Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) is the NYT-bestselling author of When and Drive. His latest book is The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, about the transforming power of our most misunderstood yet potentially most valuable emotion: regret.
What We Discuss with Daniel Pink:
- As uncomfortable as it can make us feel, regret is a universal, healthy part of being human.
- Understanding how regret works can help us make smarter decisions, perform better at work and school, and bring greater meaning to our lives.
- The four core regrets we each have, and the insights they give us for finding a better path forward.
- How we can reimagine regret as a positive, propelling force rather than an anvil of shame we have to carry around in perpetuity.
- How regret works like a photographic negative: knowing what we regret most allows us to focus clearly on how to avoid repeating whatever got us there.
- And much more…
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Regrets? Frank Sinatra had a few. We all do. But Ol’ Blue Eyes seemed to excel at dwelling on that regret only as far as he needed to. Then he faced it all, stood tall, and did it his way. And if NYT-bestselling author Daniel Pink (When and Drive) taught us how to optimize our sleep and motivate others during his previous visits to the show, he can darned well give us the key to utilizing the most human thing we do — regret — for propelling us into the future instead of dragging us back to the past.
On this episode, Daniel joins us to discuss his latest book, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. Here, we’ll learn about the four core regrets we each have and understand how the insights they provide give us a path forward. We’ll also see how regret works like a photographic negative — knowing what we regret most allows us to focus clearly on how to avoid repeating whatever got us there. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our two-part conversation with former gangster, pimp, and mob enforcer Mickey Royal? Get caught up by starting with episode 548: Mickey Royal | A Pimp’s Secrets of Mind Manipulation Part One here!
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Resources from This Episode:
- The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward by Daniel H. Pink | Amazon
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink | Amazon
- To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink | Amazon
- The Pinkcast
- Daniel Pink | To Sell Is Human | Jordan Harbinger
- Daniel Pink | When Is the Best Time to Get Things Done? | Jordan Harbinger
- Other Books by Daniel Pink | Amazon
- Daniel Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation | TEDGlobal 2009
- Daniel Pink | Website
- Daniel Pink | Facebook
- Daniel Pink | Twitter
625: Daniel Pink | The Power of Regret
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Daniel Pink: The people who flourished had satisfying relationships. The people who floundered did not have satisfying relationships, period. It didn't matter the money. It actually didn't matter the physical health. And even the guy who started this, he has a really interesting unpublished paper with the results. And he says, "I can describe the results of this, like seven decades study in human flourishing, I can describe it in five words. Happiness is love, full stop." I don't want to get woo-woo on you, but he's totally right.
[00:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional former cult member, Russian spy, or tech mogul. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:56] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we've got episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. You can find those on Spotify or go to jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started with us. And of course, I always appreciate it when you do that.
[00:01:17] Today, my friend and bestselling author, Dan Pink is back on the show. We'll discuss the power of regret; namely, how we cannot only help mitigate regrets we already have and ease the pain of those regrets but also how we can use some very practical tactics and strategies to avoid regret in the first place. One of my favorite exercises in here will actually show us how to reverse engineer regrets so that they never even happened and keep us focused on what's really important in our lives. Really insightful conversation here with a brilliant thinker.
[00:01:44] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The course is about improving your networking skills, your connection skills, and inspiring others to develop a personal and professional relationship with you. It'll make you a better networker, a better connector, and a better thinker. That's jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:16] Now, here's Dan Pink.
[00:02:19] So no regrets. It's funny as soon as I saw the title of your book, I was like, this reminds me of that tattoo that you see everywhere that says "no ragrets" on it. And sure enough, you mentioned it right at the jump, which is great. That means that meme has saturated when it ends up in a book about regrets, and it's not just some Reddit fodder, that's a real deal thing.
[00:02:39] Daniel Pink: Absolutely. And it really got me thinking. Like, why is that clip so popular? This idea of this kid has a tattoo that says "no ragrets." And Jason Sudeikis says, "Not even one letter?" And what it shows is that, you know, it's another way of getting into the main point of this book, which is that everybody has regrets. They're ubiquitous, they're universal. The only people without regrets are five-year-olds, people with brain damage, and sociopaths. The rest of us have regrets. And as you know, from the book, Jordan, you know, I talked to find a lot of people with tattoos that say no regrets or no ragrets, but of course, I also found a guy who got a no regrets tattoo regretted the decision and had it removed.
[00:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, that's probably what most of the people are doing with no regrets tattoos, depending on the location of said tattoo.
[00:03:25] Daniel Pink: Yes.
[00:03:26] Jordan Harbinger: I used to run a company where we had like live coaching and stuff and guys would come and stay from all over the world. And I've since sort of left that life behind but one story that sticks with me is a guy who flew in from South Africa, a really cool guy. His name is Sean Williams, shout out because you didn't do this and it's not as embarrassing as one might think if you actually got it, but he's walking around. He's like drunk three o'clock in the morning. And he's like, I just hear about it in the morning, I hear, "Mate, thanks so much for not letting me get that tattoo the other night." And the guy's like, "Yeah, no problem, man. I just knew it would have been a mistake." And I was like, "You're going to get a tattoo on Hollywood Boulevard at 3:00 a.m." And he's like, "Yeah, man." I was like, "What was the tattoo going to say?" "Oh, I was going to get no regrets right here on my forearm." And I'm like, "Oh my god, the irony, but also, wow, thank god, you didn't do that."
[00:04:09] Daniel Pink: Absolutely.
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: In giant, like old English font too, just like the most hideous sorest.
[00:04:15] Daniel Pink: Yeah.
[00:04:16] Jordan Harbinger: Instant regret.
[00:04:17] Daniel Pink: In this research, I've seen a lot of no regrets tattoos, more than one person should ever be exposed to in a lifetime.
[00:04:24] Jordan Harbinger: And I suppose the locations vary as well.
[00:04:26] Daniel Pink: Ah, yes, they do vary. You know, I got people with no regrets tattoo, like behind their ear, somebody on their wrist, somebody on their forearm, somebody on their butt, so everywhere.
[00:04:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Oh man, anything above the neckline is kind of like that's no regrets and no career prospects potentially alongside it unless you're a tattoo artist or something like that.
[00:04:46] Daniel Pink: Yeah.
[00:04:46] Jordan Harbinger: Why is it a flawed ideology? You mentioned that the only people with no regrets are kids and sociopaths. Sometimes it's hard to tell one from the other. Speaking of a man with toddlers, why is having "no regrets" not really a realistic outlook on life or a realistic philosophy?
