for trying stuff. And again, it goes to the awkwardness.
[00:35:51] So I think that awkwardness is a weak excuse. I think fear is a stronger excuse. I think feelings of awkwardness, do what you can to push past those [00:36:00] sort of a bias for action. I'm a happily married guy from of 27 years, but I'll give everybody who's listening. All the YAP listeners some romantic advice, okay?
[00:36:09] Ask the person out, , I'm dead serious. If you're wondering whether he, she or they, you should ask him, her, or them out, do it. The worst thing that can happen is that the person says no. And you know what happens when the person says, No, you're fine. Life goes on. You're exactly where you were before you were asked.
[00:36:31] But here's the thing, now you know you've taken your shot. So I think if there's one takeaway here is that ask the person out just slight bias for action. Don't take awkwardness as a meaningful signal. Always reach out. The other thing is, I'll give you one. I'll give you one more life lesson here too, is that I think there's a, there's something to be said for when you're making a decision to consult your future self.
[00:36:55] So if you're stuck, see if you can send a text or make a phone call to the [00:37:00] you of 10 years from now. So think about, let's say that you're 28 years old. All right? What is 38 year old you want you to do? 38 year old wants you to put a little bit more money in your 401k and spend a little less money at Applebee's.
[00:37:16] That's what you're , That's what 38 year old you wants you to do. If you're at a juncture and you think, God, should I do this on unethical thing or should I. 98% of us, 38 year old, you want you to do the right thing. The you of 10 years from now is really looking out for your best interest. And here's the thing, the other thing is also we can make a pretty safe prediction about what the you of 10 years from now will care about.
[00:37:38] And it's not most things, the me of 10 years from now isn't gonna care what I have for dinner tonight. It isn't gonna care what t-shirt I wore today, but it is gonna care. Did I do the work and build a stable foundation for myself, for my family, for my team? It is gonna care of did I use my opportunity. This vanishingly short amount of time that I'm alive to learn and grow [00:38:00] and do something and contribute.
[00:38:01] It's gonna care if I, 10 years from now, if I do the wrong thing, I have to confront the me of 2032. Who's gonna be wagging his finger at me saying, Shame on you. Why'd you do the wrong thing? And it's gonna care if I don't reach out and build relationships of love and connection and affinity and belonging.
[00:38:17] And again, it's not super complicated, but it, I think the cool thing is that. This emotion that we often try to avoid is giving us this very clear window into what makes life worth living.
[00:38:31] Hala Taha: And now a quick break from our sponsors. This episode of YAP is brought to you by Constant Contact.
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[00:40:27] Let's face it. YAP is not the only podcast that you listen to each week. And if you're gonna listen to other shows aside from mine, please at least make it a good one that's gonna improve your life. Just like Young and Profiting does.
[00:40:41] Introducing the Jordan Harbinger Show, a top shelf podcast named Best of Apple in 2018. Jordan is literally the best podcaster right now. I looked up to him so much as a podcaster that, I've willed him to become my podcast mentor, and now we talk every single day. Jordan Harbinger dives into the minds [00:41:00] of fascinating people, like athletes, authors, scientists, spies, hostage negotiators.
[00:41:06] He's got an undeniable talent for getting his guests to share. Never been heard before, stories and thought provoking insights without fail. He pulls out tactical bits of wisdom in each and every episode. He's also got this really fun and strangely relatable segment called Feedback Friday. Where he answers fan mail and gives his advice on relationship, career, and family problems.
[00:41:28] It's very entertaining, if you like. YAP you're gonna love the Jordan Harbinger. Because I've only been called the female version of Jordan about a hundred times. Jordan is a lot like me, but I think he's funnier. Point blank. Jordan is smart and easy to listen to. You'll be pressed to find an episode without excellent conversation.
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[00:42:07] And I feel like for me, the big kind of takeaway that I'm getting from all this is having this bias for action. Because like you said, the biggest regret is inaction. And most of the time if we do something and we find out the answer. We're not looking back and saying, If only this, if only that you just, that's what happened, and you just get over it and move on and you don't ruminate and think about it forever.
