My Proficorn Way (Part 33)

Live Life Forward

In a recent interview, I was asked a question: “What would you have done had you not sold IndiaWorld in 1999?” It is a hard question to answer to imagine an alternate life. And the answer I gave was, “I honestly don’t know. I live life forward.”

An obvious response is: “How else can you live life? You cannot be back in time.” Yes, the body cannot. But the mind can. It keeps taking us back to our past, the roads not taken, the mistakes made, the decisions that went wrong, the regrets that refuse to go away. This is especially true for an entrepreneur because everything is at stake as one seeks to create for the future. More things are likely to go wrong than go right. And it is these thoughts that can envelope the mind of the entrepreneur. This analysis of the past gone by can be the greatest threat to creating a successful future business.

I would get consumed by self-doubt a lot in my early days as an entrepreneur. Did I make the right decision by refusing to negotiate on price? Should I have said no to that investment offer? Would I have been better off hiring that candidate even though it may not have been the perfect fit – as opposed to losing time by waiting for the right one? Am I in the right business – no one seems to understand what I am saying! And so on. Doubts haunt the mind. The future has not yet happened – so one relapses into the past, as if there was some way of going back in time and undoing the decision. There is no ‘Ctrl-Z’ with life’s decisions.

These doubts also come in because the life of an entrepreneur is a lonely one. There are few who can understand all that’s going on in the entrepreneur’s mind. There are so many decisions to be made – and each seems like a make-or-break decision. As such, it becomes natural to keep guessing whether the right choice was made.

I realised much later in life that I have to think of the life that’s to come and not at the life that has gone by. We are not living in a multiverse where we can take a different path in the past. A decision made is a decision done. Of course, if it is not going right, one must find ways to mitigate its damage. Life has to be lived forward – look ahead to what’s coming. Each big wrong decision is an education in itself – one needs to understand why it went wrong. But that is a different exercise from playing the “If only” game.

I have made many mistakes in my life, and paid the price for those. But as long as one gets the big decisions right (the consequential and irreversible decisions, as I am learning in a Decision by Design course offered by Shane Parish), it will be fine. So, look ahead and get better to tomorrow’s decisions rather than spending time pondering the past and life’s roads not taken.

Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 34)

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.