[00:05:04] Daniel Pink: It's flawed for a couple of reasons. Number one, it's profoundly unrealistic because truly everybody has regrets. And the reason everybody has regrets is that if we treat them right, regrets are useful, regrets clarify. They instruct. If you look at the research year, what the research tells us is that regret is the most common, negative emotion that we have. And arguably the second, in some research done by Susan Shimanoff several years ago, the second most common emotion that people express of any kind after love. And so this no regrets philosophy seems like this courageous act, but it's not. It's not an act of courage.
[00:05:39] What's an act of courage is looking your regrets in the eye and addressing them. And when we do that, the benefits are huge. There's a pile of research showing that it helps us make better decisions, that it improves our problem-solving skills, our negotiation skills, our strategic skills, deepens our sense of meaning. And so what I want to do is sort of reclaim this idea of regret. I think it's actually our most indispensable emotion and it points away to how to have a good life.
[00:06:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, there's a lot of people probably nodding their head, but also something about having it saying, "Hey, no regrets," it's comforting.
[00:06:11] Daniel Pink: Yeah.
[00:06:11] Jordan Harbinger: But on the other hand, I will say that most of these, like self-help grifters that you and I have probably come across because we know a lot of the same people. You hear that a lot. They love this phrase.
[00:06:21] Daniel Pink: Totally.
[00:06:21] Jordan Harbinger: You hear it in those like — I don't know if you've ever been duped into those like self-help seminars where you get there and they're like, "Everything you've done in your life, no regrets. It's led you to this place." And I'm like, "Are you just trying to reframe all my bad decisions as a divine journey to come here and give you money because that's your sh*t what it sounds like."
[00:06:40] Daniel Pink: I think the answer is yes, that is exactly what they are trying to do.
[00:06:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:43] Daniel Pink: But it's also, it's ludicrous. It's bullsh*t — if you'll forgive the phrase.
[00:06:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:47] Daniel Pink: Because our cognitive machinery is programmed for regret. If we didn't have regret, we would not be able to survive. And the question really is this. I think you made a great point, Jordan. Regret makes us uncomfortable. And so a natural response to that is to ignore it, to say, "I don't want to look backward, no regrets." Okay, that's a recipe for delusion. Now, because we haven't been taught how to deal with it, another response is to let it in and be hobbled by it. That's a bad idea to what we have to do is we have to look these regrets in the eye and think about them. And when we, when we act like grownups and do that, it is a powerful, powerful force for progress. And the idea that we can elude regrets is nonsense.
[00:07:33] I did a piece of research on my own for this book. We did a big public opinion survey of 4,489 Americans. And I asked people the question about regret without using the word. Because of exactly this sort of self-help nonsense that you're talking about, there are something like 50 something books in the Library of Congress whose title is no regrets and we're out of control. But I ask people this question, how often do you look back on your life and wish you had done something differently? We had one percent saying never.
[00:08:04] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:08:04] Daniel Pink: Okay. We had something like 16 percent said rarely. 83 percent said they did it occasionally. So over four to five Americans say, "Yeah, I do that occasionally." And the reason for that they're human beings. That's what human beings do. The question is, are we willing to confront our regrets? If we do it in a systematic way, they are a powerful force for forward progress, particularly coming out of this pandemic.
[00:08:29] Jordan Harbinger: I know for me, and I'm sure this is probably true for everyone, but since you took a survey, negative emotion teaches me a lot. And not just like big regrets where I go, "Oh man, I probably shouldn't have gone to school for veteran—" I didn't go to vet school, but like go to vet school when I hate animals. You know, there's big regrets like that. Or shouldn't have married that person who I knew was a con artist. There's small regrets, like, "You know, I kind of — that was a bad reaction to that particular situation. I should not have yelled at my kid for peeing on the floor. It's my fault. He had to go to the bathroom so bad," you know, like that kind of stuff. That happens all the time. That's my primary mode of learning, Dan.
[00:09:09] Daniel Pink: Because you're a human being and this is exactly right. Here's the thing we have never been taught — when I say we, I mean, really Americans — we have never been taught how to deal with negative emotions. We think that the only emotions that you should have are positive emotions. And what science tells us, all right — forget about anybody's lived experience — what science tells us is that positive emotions are extraordinarily important. We want to have positive emotions. We want to have a lot of positive emotions. We want to have more positive emotions than negative emotions. Positive emotions are fantastic, but they are not the only thing. All right. And negative emotions serve a purpose. There's a reason why our brains are able to feel bad. Feeling bad helps us do better if we know what to do about it.
[00:10:04] And so imagine let's take an extreme example. I don't believe in fear. I don't feel fear. Okay, you're a dead man. But the building's burning. I don't feel fear. Okay. What is fear telling you? Fear is useful. And the thing is I'm convinced that regret is our most useful emotion, negative emotion, maybe the most we use emotion overall because here's what it does. We look backward. We say, "Oh crap." All right. We deal with the pain. We say, "What does that pain is telling me?" And then we extract a lesson from it to go forward. Regret is transformative. It instructs. If we deal with it right and get past this nonsense that it's somehow debilitating or on human to have regrets, when in fact it is among the most human things that people experience.
[00:10:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You mentioned kids' brains and I think you said injured brains, like sociopaths or people who've literally had like a closed head injury or something along those lines. So it's a normal part of a mature brain, regret, but no regrets. It makes sense that people who have brain damage can't really experience or in some occasions don't experience regret. It also explains a lot about those self-help seminars we just talked about. And I think you're talking about this in the book regret is — do you relate it to a time machine? I believe I read that right where you can—
[00:11:17] Daniel Pink: Yeah, yeah.
[00:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: —go back in time.
[00:11:19] Daniel Pink: Because here's the thing, regret is an incredible thing that our minds can do. This is one reason why — how old are your kids?
[00:11:25] Jordan Harbinger: Two and a half and one month, so not old enough to have any—
[00:11:27] Daniel Pink: Right.
[00:11:28] Jordan Harbinger: The timeline is so short.
[00:11:29] Daniel Pink: But here's the thing, your kids, it's going to take them a few years for their brains to grow and do — your one-month-old, obviously, can't speak and can't walk because — is it a boy or a girl?
[00:11:38] Jordan Harbinger: It's a girl. Yeah, she can't walk or do anything really.
[00:11:40] Daniel Pink: She hasn't learned to do that stuff. It's not because she's a flawed person. It's because she's a one-month-old, you know? And so she's going to learn how to do that. Her brain and body are going to develop.