[00:42:28] So speaking about ruminating, there's right ways and wrong ways to deal with regret. And dealing with regret is critical for us, like moving in a positive way forward in our lives. So talk to us about the right way and the wrong way to deal with regret.
[00:42:41] Daniel Pink: Okay. Great question. So I think that the wrong way is pretty obvious.
[00:42:45] The wrong way is to simply ignore it. That's a totally bad idea and it doesn't work over the long term. Another bad idea is to wallow in it, is to stew over it. So the right way to do it is to try to avoid, especially [00:43:00] that second path. And the way I look at this process is inward, outward, forward, inward, outward forward.
[00:43:06] Cause the first step is to look inward. So let's say you have a regret, or even more broadly make it, you make a mistake in the face of regrets, in the face of mistakes and screw ups. The way we talk to ourselves is incredibly harsh. If you listen to like people's self talk, it's brutal. You listen to my self talk, you think I was a lunatic.
[00:43:22] The way I talk to myself is just cruel. I would never talk to anybody else that way. And what the science tells us is don't do that. There's very little evidence, that's effective in enhancing your performance. A better technique than self laceration is what's called Self-compassion. Which is work pioneered by Kristin Neff at the University of Texas about 20 years ago.
[00:43:44] And the principle's pretty simple. Treat yourself with kindness rather than contempt. Don't treat yourself better than anybody else. There's no evidence, Oh, I should treat myself special. I should, that's not true. But don't treat yourself worse than anybody else. Treat yourself with kindness rather than contempt.
[00:43:58] Recognize that [00:44:00] regrets are part of the human condition. Any app listener out there who has a regret, I'll find almost the identical regret in my database in 90 seconds. Okay. Like it's part of the human condition. And you also think that I think is really important is that a regret is a moment in your life.
[00:44:16] It's not the full measure of your life. We sometimes will make these broad assessments of our entirety based on a single thing and a single moment, and that's unhealthy. So that's inward. So you reframe inward. Second thing is outward. There's a strong argument to be made for disclosure disclosures form of unburdening.
[00:44:33] It's not accidental that 21,000 people around the world told a complete stranger. Their big regret cause they wanted to talk about it. It's like what I was saying at the top of the show Hala. It's like I mentioned my regrets very sheepishly and suddenly like this sort of uncorked, this bottle where people want to talk about it.
[00:44:52] Hala Taha: Releasing it.
[00:44:53] Daniel Pink: But the other thing, I think is actually really important is that emotions by their very nature are abstract. They're [00:45:00] vaporous. That's what makes positive emotions feel good, but it's what makes negative emotions feel bad. And so when we talk about our negative emotions. Even when we don't have to even tell anybody else when you write about them privately.
[00:45:12] We take this abstraction and make it concrete. We turn it from this lobby thing into concrete words. Which are less menacing and helps us begin the sense making process. So we reframe inward, we express outward, but we also have to move forward. And the way we do that is we have to extract a lesson from that regret.
[00:45:34] And we tend to be pretty bad at solving our own problems. We're good at solving other people's problems. Terrible at solving your our own problems. So a really good technique is essentially to, it's what's called self distancing, is basically get some distance from yourself so you can do things like talk to yourself in the second person, what should you do?
[00:45:55] Or even better, your third person, what should Hala do? I gotta say, the single best [00:46:00] decision making tool that I know of when you're stuck is to ask yourself. What would I tell my best friend to do? I have people come to me saying, Dan, I should do this, or should I do that? I'm just so torn, I don't know what to do.
[00:46:11] And I say, What would you tell your best friend to do? And they say, Oh, I tell her, Bob Bobby ba. And it's like, All right, you answered the question there. For the business people in the, in your audience. Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel, has a brilliant, had a brilliant technique. Where he said he was, when he was stuck on a business decision as an executive, he would say, Okay, if I were replaced tomorrow, what would my successor do?
