January 28, 2019

The concept of regret is laden with negative associations. It implies that you’re dwelling on past mistakes or missed opportunities, which impedes your enjoyment of the present. Any remnant feelings of guilt or disappointment may also reduce your current productivity. But what if mulling over your regrets can benefit you?

By reflecting on what you should’ve, could’ve and would’ve done, you learn lessons about how to handle similar situations in the future. These ruminations can also propel you to rectify your missteps and vow to do better next time—that is, if you want to. From a Paralympic athlete to the executive director of Forbes, here are 10 trailblazers who reveal what they regret the most in life.

Ashish Manchharam, Founder and Managing Director, 8M Real Estate

“I regret not doing what I'm doing right now, sooner. From a career perspective, I would have hoped to achieve a bit more—maybe if I had started on my own earlier... in terms of family, I like being able to spend more time with my kids. I guess ultimately, there needs to be a balance.”

Sharon Wong, Founder and CEO, Motherswork

“Different things at different times. I was a full-time mom when my children were young, because I left the business here and moved to the States from 2000 to 2009. We had a great time and I became the mother that I wanted to be. Those years were very important to me, but sometimes I wonder if I could have done more. I’m sure I have plenty of regrets, but I've never really sat down to think about them. I just keep moving forward because everything is changing.”

Dinesh Bhatia, CEO and Co-Founder, TradeHero

“You'll have many regrets. There will be people you have hurt, mistakes you have made in the past. There's no such thing as no regrets if you're honest with yourself. Life is not always good. One has to realise that. There is good and evil in us. But one must not intentionally hurt people, such as racial slurs or personal attacks. That is super bad.”

James Sundram, Executive Director, Forbes

“I regret building my career when my kids were growing up. They are now 22 and 21. Every time I look at my phone: priceless.  If I could give a million dollars to just spend 20 minutes with them when they were rolling around, pulling my hair, kissing me, pulling my ear, jumping on me, and calling me daddy—because my friend, and then we die. Who is the 39th president of the United States, do you know? My point is, who gives a damn. If you can’t remember the 39th president of the United States, who is going to remember James? You need to prioritise, and you cannot please everybody. There is a song by Rick Nielsen called Garden Party, and the lyrics go: You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself. It's not about being selfish, but understanding what works for you.”

Johnny Manglani, Founder and CEO, Uomo Group

“I’m not a billionaire. [laughs] Just kidding. I wish I was wiser 25 years ago, but ultimately, I think I have lived life to the fullest.”

Kenny Leck, Co-Founder and Owner, BooksActually

“Wasting time and not doing this earlier. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t be so afraid or think that I had to have a solid business plan and a certain amount of money before starting the bookstore.”

Samantha Lo, Artist

“Not starting my creative studio earlier. I am starting to be kind to myself for all the time I have wasted. You know what, I’m ready now. Back then, I was complacent and ignorant—I thought I knew a lot, but something happened in the past 4 years that made me realise I was the smallest particle of sand. I experienced humility.”

Yip Pin Xiu, Paralympic Swimmer

“Not being able to find a balance after the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games. Because I spent so much time training for the Games, my O-level results were pretty bad. So I decided to take a year off from training just to study—and I did well in school. But it took me a really long time to get back into swimming. I stopped for two years I think, and I regret taking that break.”

Dr Jade Kua, Pediatric Emergency Specialist

“It’s too much of an indulgence when you dwell on something that has already happened. To me, the word ‘regret’ has a very negative connotation. I don’t regret in that sort of indulgent ‘if only/I should have done this…’ way. When you regret, you don’t live in the present.”

David Spencer-Percival, Co-Chairman and Co-Founder, Spencer Ogden

“I didn’t marry Rosie Huntington. I didn’t invent the algorithm for Google. I sold my Aston Martin too early. But no seriously, I don’t think you can have regrets. You can’t do anything about it for a start.”



[Read More: 10 Prominent Founders and CEOs Share Their Definitions of Success]