Sometimes the things we say in jest end up being all too true. One of the tasks at my day job is teaching people how to edit video using software called Avid. A lot of people are worried about making a mistake, about doing something so wrong that they’ll never recover. Well that’s almost impossible thanks to a feature that is available on many programs, the undo button or Control-Z (Command-Z for all the Mac users).

When I first tell my students about CTRL-Z, they are relieved that whatever they did, it isn’t the end of the world. I then say “I’m still waiting for someone to invent a CTRL-Z for life.” I’m kidding but, after the laughs, I usually hear some murmurs of agreement, “tell me about it” or “Yeah that would be nice” or “me too.”Undo

We all have regrets, hopefully small ones, but no CTRL-Z. We live with our mistakes, learn from them, and move on because that’s all we can do. Like any mistake in editing video, there aren’t many mistakes or misfortunes in life that rise to the level of “the end of the world.” As long as you remain alive and in relatively good health, any mistake or misfortune can be overcome. This is not an excuse to make mistakes! Yeah I’d like to learn from my mistakes but I’d prefer not to make them in the first place.

Whether the bad thing that happened was your fault, simply bad luck, or an accident, don’t look for the undo button, there isn’t one, but rather turn it around and make it positive. Think differently about the problem. You can never undo the bad thing like Julie and I couldn’t undo the fire that destroyed her house six months after we began dating, but we were able to assess the situation, think strategically, and make the best out of what we had.

In What Next I recount a story that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com tells about making the decision to leave a good job, with a very good salary, in order to start Amazon. He said he thought about the decision and came up with a “regret minimization framework,” a way of thinking that would hopefully reduce any regret he felt, reduce his desire for an undo button. He does a much better job of explaining it than I can.

What Next and the concept of regret minimization work well together. What do you want to do and how are you going to do it?

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