[00:46:37] And he always knew. So again, so if we reframe inward, express outward, and then move forward by self distancing. We begin to develop that as a habit. And then instead of trying to bat away this negative emotion or getting brought down by it. We basically, hop on it at a surfboard and ride it into better health, higher productivity, more meaning in life, and [00:47:00] more effectiveness, especially at work.
[00:47:02] Hala Taha: I'm curious, why is it so much easier to give advice to other people and to pretend that you're giving advice to your best friend? Like, why is it so hard to give advice to yourself?
[00:47:12] Daniel Pink: We're too caught up in the details of our life. We, and at some level, we know too much, and that blinds us from the big picture.
[00:47:19] It's like trying to understand, okay. I wanna study the ocean and what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna become, I'm gonna scuba dive to try to understand the ocean. It's not only amm immersed in everything, if you really wanna understand like, what does the ocean look like? What are its boundaries?
[00:47:32] How's it configured? You wanna be an oceanographer. You wanna get up like in a helicopter and go above there. And that's a better, often a better problem solving technique. We just know too much about ourselves. We're too caught up in the gory details. Where with other people, we see the big picture. We see what's, we see what's really going on.
[00:47:52] And I really think that's it. Now we can bring those techniques to bear on our own problems, but we have to be deliberate and intentional about that by doing [00:48:00] these kinds of Jedi mind tricks to self distance. Again, talking to yourself in the third person. Even that thing that I suggested before about talking to yourself 10 years from now, that's a form of self distancing.
[00:48:13] And again, truly two takeaways from this for your listeners. One, ask them out. Two, if you're stuck on a decision, ask yourself. What would I tell my best friend to do? And then do that.
[00:48:26] Hala Taha: I think that's really good advice. And so regret is a very negative emotion. People don't like to feel that way.
[00:48:32] Sometimes, they wallow in their regret and you talk about something called mental subtraction that can help us feel better in the moment, when we're having a regret. Could you explain that to us?
[00:48:42] Daniel Pink: Sure. That's another really good point. Is a technique. Some good research on this called Mental subtraction of positive events.
[00:48:47] It allows us to feel a greater sense of gratitude. It's also a way to reckon with regret. I give you an education regret of mine. Which is that I regret having gone to law school in general [00:49:00] and probably and gone to law school when I did. Okay. That's not that's not a cataclysmic regret. It's not my biggest regret, but I'm it's illustrative here.
[00:49:06] But here's the thing. I met my wife in law school. So what I can do is I can say I'm, let me mentally subtract that event. Imagine a world where I didn't go to law school. That's a world where I never would've met my wife. I don't wanna live in that world with action regrets. We can find the silver lining.
[00:49:22] We can at least them, we can see a benefit in them. Which is why we can process them and make sense of them. Some action regrets. We can also undo all those people who have bullying regrets. More regrets. It's an action. I bullied somebody. Many of them go back 20 years later and apologize. To the people they bullied and so they're trying to undo that kind of regret.
[00:49:44] I have a guy in the book who has a no regrets tattoo and he goes to get it removed. So with action regrets, we can mentally subtract certain positive elements of them. We can at least them, we can undo them and therefore we can [00:50:00] tamp down that how much they bug us would. That's why over time, action regrets, precede in action.
[00:50:07] Regrets dominate.
[00:50:10] Hala Taha: This is so interesting, Daniel. So let's wrap up the conversation, and I feel like a good way to round this out is to talk about the benefits of dealing with our regrets, and the benefits of regrets in general. How can us doing what you just mentioned, self distancing, analyzing, trying to change our behaviors based on our regrets. How can that actually help us in life?
[00:50:31] Daniel Pink: On a number of different dimensions?
[00:50:32] Number one is that, We know from these four regrets. If we know what people regret the most, we know what they value the most. So regrets are a negative, a reverse image of a life well lived of a good life. What people want out of life in general is they want a degree of stability. A good life is not precarious.