[00:11:50] And our brain develops this ability for regret, but it's cognitively extremely complex. It's extremely complex. If I say, if I take one of the regrets that I captured out there where someone says, "Okay, let's take one of the married ones." "If only I hadn't married that idiot." They regret marrying that idiot. What happens? They go back in time, all right, they time-traveling their head. They go back in time. They negate what really happened. Then they get back in their time machine, go forward and imagine a refashioned present because of the decision they made in the past.
[00:12:22] I mean, it's so cognitively complex. It makes sense that little kids, tiny little kids can't do it. It makes sense that if you have lesions in the orbital frontal cortex of your brain, you can't do it. If you have certain kinds of Huntington's disease or certain kinds of Parkinson's disease, it doesn't work. It's incredibly complex. It's something that our species does. And if it's something that our species does, the odds are very good. It has maintained itself over our evolution for a reason. And the reason is that regret is ubiquitous because regret is useful.
[00:12:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:12:55] Daniel Pink: And that's the point. And so I want to try to reclaim this emotion and show people how to use it as a force for forward progress.
[00:13:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I like that it is this time travel, this mental time travel. Is that the same as counterfactual thinking? Or is that a different concept?
[00:13:09] Daniel Pink: Exactly.
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:10] Daniel Pink: Perfectly said. Regret is a form of counterfactual thinking. So we think counter to the facts. So what you can think about, and this is actually useful as we think about our lives, to oversimplify a bit, you can do an upward counterfactual. "If only I hadn't married that guy, how could things have been better?" But you can also do a downward counterfactual. "At least, I stayed in that marriage only a year, how could it have been worse?"
[00:13:32] And there's some fascinating research, fairly familiar now, but well-validated is about Olympic athletes.
[00:13:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:13:39] Daniel Pink: If you look at the photographs of Olympic athletes, Olympic medalists, routinely bronze medalists look happier than silver medalist. Bronze medalists look happier than the silver medalists. The silver medalists objectively unequivocally have outperformed them. What's going on? The silver medalist is saying, "If only," doing a counterfactual, "If only I kick a little harder, I'd have been a gold medalist." The bronze medal is saying, "At least, I didn't finish fourth and miss a medal altogether."
[00:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:08] Daniel Pink: And so counterfactual thinking is something that human beings do. It's glorious. It's incredible. You can't imagine a raccoon doing counterfactual thinking, right? It's something that our species does. And once again, why are we able to do it? Because it's useful.
[00:14:23] Jordan Harbinger: Right, right. Yeah. You do feel for the silver medalist because, especially when it's like, oh, one-hundredth of a second behind on that swim lap and you're like, man, you breathe out your nose more out of your left nostril than your right nostril, and now you're not a gold medalist.
[00:14:37] Daniel Pink: I always think about that when I watched the Olympics, especially in swimming because like civilians, it's hard for them to, I even think about the training. It's like, "Well, my goal this year is to shave five, one-hundredths of a second off of my time." And I'm like, "What?"
[00:14:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:50] Daniel Pink: Like, I can't even think in those kinds of units and then the idea of devoting a year of doing that but I admire that dedication. And I'm a sports fan, so any chance I have to sort of analogize from sports or use sports examples I tend to take.
[00:15:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You always kind of, when you look at the bronze medalist and it's like some underdog country too, you feel so good for them, but you're right, I'd never really remember looking at a silver medalist and feeling anything, but like, oh man, I bet you're having a really bad time now. And you feel such relief. I'm proud of gold medalist winners, but I'm also like, "You must be so relieved that this is over." For everybody, in fact, I'm always relieved that it's over. That's how you can tell I'm never, I'm not cut out for these kinds of high stakes competition because I'm just thinking, "Man, you can relax now that must be so great." Maybe they're thinking the same thing, but who knows.
[00:15:33] Daniel Pink: Well, I won't tell but the USFC that you're not interested in being recruited for—
[00:15:36] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:15:37] Daniel Pink: —the next Olympics.
[00:15:37] Jordan Harbinger: Let me deliver the news.
[00:15:39] Daniel Pink: Yeah.
[00:15:39] Jordan Harbinger: So regret helping us make decisions. It seems almost like a secondary function, right? Usually, we just think, oh, regret makes us feel bad and that's why we try to sweep it under the rug. But it also endows our life with, well, the moments in our lives, with greater meaning. You write about this. Tell me about that.
[00:15:57] Daniel Pink: Well, one of the things that happened is that what people regret a loss of meaning. So there's somebody in the book who I write about. It's a good example of this. She grew up in Arizona and her grandparents who lived in Indiana would come and visit for a couple of months. And she hated having them there. She thought it was an intrusion. And then our grandparents passed away and she's like, "Oh my god, I blew it."
[00:16:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:18] Daniel Pink: "I could have learned from them. If only I had talked to them more, if only I had been more appreciative of their being there, I would have learned from their wisdom. It would have learned a little bit more about my family." And so she took that regret and said, "You know what? Why am I feeling so bad about this? Because I lost that sense of meaning and connection to my relatives." And so what she did instead she — this healthy way to deal with — she felt terrible. Because you realize like, "Oh my god, like I blew it. Like if only I talked to them more, I'd have learned a lot about myself and about my family." And so what she did is she took that regret and she applied it forward. And now with her parents, she's got a subscription to this interesting service where every month they send a question to — usually for older people, yeah.
[00:16:57] Jordan Harbinger: They sponsor our show. It's called a StoryWorth.
[00:17:00] Daniel Pink: StoryWorth.
[00:17:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:01] Daniel Pink: Oh, it's a great thing. StoryWorth, it's fantastic. StoryWorth, yes. Actually, she got them a subscription to StoryWorth, and they send them a question every month and her dad answers it and they put it together and it's in a book. And so the whole thing is like, wow, I missed out on some meaning in my life. I don't want to do that again. And so that's how I learned from it.
[00:17:18] Jordan Harbinger: It's storyworth.com/jordan. They don't sponsor this episode most likely, but, you know, go to storyworth.com/jordan, check it out. I'm having my mom do it. I have to say it's really interesting. My mom write — you know, they send a question, like what were some choices you made about how you raised your kids? was one of them. That's the latest one that's in my inbox.
[00:17:36] Daniel Pink: That's a question about both relief and regret.
[00:17:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:17:39] Daniel Pink: So any parent. I'm a parent. My kids are 20 years older than yours. I'm a parent and I look back and I say, "Okay, what choices did I make?" And some of them, I rejoice over and some of them I regret. And when I think about what I regret, it actually allows me to extract a lesson that I can use going forward, that I can transmit to them, that I can transmit to other people.
[00:17:59] Jordan Harbinger: But we have to handle the regret properly in order to make the meaning. Right? We can't just like—
[00:18:03] Daniel Pink: Exactly.
