I’ve got a series of thoughts on the Apprentice that focus more on my emotional reaction towards the other contestants. I don’t want to write about any of that stuff for at least a year, until I have more distance with time. But a frequent question I’m asked is around regrets and how I view the experience. So here goes:
There’s the saying that “as you make your bed, so just must lie in it.” I’ve always found the saying a bit empty and inadequate. I think a more apt analogy that describes many situations in my life and I think, my Apprentice experience, as well:
Life is about digging your grave.
In the broadest sense, we dig our graves every day, through the manner in how we live. Since each day we get closer to our eventual end, we need to ensure we’re making the most of our time so that when we’re laid to rest, we’re satisfied with everything that we did and didn’t do. The grave in this case is the life we’ve created (that we “dig” each day.)
In the specific sense (The Apprentice falling within), life is about our failures as much as our successes. After each failure, we look up and realize we’re in our (situational) grave. The details of ending up in that particular grave vary substantially. Here circumstance can play a great role: metaphorically, was the ground we were digging in hard or soft? Were we digging up a concrete foundation or soft recently tilled dirt? Were we using a shovel or digging with our hands? This is circumstance, and it can feel like a crap-shoot. Regardless, in everything that we do, we make a lot of mistakes. Some big, some small. All these mistakes are the pails of dirt dug up. So for every mistake, both big and small, that’s one act of digging.
When we look up and find ourselves in a grave (our outcome), we have a couple of choices.
One, we can look back and complain about all of the things that worked against us: where we were digging, the hardness of the soil, whether someone was helping us, etc. But all of these don’t matter because often they are the random impact of circumstance.
Instead, I think it’s better to look at intent and action. What were all of the mistakes that I made, and how did each lead to me ending up in that outcome (in my brutally forced analogy, the grave). I look at the mistakes and then look at my intention. That’s it.
Did I have the right intention? Was it smart based on the information that I had? If it was, I do my best not too beat myself up. Did I execute my decision well? If yes, I leave it alone. If not, I try and learn from it and think about how I could have done better. And overall, I try and see what other situations these individual mistakes could arise again. I’ll try to bang that into my thick skull for next time.
I do my best to ignore the fact that I ended up in the hole (grave) itself (that I failed). That happens. And it’s impacted by all the digging analogies above. That’s the impact of circumstance/luck and it could have broken in the exact opposite direction without the universe hiccuping. So I try and leave that be. I don’t focus on the outcome that everyone else sees, in this case: not winning the Apprentice. It’s a multi-variable equation, so I leave it alone. “Winners win, losers lose” is a mentality I have completely abandoned in the old age of 25.
I do think about the individual mistakes. And in the case of The Apprentice, I clearly made plenty. I don’t consider myself a victim of circumstance. But that’s because, in a sense, we’re all massive victims and beneficiaries of circumstance. None of our successes or failures are entirely are own. Where we’re born in life, what we had for lunch, a butterfly changing course– all might dramatically alter what happens to us. So I think that cancels out. And that leaves us is with what we do: what we choose and what we learn.
That’s my take. I wanted this post to be more than about my individual mistakes on a TV game show. Because, really, how interesting is that? They weren’t business mistakes, they were game show strategy mistakes. I did find that how I dealt with the experience (both positive and negative) was much like how I handle other joys and sadness in my life, so there you have this entry.
3/28/13 – It so easy to know the right way to think about things, but far harder to follow through. I’m still a little surprised at how zen I was at my mistakes on TA. When I just read that I had abandoned the ‘winners win, losers lose’ mentality at 25, I couldn’t help but sneer at my younger self. If only that was remotely true. In the seven years since I filmed TA, I’ve regretted many mistakes and quite brutally revisited them in my head. While focusing on “process, never outcomes” is still a philosophy I highly value, I’m much more at peace w/the fact that it’s hard to abide by. To be human is to doubt and to regret. Being overly introspective, I especially suffer from this. One of the most interesting things about reading my old writing (both on this blog and in my journals), is how consistent the themes and points are. It’s only occasionally that I’ll come across something and be surprised that I felt that way. Far more often, I’m struck that it’s the same struggle– just years later. It truly reminds me of the saying: “Where ever you go, there you are.” It’s why my current obsession might be that in many cases it’s not at all about changing our circumstances, but changing our processing of those circumstances.