[00:50:50] Boldness is about the chance to learn and grow and do something and not waste your time here and just do something. Moral regrets are about goodness. Connection regrets are ultimately about [00:51:00] love. And so as you think through your decisions. You can anticipate your future regrets. And the way to do that is to really maximize on things that you know, if you're making a decision. It's is this gonna build my foundation?
[00:51:14] Is this gonna be help me learn and grow? Is this the right thing to do? Is this gonna help me build connections and affinity with people I care about? Those kinds of things you should really like maximize on. But the other stuff good enough is good enough. I know we're not supposed to say good enough is good enough.
[00:51:30] But good enough is good enough for a heck of a lot of things. So again, let's go back to future you. Future you is not gonna care this year whether you bought a blue car or a gray car. Future, me, as I said earlier, is not gonna care whether I wore that blue shirt today or I wore a yellow shirt today.
[00:51:45] There's so many decisions that we make that we don't even remember. We don't even care about, but there's some that stick with us and we have a sense of the things that matter most. And so if we really focus our efforts on our attention on these kinds of things. On building a [00:52:00] solid foundation on learning and growing, being good and moral and truthful, and doing the right thing and on building relationships of love and belonging. I think that regret gives us this path to do things better.
[00:52:14] I'll give you one other tip here that I think is useful cuz again, less abstract and more practical. One of the most useful things to do is to do what I did a couple of years ago. Which is that push past the awkwardness. And if you have a team that you work with or a group of friends, tell people about one regret that you have.
[00:52:33] Tell 'em what you learned from it. Tell 'em what you're gonna do about it. And I can almost guarantee that you will have one of the richest, most interesting conversations you've had this year. Because I was wrong. I thought nobody wanted to talk about regret. And I discovered, as I said at the very beginning of our conversation. That everybody wants to talk about regret.
[00:52:51] Because as you said, it's normal. It's universal, it's part of the human being.
[00:52:55] Hala Taha: And Young and Profiteers I loved his book, The Power of Regret. So make sure you guys go get that. There's [00:53:00] lots of exercises that you can do to understand, what your regrets are, how to deal with them. So I highly recommend that.
[00:53:06] I'll put that in the show notes. Daniel, I always ask the same two questions at the end of the show for all of our guests. Then we do something fun at the end of the year. So the first one is, what is one actionable thing that our Young and Profiteers can do today to become more profiting tomorrow?
[00:53:21] Daniel Pink: Listen more and talk less.
[00:53:23] Hala Taha: Why?
[00:53:24] Daniel Pink: I feel. So much of the work that we do obviously involves groups and other people, and most of us are not very good listeners. We don't actually work hard at listening. We, no one has ever taught us how to listen. When we're in elementary school. They teach us how to read and they teach us how to write, but no one ever teaches how to listen.
[00:53:44] They think cuz we have ears, we know how to listen. And most of us are not very good listeners. And so one way to listen better is seriously is to, is, and I say this after an hour, YAPing is to talk less and listen more.
[00:53:59] Hala Taha: I love that. [00:54:00] And what is your secret to profiting in life? And profiting does not need to be related to finances.
[00:54:05] Daniel Pink: It's gonna sound strange, but I think it's to be generous, to help other people, to use a Boy scout thing, to leave the campsite better than you found it. I really think that is the way to live a good life. It allows you to profit in all senses of the word. I think it has a professional benefit over time.
[00:54:25] Certainly not in the short term. Over time it has a professional benefit, but more than anything else. It allows you to look at your life on a day, on a week and say, I did something. I contributed, I made the world a little bit better.
[00:54:39] Hala Taha: I love that. And where can our listeners go learn more about you and everything that you do?
[00:54:43] Daniel Pink: You can go to my website, which is danielpink.com. D A N I E L P I N K.com. I've got a free newsletter. I've got free resources, I've got all kinds of gro stuff.