[00:18:04] Jordan Harbinger: —wallow in our emotions.
[00:18:06] Daniel Pink: And there's a systematic way to do that. Here's the thing at a top level, here's the thing, it goes to what we were talking about earlier, no one ever taught us to deal with negative emotions. As a consequence of that, we think the best approach is sometimes is to ignore them, bad idea. And when we can't ignore them, they end up hijacking us, even worse consequences. We have to think about them, confront them. And so one thing to do, and looking at a lot of these researches, is a very systematic way to do it. So one thing is sort of look inward and uses something — it's a powerful line of research with a pretty gooey name called self-compassion, where you treat yourself with kindness rather than contempt.
[00:18:40] When we screw up our self-talk is brutal. And we would never talk to other people the way we talk to ourselves. So just treat yourself with some kindness and also recognize you're not that special. I went out and collected 16,000 regrets from people in 105 countries. So if you tell me you have a regret about bullying somebody when you were younger or not starting a business or not traveling enough, it's like you're not alone. So that's the first thing is to look inward.
[00:19:01] Second thing, I can't tell you how important disclosure is, disclosing our regrets. There's something pretty powerful that 16,000 people around the world were willing to reveal their regrets to a complete stranger. That's incredible. And why is that? Because disclosure serves us in a number of ways. One, it unburdens. Two, most important, once again, if you look at the work of Jamie Pennebaker at Texas, if you look at the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky at UC Riverside, when we write about or talk about negative emotions, back to your point, when we write or talk about negative emotions, we convert this kind of blobby, amorphous sensation into concrete words. That makes them less fearsome. It helps us make sense to them. So disclosure unburdens and helps us make sense. What's more, is as a social phenomenon and we're just totally wrong about this, we think we fear that when we disclose our vulnerabilities, our mistakes, people will think less of us. 30 years of research tells us they think more of us for doing that.
[00:20:07] So we sort of relieve ourselves, we disclose, and then we try to systematically draw a lesson from it. And the way to do that is to take a step back, take a step back in time, take a step back with language, take a step back with space. I actually think one of the best decision-making tools there is of any kind, but certainly for regret is that, okay, supposedly your best friend was going through this. What lesson did she learn? And what would you tell her to do next? You do that, everybody always knows.
[00:20:33] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. Right, so what would you advise someone else to do it is that because we're divorcing ourselves from our personal, I guess the baggage that surrounds it in terms of our emotions. Is that why it's easier to advise someone else to do something versus to—?
[00:20:47] Daniel Pink: And there's a whole pile of research on this.
[00:20:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:20:51] Daniel Pink: Ethan Kross at Michigan has done a lot of it. Some really, really brilliant stuff. What it is, is that okay, we do a crappy job of solving our own problems in general, because we're like, we're trying to solve an ocean problem but we're scuba divers. We're like inside. You know what I mean?
[00:21:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:21:08] Daniel Pink: We're sort of, okay, well we want to be as oceanographers. All right. You can't be a good oceanographer if you only do scuba diving. You want to zoom out. And the thing is, is like when we're with ourselves, we're so enmeshed in our own details and struggles and perspective and whatnot. We have to actually affirmatively zoom out. So what you can do, I mean, Kross' research is fantastic. One of the things you can do is you can say — okay, let me give you an example from my own self.
[00:21:32] Let's say that I have a regret about I have some regrets about kindness, okay. So let's say I have a regret about lack of kindness and I have a regret about being too kind. No, I have a regret about lack of kindness. If I want to extract a lesson from it, what I can say is not, "What should I do?" But, "Hey, what should Dan do? What should Dan do in this?" Talking to yourself in the third person is useful. Putting yourself in sort of a scientific mode saying, "Okay, you know what? Here you go. There's a regret. You have this regret and you're a doctor of regret sciences. And you're examining this thing in this pristine laboratory room. What's your diagnosis? What's the next step?" Your best friend is dealing with this. What lessons does she learn? What do you want her to do next? And so zooming out is one of the most important things. And so when we kind of treat ourselves with kindness, disclose the regret to make sense of it, and zoom out for a solution. It's easy.
[00:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: Nice.
[00:22:19] Daniel Pink: And no one ever taught us how to do that.
[00:22:23] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dan Pink. We'll be right back.
[00:22:28] This episode is sponsored in part by LMNT. I'm sure you know, by now how important it is to drink plenty of water, but did you know that replenishing your electrolytes is just as important. Whether you're working out or simply going on a walk, sweat-inducing activities, not only make you lose water, but electrolytes as well. When it's too low, you get headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness. LMNT helps keep me hydrated through rigorous workouts. It's also perfectly suited to folks following keto, low carb, paleo diets. What I like best though is clean ingredients, not too salty and not overpowered by sweetness. LMNT is so sure you'll love their product and come back for more. They're offering you a free LMNT sample pack. That's eight single-serving packets free. Just cover the cost of shipping five bucks for US customers.
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[00:23:24] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Audible. Mel Robbins, a best-selling global phenomenon, one of the leading voices in personal development is back with a new Audible original podcast, Here's Exactly What to Do, which invites you to re-imagine the life you want and gives you the tools to take action. Each of the 14 episodes focuses on an attitude or situation that's holding you back. Is your confidence in need of a recharge? Is your creativity running low? Are you not carving out the right life balance? Or are you just feeling blah and can't get out of bed? In her typical, no BS style, Mel cuts through the hype to deliver simple tools you need to move forward and create positive change. These short, impactful episodes are the perfect way to take a break, take a breath, and feel truly empowered. Here's Exactly What to Do is the perfect follow-up to start here, her 13-topic breakdown of how to deal with whatever life is throwing at you.
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[00:24:26] Now back to Dan Pink.
[00:24:30] I have an advice segment every Friday, and I often look at the advice that I'm giving and I'm like, "Man, I wish I'd known or thought to do this when I encountered this similar situation 10 years ago." And then I think, "Would I do this right now? Would I really do this?" And so I try to be really honest about that on the show on Feedback Friday, because I'm like, "Okay, here's what you should do. You should handle it diplomatically and this and this and this and this, but what I would probably do is be super pissed off and tell everyone and ruin this person's reputation because they freaking deserve it." You know? And then I'm like, "Ah, but don't do that. That's bad and it makes you look bad."
[00:25:02] Daniel Pink: And then you regret it, but then you forgive yourself and you disclose it and you extract a lesson from it.
[00:25:07] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You took this big survey. What do most people regret? You say bullying someone as a kid. What other sorts of like giant categories stick out?
