Six things you have probably done that I have not. Intentionally.

I'm a person who has made it his life mission to say yes to as many things as possible.
I even did a TED Talk on the subject. 

Despite my willingness to try many things, there are also some culturally ubiquitous things that I have intentionally avoided and feel no regrets. This does not mean that I will never engage in any of these things activities, but at this moment, I'd like to think I will continue avoiding them for the rest of my life. 

  1. I have never purchased a lottery ticket.
  2. I have never taken a selfie.
  3. I have never used an emoji.
  4. I have never yelled at my children in anger or frustration. 
  5. I have never used an illegal drug. 
  6. I have never consumed even an ounce of coffee. 

What's on your list?

The single greatest death bed regret of Generation X (and maybe beyond) will be this:

On their death beds, the people of my generation will lament the time the spent driving – sometimes daily – from grocery store to grocery store, chasing the freshest produce, the finest meats, the best seafood, and the lowest prices, when they could’ve been spending that time reading, watching a film, climbing a mountain, writing a novel, playing with their kids, or having sex.

My mother shopped in one grocery store for all of her life. She went shopping for groceries once a week. She made a plan. Made a list. Shopped. Moved on with her life. 

Today she would be considered an aberration. An outlier. A dinosaur.

There are grocery stores that have managed to place almost every grocery item you’ll ever need under one roof, and yet people in my generation now prefer to shop in stores that deliberately avoid stocking every item, necessitating trips to multiple stores throughout the week.

It’s insane. 

It seems as if more time is spent traveling between grocery stores and pushing carriage up and down aisles than is spent actually eating the food.

It makes no sense.

There are more than 30 full size or midsize grocery stores within 15 minutes of my home.


Good food is important, but time is by far our most valuable commodity. My generation has chosen to spend a significant portion of its time looking for parking spots, pushing carriages, waiting in checkout lines, and plucking food items off a multitude of shelves in a multitude of stores.

The 90 year-old versions of themselves are going to be so annoyed.

Another Yes Man

Back in January, Andy Mayo and I debuted our rock opera, The Clowns, at The Playhouse on Park. During our two weeks of workshop with the actors, musicians and director, there were three performances of the show.

At the Saturday evening show, a man named Kevin Eldridge was present in the audience.

Kevin grew up with me in my hometown of Blackstone, Massachusetts. He was a year or two older than me, but we lived on the same street and took the same bus to school everyday. Kevin and I were the only male flute players in the school system at the time.

Despite our geographic proximity, we were not friends. Acquaintances, perhaps, but we did not spend any time together.

Kevin went to a private school for high school and I continued my journey through public school. For more than twenty-five years, I did not see or hear from Kevin. In truth, I didn’t see or hear much from Kevin when we were kids, either.

Then Kevin heard about my writing career and read one of my novels. He began following me on the Internet. He discussed my book on his podcast.


In reading my blog and becoming a Facebook friend, Kevin heard about The Clowns and surprised me by driving with his wife from their home in Massachusetts on a Saturday night in January to see the performance.

The clowns

Three hours on the road to see the workshop version of a musical written by a kid who he used to ride the school bus with in elementary school.

Last month Kevin surprised me again by showing up for our first Speak Up storytelling event, this time with his podcast co-host, Cornflake.

Once again, I was both honored and stunned.

speak up

It turns out that Kevin and I are cut from the same cloth.

Kevin does not know me well. He did not know what to expect from either event. He was potentially driving three hours from his home to watch a failed attempt at unproven, experimental  entertainment.

But what were his options?

He could’ve stayed home on Saturday night, as so many others did, watching television or going to bed early.

Or he could’ve taken a chance on something new and far away and potentially entertaining and memorable.

Kevin said yes when so many said no.

I like to think that people like Kevin will find themselves with considerably fewer regrets at the end of their life.

The three day, three month, three year test

Last year the New England Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night in Foxboro. My fellow season ticket holder could not attend the game for less than acceptable reasons, and I could not find a soul who was willing to attend the game with me.

The freezing temperatures and the probability of arriving back home in Connecticut well after 2:00 in the morning (if we were lucky) deterred anyone from wanting to take the extra ticket and join me.

I hemmed and hawed all day about going to the game alone, knowing that if I went, I would be driving home from the game in the dead of night by myself. I’d also be watching the game from the icy confines of Gillette Stadium without the benefit of a friend’s companionship or a pre-game tailgate party.

In the end, I chose to remain home.

Last week I planned on attending a Moth StorySLAM in Manhattan. I had a story prepared and was ready to make the trip on my own (again, no one was willing to join me), but at the last minute, I chose to stay home. I had spent 5 of the last 6 days on the road, camping with my fifth graders, attending the Patriots home opener and traveling to Troy, NY for a book signing. With so much time spent on the road, I decided that I would be better off staying at home rather than enduring another long, late night drive on my own.