[00:54:56] Hala Taha: Amazing. We're gonna link all that in the show notes. Stan, thank [00:55:00] you again for coming on Young and Profiting Podcast.
[00:55:07] The incredible Daniel Pink Young and Profiteers. Helping us turn our regrets into gold. What a gem he is. And you guys know how much I love human behavior, and I absolutely love today's topic. We never talked about regret in this detail on the podcast before. In fact, regret is one of the most common negative emotions that we as humans experience.
[00:55:31] And even though regret is this universal feeling. So many of us are so afraid of exploring our regrets because we view regret as failure. And we try to just not think about it. But in reality, regret is one of our greatest teachers because it shows us what we can do better, and where our values lie. And we can take that information to build a better tomorrow for ourselves and the people around us.
[00:55:55] Like Daniel said, regret is like a knock at the door. It is an alert [00:56:00] to evaluate your values and your decisions so that you can change your path and avoid becoming regretful, about the same things in the future. After you finish this episode, I encourage you to think about your regrets. Take the time to write them down and really dive into the reasons. Why these regrets have such a profound impact on your life and why you consider these to be regrets in the first place.
[00:56:21] There's a difference between confrontation and rumination. You guys have to remember that. Try to analyze your regrets without drowning in them or placing yourself worth in them. That's not the point of this exercise. Ask yourself, Why do I carry these regrets? What would I have done differently? How can I change my approach to similar situations going forward?
[00:56:42] Now, you're turning your pain into your power. And then finally, Young and Profiteers. You've got to take the leap here at YAP. We're always talking about taking big risks because even when you fail. There's always still a lesson for you to learn. In the process, people are [00:57:00] overwhelmingly more regretful and the things that they didn't do, than the things that they did do and failed at.
[00:57:06] And even if you do hold regrets of action, you can find a silver lining in those regrets. You can't do that with regrets of in action. So do your future self a favor and take action in whatever you've been afraid to do. Call an old friend. Tell that person that you love them. Reach out to somebody that you admire on social media and ask them to be your mentor, or start that business that you've always dreamed of.
[00:57:29] Whatever it is, take that leap Young and Profiteers. Thanks so much for listening to another incredible episode of Young and Profiting Podcast. Daniel Pink is absolutely amazing. So thanks Daniel for coming on the show. Be sure to check out Daniel's book and be sure to drop us a review if you haven't yet.
[00:57:47] Apple Podcast reviews are my absolute favorite, and in fact, sometimes I shout him out at the end of my episode, so that's what I'm gonna do. So the first review is from [00:58:00] Drew0604 from the United States of America, and he says, Great podcast. Hala always delivers a knowledgeable and strategic episode.
[00:58:08] There's always great advice and actionable tips. Definitely recommend. Thank you so much. The next one is from Girlfriends Guide from Canada Young and Profiting with Hala Taha. Love, love Hala and her guests. The episodes are so inspirational and give me so much motivation. Five stars. Absolutely!
[00:58:26] Thank you so much, Girlfriends Guide. And I love you too. I appreciate everybody who takes the time to drop us a five star review, and if you haven't yet. Please go ahead and do that or drop us a comment on your favorite podcast player. And by the way, we're also on YouTube. Our YouTube channel is doing really well lately.
[00:58:41] We're up to almost 13,000 subscribers and our videos get tons of views and comments. I'd love for you guys to join the community over there. You guys can see what I look like. Maybe you guys don't even know what I look like. If you're not following me on social media. You can watch these interviews. I do them all on video as well.
[00:58:57] So go out, check out our YouTube. Just search [00:59:00] Young and Profiting on YouTube. You can't miss us. You guys can also find me on Instagram and TikTok @yapwithhala and on Linkedin just search my name, big thanks to my YAP production team as always, I really appreciate all the hard work you guys do on the audio podcast and the video podcast side.
[00:59:14] See you next time. This is your host, Hala Taha signing off.
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