[00:25:16] Daniel Pink: Yeah, this was fascinating. So I think one of the things that's super cool about the times we live in is that you know, individual schmoes like me can do some pretty sophisticated large-scale research.
[00:25:24] So as I mentioned, I did this big survey of the American population, the largest public opinion survey of American attitudes about regret ever conducted. We got some interesting stuff from there, but what was also interesting is another piece of research that I did called the world regret survey, where I simply collected from all over the world. And what I found in reading through these regrets, thousands of them, literally thousands upon thousands of them from all over the world is that around the world, people have the same four regrets over and over and over and over again. And in some ways the traditional way we, even I had been, in my public opinion survey, I said, I had people put their regrets, ask them their regrets, and then put them into categories like career, family, education, health, and so forth.
[00:26:12] And I found that that was not very revealing because there was something bigger going on beneath the surface, four core regrets that people had all over the world.
[00:26:20] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. And what were they?
[00:26:22] Daniel Pink: Well, I'm happily telling you.
[00:26:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:24] Daniel Pink: So let me give you an example of one of them, about how it spans domains. And it took me a while to figure this out. So among Americans who went to college, huge numbers of people regret not to studying abroad. It's unbelievable—
[00:26:34] Jordan Harbinger: Really? Wow. I'm glad I did that then. Okay.
[00:26:36] Daniel Pink: Oh you did? Where'd you go?
[00:26:37] Jordan Harbinger: When I was in high school, I went to Germany. Then in college, I went to Israel, Ukraine, Mexico, Panama, and Serbia. So I did it a lot.
[00:26:45] Daniel Pink: So yeah. So some of those places are not that close to the other places, but that's okay.
[00:26:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:48] Daniel Pink: You've traveled around a lot.
[00:26:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:50] Daniel Pink: So people regret not studying abroad. Okay. So that's an education regret. I have huge numbers of regrets from all over the world where someone has someone they're interested in romantically. They say, "I like this person, this man or this woman, I want to ask him or her out on a date, but I never got around to it because I'm too chicken," and they've regretted it ever since. People were getting that for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years.
[00:27:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes.
[00:27:08] Daniel Pink: Huge numbers of regrets about people who say, "Oh, I stayed in this crappy job when all I wanted to do was start my own business, but I never had the guts to start a business. And I really regret not doing that."
[00:27:17] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:18] Daniel Pink: So that's a career regret, but all those regrets at the same.
[00:27:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:21] Daniel Pink: It's a regret. No, here's the regret. You're at a juncture. You can play it safe or take the chance.
[00:27:24] Jordan Harbinger: Oh interesting.
[00:27:25] Daniel Pink: You play it safe, you regret it. All right. So this is the boldness regret. And so this is a big category of regret. It doesn't matter the domain of life. It is that we have regrets about boldness if only I'd taken the chance. So we also have foundation regrets, which are regrets about not doing the work, so regrets about smoking, not saving money that gives you a wobbly foundation. We have these moral regrets if only I'd done the right thing, which includes an amazing number of regrets about bullying.
[00:27:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:50] Daniel Pink: I was shocked at how often those bullying regrets came up. A lot of regrets about infidelity, other kinds of moral breaches, and then finally connection regrets, where you have a relationship that should have been intact. It comes apart usually in slow undramatic ways. You want to reach out, you want to amend it, you want to get that connection. You don't do it and you regret it. And to me, these four regrets, these four regrets are the path out of this pandemic because these four regrets are essentially a photographic negative of the good life.
[00:28:22] All these people telling us, by telling us their regrets, they're telling us what they value most in life. And over and over again around the world, it's the same four things. They value stability, right?
[00:28:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:31] Daniel Pink: Oh my god, I don't have enough money to pay because I didn't save money. Oh my god, I endangered my health. They value stability. Boldness, we're not here forever. We want to do something. We want to grow. We want to learn. We want to try stuff. We want to lead a psychologically rich life. Moral, I'm convinced that most people want to be good and actually feel pretty crap when they don't. Not everybody, but most of us actually want to be good and don't like not being good. The fourth one is connection. It's love and not only romantic love. I think our notions of love need to be expanded to our entire families, not just for our romantic partner. Not only our kids, but just like our siblings and our other relatives and our friends and our colleagues is a different kind of love, but that's what it's all about.
[00:29:08] So that's what we need. We need stability. We need some growth. We need goodness and we need love. And that's it, man.
[00:29:15] Jordan Harbinger: The photographic negative concept is pretty genius, right? Because we can look at all of these — we can even probably take our own inventory and go, "Oh, I really regret these types of things, which are what you just mentioned. And then since we know what people regret most, now we can focus on doing those things the right way. So if we've regret not keeping in touch with our friends for a long time or something like that, because we were too busy with life, now we can say, "Okay, well, it's not too late. Most of them are still around and willing to reconnect at some level."
[00:29:44] So I think this is kind of like the one, if you're going to take one thing away from this episode, I think this is probably it, which is take an inventory of some of your biggest regrets and see which ones you can fix, mitigate, or at least not make the same type of mistake in the future. Because a lot of things I thought I would regret like wasting a bunch of money on something. I literally can't even remember what those are anymore. And it doesn't matter in the least.
[00:30:07] And I remember when I was young, my parents would be like, "You're going to regret spending $700 on this thing." And now I'm like, "$700? Who cares about that? No. I regret bullying this kid because everyone else was doing it. And I felt bad for him, but I didn't have the guts to stand up for him and myself." Like, that's my regret. I don't care about wasting money on the Nintendo. Right? So that sort of is able to shift our lives in a different direction. If we regret not choosing a career or not being bold or going out on a limb, then that guides our future decisions. But again, only if we don't like sweep it under the rug and decide that because we went to a self-help seminar, we're not going to think about those things anymore.
[00:30:46] Daniel Pink: I want to move from a self-help seminar to church. And just to give you a big amen on that.
[00:30:49] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:30:49] Daniel Pink: I mean, I'm with you. Amen.
[00:30:52] Jordan Harbinger: Like you said, what's the use of regret. It obviously has a function. I guess a lot of animals don't have language, but if they did, they probably aren't thinking, man, I regret not, I don't know, what a gorilla's regret? Not a whole lot.
[00:31:04] Daniel Pink: I don't know.
[00:31:04] Jordan Harbinger: Probably, yeah, I don't know. That's a survey you can do next for your next book.
[00:31:07] Daniel Pink: I don't know. Gorillas might have more, you know, a bit higher on the regret chain than say raccoons or jellyfish or something.