In the past two years, these two decisions represent two of my greatest regrets. I’m completely annoyed with myself for each decision, and I cannot foresee a time when I will not feel this way.

When it comes to making decisions like these, I use a “three day, three month, three year” test.

As difficult as it might be to travel to and from Gillette Stadium or New York City on my own, late at night, will I regret my decision three days later? Though I may be tired or even exhausted the next day, how will I feel about my decision three days from now, when I am well rested? Will I regret not having chosen the more difficult road?

What about three months later? When I look back on the missed opportunity, will that restful evening at home come close to matching what could have been? Will I even remember what I did on the night that I could have spent watching Monday Night Football or telling a story on a Moth stage?

What about three years later? What will mean more to me?

A forgotten evening at home amidst a thousand other evenings at home or the memories from a rare Monday Night football game?

Or the missed opportunity of taking the stage at a Moth StorySLAM and entertaining an audience of strangers with a story from my life? Perhaps even winning the StorySLAM and earning the right to perform in another GrandSLAM?

I am not implying that an evening spent at home with my wife and children is a forgettable, wasteful experience. Those evenings are some of the most cherished moments of my life. But I also believe that we must take advantage of the considerably less frequent opportunities like a Monday Night Football game or a Moth StorySLAM when they present themselves. The time we spend with our families and friends creates the fabric of our lives, but those moments we spend doing things that so many do not punctuate our lives and create the bright, specific memories that last a lifetime. We cannot allow a few hours of lost sleep or chilly temperatures or the promise of a bleary-eyed day at work prevent us from doing those things that so many people skip in favor of an evening in front of the television or surfing the Internet.

When making a decision about whether or not to do something that is hard, we cannot allow the subsequent 24 hours to dictate our decision. We must look ahead, three days, three months and three years, to see how we might then feel about our decision.

Perspective is a powerful tool in decision-making. While we can never know for certain how we will feel, we can predict how hindsight might make us feel. This is what I do when deciding between something that is easy and something that is difficult.

Tomorrow doesn’t matter. I can always survive tomorrow.

Will I regret this decision in three days, three months or three years time?

In terms of last years Monday Night Football game and last week’s StorySLAM, the answer is decidedly affirmative.  

Deathbed regrets revisited: 2012

Two years ago, in response to a piece listing the most frequent death bed regrets of the dying, I listed what I thought would be my most likely death bed regrets. There were:

  1. I did not travel enough.
  2. I never pole vaulted again after high school.
  3. I did not spend enough time with Clara.
  4. I did not get into enough fist fights.
  5. I started publishing novels too late in life and did not have a chance to tell all my stories.

Looking at this list two years later, it holds up surprisingly well. I have still not traveled nearly enough, I have yet to pole vault (though I may do so in the near future), I never feel like I spend enough time with Clara, and I still have a pile of story ideas clamoring for a place on the page.

In terms of fist fights, however, I may need to change my thinking a bit. When I was younger, I fought a lot, and though there was always inherent danger involved, the adrenaline rush, the primal nature of hand-to-hand combat, and my surprising ability to take a punch and remain calm in the midst of violence always made fighting a thrill for me.

Then I grew older and fighting ceased to be a part of my life. There were simply fewer and fewer instances in which people wanted to throw down.

Actually, fighting didn’t entirely stop. I punched a guy last year in an effort to break up a fight at the local gym, but that was a single sucker punch. Hardly a fight at all.

And perhaps I’m lucky that this was all the fight amounted to. Slate’s Brian Palmer recently wrote a piece about how easy it is to kill a man in a fistfight:

It happens more than twice a day, on average. Fists and feet were responsible for 745 murders in 2010, or 5.7 percent of all murders that year, according to FBI statistics.

Though Palmer goes on to explain that although most of these deaths are the result of the continued beating of the victim once he is unconscious, single blows to the head and chest have also resulted in death.

Although I may regret the lack of fist fights in my life, perhaps it is a regret that I should more readily accept. As he father of a three-year old and a baby on the way, there is no need for me to risk my life or the life of another human being in order to enjoy a brief adrenaline rush or demonstrate my proficiency at fisticuffs.

Best of all, in the two years since I first assembled my list of death bed regrets, I cannot think of another regret to add to my list, and the list of most common death bed regrets still do not apply to me.

Yes, I’ve made no progress in eliminating any regrets, but I have yet to add any to my list. A small victory.

Not that I plan on ever dying, but it makes for an interesting means of examining one’s life.