Would I want to be twenty-five again?

Business Leader Post, March 14, 2014

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

I was relaxing and catching up with a friend of mine the other day, and we began to share stories of our youth. The stories were about the many "stupid” decisions we had made in our lives. Most of them were personal, and some of them were business.  We shared many laughs with one another as we went through the details of what we had done. We also shared the collective relief that we had managed to survive these events. Some of them were silly like "driving too fast" and taking unnecessary physical risks. Others had to do with getting ourselves in trouble by making poor decisions around relationships and the consequences of same. Still others involved missed opportunities in business as well as business decisions that turned out to be costly.

Our discussion turned to the question, "Would you like to do it over?” The answer was a resounding NO! We both agreed that we are happy where we are, and that our state of comfort comes from the lessons we learned as a result of our mistakes. The pain and difficulty associated with learning those lessons would not be something that I or my friend would not want to go through again. We both paid dearly for those lessons. But now they are paid in full, we are content with the knowledge that those errors/lessons provided. The most interesting contrast between now and then is that we had all most of the answers then whereas now we have far fewer answers. Youth can be characterized as "not always right, but always certain."

My message to the senior generation is to be patient with the younger generation as they go through their struggles and make mistakes and errors in judgment. Help them understand what lessons might be gleaned and support them through it. Nobody is able to move through a mistake to a lesson learned without support from others. The biggest error that we as parents and/or family business owners can make is to protect the next generation from life and its consequences. Nobody escapes the penalties associated with living. It is just a matter of time. The sooner that you learn from an error, the better prepared you are to get through the next one.

The biggest takeaway from our discussion was that when a mistake or difficult issue is before you, confront it. Do it now! It will never be easier than it is today.