[00:31:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:13] Daniel Pink: But you know, obviously animals learn.
[00:31:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, they've learned.
[00:31:16] Daniel Pink: And regret is a form of learning. It's a very interesting question about — my hunch, I have no idea and I have no way of proving or disproving this. That regret is too sophisticated, cognitively for most animals, most other animals besides human beings to experience it and deploy it in a sophisticated way. I find that very, very hard to believe.
[00:31:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. It's kind of tough. I guess, look, somebody's listening is probably like, "No, I'm an expert in chimp behavior and they have regrets. They're just really—
[00:31:41] Daniel Pink: Oh, I would love to hear from that. I would love to hear from that person, yeah.
[00:31:43] Jordan Harbinger: If you are an expert in this area with animals and you think that they have regrets, definitely email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm curious too, because if they have regrets, maybe they're really sort of — I don't want to be rude about it, but it's a chimp, whatever, unsophisticated like maybe there's some sort of basic regret, but it's not a very, it's not like, "Oh, I wish I'd kept in touch with the other chimps at that last zoo. They were really nice folks." It's probably more like, "I regret eating this certain thing," or I guess that's almost like, then when does the regret just become learning a lesson that happened based on behavior? I don't know. That's maybe a philosophical discussion.
[00:32:17] Daniel Pink: Yeah. But I don't think chimps are saying, "Oh my god, you know, back at Chimp U, I had a chance to do a junior year abroad in Paris and I didn't do it."
[00:32:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. "Oh man, yeah. I should have taken more advantage when I was at the Berlin zoo. I really just stayed at home all the time. Now, I'm back in New Jersey. Man, did I have it good over there?"
[00:32:38] What is the difference then between disappointment and regret, for example, is there a difference? I mean—
[00:32:43] Daniel Pink: Huge.
[00:32:43] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like there is. Really?
[00:32:45] Daniel Pink: There's a huge difference and the difference is regret is your fault, disappointment is not your fault.
[00:32:49] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, okay.
[00:32:50] Daniel Pink: I'll give you the best example. It's a parenting example. It's not mine. It's from Janet Landman who done a lot of work on regret at the University of Michigan. She says — okay, so imagine you got a three-year-old. You're two and a half year old hasn't lost a tooth yet?
[00:33:02] Jordan Harbinger: No, no, no. Barely getting them. Yeah, just got them recently.
[00:33:06] Daniel Pink: Okay. So imagine you've got a five-year-old or a six-year-old, And a six-year-old loses a tooth.
[00:33:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:33:10] Daniel Pink: Okay. Your kid started losing teeth around age six. Okay, so you got a kid that loses a tooth at age six. So we know about the tooth fairy. It's still a part of most American family's lives. So she loses her tooth. She puts a tooth underneath her pillow so the tooth fairy can come and replace that tooth with, take the tooth and give her a buck or something like that.
[00:33:30] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:33:30] Daniel Pink: Okay. She wakes up the next morning, the tooth is still there. She's disappointed. Her parents regret not replacing the tooth with a dollar. All right. What's happening? It's one person's fault. The other person is a victim of circumstance. The other person actually has the agency that caused it. So regret is your fault.
[00:33:48] Listen, I'll give you a sports example. I'm a basketball fan. And unfortunately, I'm a basketball fan in Washington DC. And so our hometown team, the Washington Wizards, I'm always disappointed when the Wizards lose, but I can't regret it. Right? I don't play, I don't coach. I don't own the team. It's not my fault, but the owners of the Wizards, or, you know, Bradley Beal should regret blowing games.
[00:34:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:12] Daniel Pink: Because it's their fault. I'm just disappointed.
[00:34:14] Jordan Harbinger: That sense. Right. So it's sort of like, is this a locus of control? Yeah. Who has control over that situation?
[00:34:20] Daniel Pink: Okay, good. Yeah, bring the social psychology language. Totally, yeah, it's locus of control. It's agency. It's those kinds of things.
[00:34:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:26] Daniel Pink: That's exactly what it is. But you know, essentially regret is your fault. Disappointment is not your fault.
[00:34:31] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good distinction because I think a lot of us maybe confuse the two. I mean, when I was reading the book, I was like, "Oh, I regret these things. Oh, wait. No, I don't. I was just annoyed or sad that those happened." But I don't really truly regret it because also it's hard to regret something that you didn't even know about.
[00:34:48] Daniel Pink: Yeah.
[00:34:49] Jordan Harbinger: Because you really didn't. If you never even thought about studying abroad, you might regret not doing it. But really, if you didn't know that was an option or you were so poor that there was no chance in hell it was ever going to happen—
[00:35:01] Daniel Pink: Of course.
[00:35:01] Jordan Harbinger: —it's not really fair to you to regret that kind of thing.
[00:35:04] Daniel Pink: Absolutely, right. Absolutely, right, I agree with that a hundred percent. And that's true for this one category of regrets about foundation regrets. So let's talk about that.
[00:35:11] Jordan Harbinger: Foundation regrets.
[00:35:11] Daniel Pink: The foundation regrets are if I only had done the work.
[00:35:13] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:35:13] Daniel Pink: These are regrets about saving money and health and so forth. So imagine you have a regret about saving money. I got a lot of people with regrets. A very poignant story of a guy in Tennessee who is 43 years old, very successful career. And he looks up and he said, "At age 43, I've been working my butt off." He started working at 18, a very successful guy. "I started working my butt off when I was 18. 25 years later, I don't have any money. I don't have anything to show for."
[00:35:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:35:38] Daniel Pink: Yeah. It's terrible, right?
[00:35:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:40] Daniel Pink: There are a lot of things like that. Now, imagine you have somebody who is, let's say, 35 years old and she says, "Oh my god, I regret not saving enough money." And then you unpack the story and you say, "Well, wait a second. Your parents can't afford to send you to college, but you went to college anyway, and you were saddled with $130,000 of student loans. All right. You've been working your whole life. That's not entirely on you."
[00:36:01] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:36:02] Daniel Pink: So we have to think about what do we have agency over, what do we not have agency over. On boldness, we often have a lot of agency. On moral, we often have a lot of agency. On connection, we often have a lot of agency. With foundation, it's a little murkier, but we do have agency. I don't want to exonerate people to say that, "Oh, you have no responsibility for taking care of your finances or your health or your overall wellbeing.
[00:36:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I don't think most people — well, I don't know. Do most people let themselves off the hook too easily? Probably not people who listen to this. I think most of the people who listen to this are busy beating themselves up over things that they don't have control over, as opposed to trying to shove responsibility off of themselves. Although who knows, it's a big audience, there's a lot of people in it with different personality types.
