Mark Twain, a Wise Friend & No Regrets

by Guest Post on April 15, 2011
She Lives in Freedom

“Twenty years from now, you’ll regret more
what you did not do than what you did do.”

— Mark Twain (as interpreted by me)

This is my all-time favorite quote.

It has been my favorite quote since my mid(ish)-20s. It came into my life right when I needed it and has been along for the ride ever since. Did I mention I love it?!

I should probably give you a little back story.

I was in the midst of considering a big decision, which carried with it big change, and I just wasn’t sure what to do. Frankly, I was a little scared.

This decision was going to really rock my world.

If I went through with it, it was going to take me WAY way way outside my comfort zone. And as I was sharing with a friend the details of my big decision, I remember saying to him:

“I’m afraid to say yes to the change, but I may be
just as afraid of staying where I am.”

In reply, my friend shared a story with me.

He told me about his mom dying and how he remembered her speaking in her last days of so many regrets for the things she hadn’t done in her life.

Then, he said to me, “Don’t be my mom.” Wow.

It was after this conversation that I came across my most favorite quote. I posted the quote on my office wall (ahem, cubicle wall) over my desk, so I’d see it every day when I came into work.

This was significant, because the change I was considering just so happened to be about whether or not to leave my job. The very job that I did at that very desk five days a week, feeling unfulfilled, knowing there was more for me, and feeling the tug at my heart to go and find it.

The big impact.

With his story, my friend was reminding me and encouraging me, just like the quote, to make the most of my life, not to leave things undone, because at the end of his mom’s life, it was the things she did not do, the things she never got around to or talked herself out of, that she regretted the most.

“Don’t be my mom.”

What are you putting off in your life until the time is right? What will you look back on and regret because it was left undone?

Don’t wait for the perfect time or until you are absolutely sure or until the fear is gone to do the things you want to do. Girl Jumping into WaterSeek the truth, weigh the odds, take a deep breath and jump.*

No matter the outcome, I bet twenty years from now, if not sooner, you’ll look back and be glad you took the leap.

I loved this quote then and I love this quote now. That is all.

*Addendum: If the odds aren’t good or the water is shark infested, prior to jumping, please go back to “Seek the truth” and start again. Repeat until the odds are balanced and the sharks are gone. Thank you.

P.S. If you want to read the full quote without my interpretation, read it here. And yes, in the end, I left my job.

P.P.S. I would so love to hear what you think of my favorite quote or to hear what you have decided to NOT wait do in your life after reading this post — or both. Did I mention I LOVE this quote for the profound impact it continues to have on my life? I hope you love it too!

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  1. […] run-down of milestones that prepared me to take the leap: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Don, Mark Twain, a trip to Colorado, a story of regret and encouragement, lots of really good people, personal […]

  2. Dennis Robinson — April 15, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    I hail from the other side of the state than Mark Twain but I’ve been to visit Hannibal many times and love rereading his work but not really too crazy about his Huck Fin and Tom Sawyers as I did as a child.
    But this one line is something I preach to my students at the University time and again as I relate to them my own many stories of growing up on and off in a small farm house with my grandfather who was a Railroad man repairing tracks till the day he died and moving around the country with my mom and her husband who was in the Army.
    I went from first grade in Germany to high school in Hawaii and so many other places in between and still at the age of 60 am living more than 8000 miles away from home and still taking chances because as you so wisely put it, ā€œIā€™m afraid to say yes to the change, but I may be
    just as afraid of staying where I am.ā€ and I feel the same way and as I look back, “what long strange trip it’s been” Jerry Garcia.
    I wish you well, thanks for the inspiration, I’ll be sharing it with my class here in Anhui Province, China.

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