What I regret most in my life are failures of…

George Saunders

READ THIS.  You will not be disappointed.  It started my day off on the right foot.


From George Saunders’ 2013 “Advice to Graduates” commencement speech @ Syracuse University:

“…Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret…What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.  Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet…

…So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really:selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly…”

Read the entire article at this link.  Inspiring address.


George Saunders, 54, is a New York Times bestselling American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. His writing has appeared in The New YorkerHarper’sMcSweeney’s and GQ, among other publications.  A professor at Syracuse University, Saunders won the National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and second prize in the O. Henry Awards in 1997. His first story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2006 Saunders received a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2006 he won the World Fantasy Award for his short story “CommComm”. His story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for The Story Prize in 2007. In 2013, he won the PEN/Malamud Award.

Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas, and grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. In 1981 Saunders received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Speaking of his scientific background, Saunders said “…any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don’t have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses.” In 1988, he obtained an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University.  Saunders’s fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism and corporate culture and the role of mass media. While many reviewers mention the satirical tone in most of Saunders’s writing, his work also raises moral questions. The tragicomic element in his writing has earned Saunders comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut, whose work inspired Saunders.  Saunders considered himself an Objectivist in his twenties but is now repulsed by the philosophy, comparing it to neoconservative thinking. He is now a student of Nyingma Buddhism.

(Source: Wiki)

Comments

  1. No regrets here. Great advice.

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  2. still learning but trying my best

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  3. Moved me to tears.

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  4. Reblogged this on Waiting for the Karma Truck and commented:
    Once again David Kanigan finds words to amaze and humble (and if you’re like me, be moved to tears).

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  5. Agreed. Get going being you as soon as possible. As to regrets, they are absurd. If you think back regretfully you will eventually come to regret your birth. Think hard enough and you will disappear up your own asshole.

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  6. Reblogged this on Wholeheartedness and commented:
    “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” Yes…

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  7. What a great message! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Thanks for sharing, very nice 🙂

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  9. my2twobits says:

    pissing in the river, i can relate to. But jokes apart, bang on target. I went back in my mind, and two people I could think of outstandingly were the ones who were kind to me. Thanks, sharing.

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  10. my2twobits says:

    Reblogged this on My two bits about life and work and commented:
    Best personal development post i read in recent times.

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  11. Wonderful speech. Funny and poignant! When I retired from my HR job I gave a speech to the managers and I talked about being kind because employees are just people and they make mistakes (just like managers do). No one was ever jailed or killed for erring on the side of kindness.

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  12. LOVE this David…and agree, with all my heart. Thanks for sharing this one.

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  13. Love it … thanks for sharing.

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  14. Reblogged this on Let Life In Practices and commented:
    “What I regret most in my life…”

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  15. Love it!!! Thx David for the wonderful, inspiring content.

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  16. Reblogged this on 77 Ways to Grow and commented:
    Funny, heartfelt and compelling. From one of my very favorite bloggers…

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  17. Very well written and he makes his point. If everyone read it, maybe things would change for the better. Of course we’d have to read it every day because we forget so quickly to follow through with our good intentions.

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  18. Thank you for making my day!

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  19. this is absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing it ) beth

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  20. Peggy Farrell Schroeder says:

    I can’t think of a better send off for college grads and a good reminder for the rest of us! Thanks, Dave.

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  21. “err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.”–YES!

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  22. I was just listening to Edith Piaf’s song “No regrets” tonight. Kindness is really important. Thank you.

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  23. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This is so beautiful and speaks to humanity at its core.

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  24. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful David! I, too, look back at my life and remember most keenly those folks who have extended a hand of kindness and compassion in times of need. It’s not even grand gestures, really, it’s just a simple act of caring or giving– in fact you’ve shown me great kindness on several occasions and maybe didn’t even realize it–but I did….

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  25. Thank you, George. That is the feat that Gandhi speaks of when he says be the change…for how else can one even imprint on another and effect a better world? I’m grateful I saw this post and am once again reminded of the religion of kindness. Blessings to you, Paulette

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  26. Reblogged this on A View from the Other Side and commented:
    Err toward kindness. Always. ~ Peter

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  27. Very well said. Thought provoking! Yes, thats what I want on the last day of my life – a Satisfied Soul.

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  28. Fiba dee fab speech! I’ve got my pre allocted narcy head on lol…so I argued along whilst irritatingly defending myself! Doh! Kindness is soooooooo it, it is the thing that makes the act loving. And indeed, my regrets are of the times when I hurt others, yet its all necessary poop that makes us more than we were…As for getting all successful in the common sense, if I had too much fun I know I’d say ‘Ohhhh God, I’ve changed my mind again, send me back’ – and then I’d get here again and remember my morose/perky/heavy/strange/humorous old soul – and realise life woo’d me again

    Noooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

    Success for me will be eradicating the things that prevent me from having a family, so of I have to come back i’ll get to love a mini Dawny. (never thought I’d say them words), stay off drugs, trust my F and F’s just how I used to, before the ‘mob’ did their squit… to love and be loved, to adore as many pets as I can fit into the house, and spend as much of my time laughing, loving, joking, living, and making memories with my lovely lady and my angels

    Selfishness ‘I shall remain silent and then mention the silent state cos it tickled me 🙂 and rumble my lips in a ‘we know and boy was it worth it’ gurgle

    I thought when reading – God says our thoughts, words and actions are all creative, so dont miss the beauty and purpose of the kind thoughts and words, even when action is not taken, every thought gets sent out to the universe and the kindness comes back!

    Love ay????? Astounding Force! Indescribable beauty! Well done to everyone who graduated tooooo! Yay for You!

    Love Dawny Xxx

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  29. You put into words something that I felt along similar lines since 4th grade. Thanks for sharing.

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  30. A lot to think about. I agree with your thoughts. beebeesworld

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  31. Great insight. Can’t remember ever regretting kindness; whether I was on the receiving or giving end.

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  32. Excellent ideas to live by!

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  33. Paco Gonzalez says:

    Great post…

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  34. in kindness, we reveal who we are. loved this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. […] you like this story and want to read more like it, check out David Kanigan’s blog, Learn.Lead.Live You will be happy that you […]

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