[00:36:40] I'm wondering in the survey or in your research, did you find that people mostly regretted things that they did versus things that they did not do or the other way around? So that's an unclear question, but did most people regret doing something or not doing something, I guess?
[00:36:53] Daniel Pink: It's a very clear question and it's central to the architecture of regret. Here's what we know. In general, especially over time, people regret what they didn't do much more than what they did do.
[00:37:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:37:06] Daniel Pink: The regrets of inaction outnumber regrets of action. And this is especially true as people age. One of the clearest findings in my own quantitative research is that around age 20 people had about equal numbers of regrets of action and inaction.
[00:37:21] So in the quantitative survey, I had people report their regret and then categorize it. Is it regret of inaction or action? Something I did or something I didn't do. And in the early 20s, people had about the same number of actions and inaction regrets. As people age, the chart looks like this and it just inaction regrets take over.
[00:37:38] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Why do you think that is?
[00:37:40] Daniel Pink: All kinds of reasons, one of them is that for action regrets, you can sometimes do something.
[00:37:44] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right.
[00:37:44] Daniel Pink: You can get that "no regrets" tattoo removed. You can apologize to that kid you bullied. You can find that at least, it's like, "Okay, I shouldn't marry that guy, but at least I have these three great kids." Inaction regrets always bug you because they remain unresolved. You have this floating what-if over you all the time. And in many cases, a lot of the inaction regrets end up being things that, you know, especially things like boldness and connection that really, really, really deeply bring meaning to our lives. The idea of leading a psychologically rich life and doing something is I think that is a fundamental human impulse. And when we floored it, it doesn't go away. We have an innate need to have affinity and connection and belonging with other people. And when that doesn't happen, it doesn't go away.
[00:38:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:32] Daniel Pink: Inaction regrets really, really linger.
[00:38:34] Jordan Harbinger: I think there's a lot of research on people who have close relationships, friends, marriages, whatever it is, they're healthier and they live longer. So it would make sense that it—
[00:38:42] Daniel Pink: Not even close.
[00:38:42] Jordan Harbinger: It's not even close, right? Yeah. So as you get older, you probably start to really acutely feel alone if you like never got married, never have kids, and just was like spending money on yourself and traveling around. It's like, well, when you get older, you just find yourself in a smaller and smaller box.
[00:38:56] Daniel Pink: I mean, there is a famous renowned study called the Grant Study started at Harvard in the 1930s.
[00:39:02] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:39:03] Daniel Pink: I think I'm forgetting that it's one of the largest longitudinal studies ever conducted in psychological science where — it's distorted a little bit because they started following these guys who were all men, all white who were at Harvard as undergraduates. And then they follow them all the way through their lives. Ben Bradley was part of this cohort. I think John F. Kennedy was part of this cohort. They checked in on them all the time and some of them were successful. Some of them were healthy, some of them were not, but the people who flourished had satisfying relationships. The people who floundered did not have satisfying relationships, period, it didn't matter the money. It actually didn't matter the physical health and even the guy who started this, he has a really interesting unpublished paper with the results, some of the results. And he says, "I can describe the results of this like seven decades study in human flourishing. I can describe it in five words. Happiness is love, full stop."
[00:39:54] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Wow.
[00:39:56] Daniel Pink: And he's right. I don't want to get woo-woo on you, but he's totally right.
[00:39:58] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, it makes sense. I'm, quote-unquote, "only," but I'm 41 and I'm like, you know, I don't regret all of the fun things that I did that involved other people, but I often regret all the work I put into certain things in my 20s at the expense of having — like classic example, I worked really hard in college and then I worked really hard in grad school. And I'm like, "If I had to do it over again, I would probably do way less studying and way more socializing because I was like, I'm not going to be that guy that goes to college and just joins a fraternity and makes a bunch of friends and hangs out." I lived in the library and now I'm like, "You know, that got me in some ways to where I am today, but in other ways, I really could have had a lot more relationships from college instead of like the tiny handful of people I still keep in touch with." That I lived with, you know, lived next to them or studied with them. And it's like the only people I know from those connections. And it's funny because now if I had to advise someone else going back to your earlier point, I would say, "Make as many friends and connections as possible. And don't worry about the skull shapes of pre-humans as much as you did."
[00:41:06] Daniel Pink: I disagree with the second part of that. I think the skull shapes of pre-humans are revealing about who we are as human beings. What were you an anthropology major?
[00:41:14] Jordan Harbinger: You know I took a bunch of those classes. It was like, here's Australopithecine skull shape, that has a brow ridge and like a little, I forget what, like a crest or something, and I'm like, that's not serving me super well. I really glad I missed that one.
[00:41:26] Daniel Pink: Sure, it is. Sure, it is. It makes you less intimidated by evolution and by neuroscience later in your life.
[00:41:32] Jordan Harbinger: Fair, reframing.
[00:41:33] Daniel Pink: Here's the thing, you know, it's like we got to do both. I have plenty of people who regret not working hard enough in college because it gave them an uncertain foundation.
[00:41:39] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, interesting.
[00:41:40] Daniel Pink: The question is, you know, is there an inherent trade-off between having a solid academic foundation and building those connections. And I don't think that trade-off is inherent. I actually think that one can do both.
[00:41:50] Jordan Harbinger: You can do both, yeah.
[00:41:51] Daniel Pink: But one has to be very intentional about it.
[00:41:52] Jordan Harbinger: I basically decided I shouldn't do one because it would mean that I'm not doing enough of the other, which is total nonsense because what happened is—
[00:41:59] Daniel Pink: Right. Exactly. That's just a story you're telling yourself.
[00:42:01] Jordan Harbinger: Right. It was like, I spent more time—
[00:42:02] Daniel Pink: You need to go to more self-help seminars.
[00:42:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I need to get a tattoo to remind myself that I should not have worried about this.
[00:42:08] Speaking of inaction regrets, this is an interesting phenomenon that I experienced that maybe people can relate to. And maybe you even have some light to shed on this. I left an old company about five years ago and I realized very quickly, I should say I immediately regretted not leaving that company earlier. And so when I talked about it on this show and people would say, "Jordan, I love you, man, but it's really cringe and sour grapes that you're saying that you'd wish you'd left earlier. I know you love Aesop's Fables." But I will say now with five years of hindsight or an experience behind me, it really wasn't sour grapes. It was, since the decision to leave that company was largely made outside of my control due to a dispute, I wanted to leave, but I couldn't. And then suddenly it was like, you're leaving, but not necessarily on your terms. I just had a sudden realization that I should have split earlier. And it all came rushing in very quickly. And at first too, I think a lot of outsiders, it sounded like a rationalization that would make me feel better. Like, "Oh, I'm so glad I'm gone." But really now I'm like, nope, I'm really, and always have been very glad that I'm gone. It was more of a realization instead of a rationalization, but it happened like overnight almost. And I wonder if that's common.
[00:43:20] Daniel Pink: I think so. I think the key is like, what's the lesson you learned from it.
[00:43:24] Jordan Harbinger: The lesson was when you start having these inkling or these feelings of, well, I really should do this, but here's a bunch of reasons I can't, maybe those reasons are keeping you comfortable and keeping you, you know, it's, fear-based. And maybe that means you should try a little bit freaking harder to make those things happen, or at least stop sweeping it under the rug. Because what I did was I went, I can't do this now. You know, it's too late.
[00:43:47] Daniel Pink: But I think that you learned a lesson from that.
[00:43:49] Jordan Harbinger: Absolutely.
[00:43:50] Daniel Pink: But here's the thing. This is why it's so interesting. It's like regret delivers some pain, not massive pain but a little bit, but it also delivers learning. The thing is you can't have one without the other. You want the learning, you got to have a little bit of the pain.
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:05] Daniel Pink: And the thing is that pain, modest as it is, is worth withstanding because it's the only way to deliver the learning. These upward counterfactuals that we were talking about, the at least. At least, I didn't do that, they make us feel better, but they don't help us do better. If only's make us feel worse and help us do better. In fact — and this is the key — they help us do better because they make us feel worse. Feeling worse is a signal to pay attention to what's going on here and learn from it.
[00:44:37] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dan Pink. We'll be right back.
[00:44:42] This episode is sponsored in part by Boll & Branch. We spend a third of our lives in bed. Well, if you're a parent, you spend more or maybe less, or more but getting less sleep. But anyway, high quality, comfortable sheets, not worth cutting corners on. Boll & Branch make the highest quality sheets doing things the right way, not the easy way. I was naive in my younger years, made the mistake of purchasing inexpensive sheets that didn't end up holding up in the wash at all, but I've learned better. We love our Boll & Branch is a hundred percent organic cotton white Signature Hemmed Sheets that actually get softer with every wash, toxin-free, and fair trade certified. Buttery soft, it's what I imagine. It's like sleeping on a cloud of, I guess, butter. I don't know. Boll & Branch pays attention to the details, labeling the sides of the fitted sheet to make your life easier, and so you put the right side on the first time. That's a brilliant idea by the way. Husband-and-wife team Scott and Missy Tannen founded Boll & Branch to create new standards and bedding by doing things the right way, so you can sleep easy knowing that.
[00:45:32] Jen Harbinger: Experience the best sheets you've ever felt at bollandbranch.com. Get 15 percent off your first set of sheets. When you use promo code JORDAN at checkout. That's Boll & Branch, B-O-L- L-A-N-D-branch.com, promo code JORDAN.
[00:45:44] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Freshly. Jen and I are way too busy lately to meal plan. It hasn't been friendly on the waistline. Freshly offers quality meals without the hard work — my waistline, just to be clear, my waistline. Freshly meals are designed by nutritionists cooked by chefs and then delivered fresh, never frozen. Other meal deliveries need to be prepped and cooked but freshly is ready to eat in three minutes. Got a new baby, got a two-year-old toddler. Jen and I, we just don't have enough hands to spend time preparing food. Much less go grocery shopping and deal with dirty dishes. Freshly has healthy options for the whole family. Instead of eating out or grabbing the same old take-out all the time, we've scheduled our Freshly meals to make our lives easier. There are over 50 nutritionist-designed entrees to choose from, like their classic steak peppercorn, multi-serve sides like they're masterful Mac & Cheese, or their new line of plant-based meals.
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[00:46:42] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by Progressive. Progressive helps you get a great rate on car insurance even if it's not with them. They have this nifty comparison tool that puts rates side-by-side. So you choose a rate and coverage that works for you. So let's say you're interested in lowering your rate on your car insurance, visit progressive.com. Get a quote with all the coverage you want. You'll see Progressive's rate and their tool will provide options from other companies, all lined up and easy to compare. All you have to do is choose the rate and coverage that you like. Progressive gives you options so you can make the best choice for you. You can be looking forward to saving money in the very near future. More money for say, a pair of noise-canceling headphones, an Instapot, more puzzles, whatever brings you joy. Get a quote today at progressive.com. It's one small step you can do today that could make a big impact on your budget tomorrow.
[00:47:25] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. Comparison rates are not available in all states or situations. Prices vary based on how you buy.
[00:47:32] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, you can now rate the show if you're listening on Spotify. This is a huge help for us. I think it's going to make the show more visible on Spotify as well. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/spotify, or search for us in your Spotify app and click those three dots on the upper right to make it happen.
[00:47:47] Now for the rest of my conversation with Dan Pink.
[00:47:51] That makes sense. I mean, look at the end of the day, it's hard to say if I would have been in as good of a position to restart my business if I had left earlier. So I try not to really beat myself up about it too much because — "Oh my god, I should've left three years, four years, five years earlier." Yeah, but then what? I have been totally screwed, not as experienced enough, not have the right connection. Like you really can't rewrite it.
[00:48:10] Daniel Pink: Right.
[00:48:10] Jordan Harbinger: But it was interesting to find that something that I thought going to be impossible or extremely difficult, almost overnight turned into, "Man, why didn't I do this earlier? This is so ridiculous." It's probably how people feel when they leave an abusive relationship where they're like, "I can't, I'm going to be alone. I'm never going to find someone." And then three months later, they're like, "I don't wake up stress every day. I'm happier." You know, there's all these different things that they didn't realize were going to happen.
[00:48:34] Daniel Pink: I think you're right. And I think there's a bigger point there. And then once again, you know, social psychology has figured out some of this is that we are lousy forecasters, especially about our own lives. You know, the classic example of it is if you ask people — so I'm in my 50s, so if you were to say to me, "Okay, here you go. You have different tastes in music and food and culture than you'd had when you were 25." "Yeah, totally." "Now, go forward 25 years. Do you think you're going to have different tastes in music culture?" "Oh no, no, no. I was going to be exactly the same." We don't really. We think that current me is done. Like we've been evolving. We're becoming totally different people throughout our entire lives, from the time that we were your daughter's age and we were just like blobby, cute little things to the time we're toddling around like your older kid to the time that, you know, we're becoming different people. But then the moment we're in right now, we think it's done.
[00:49:25] Jordan Harbinger: It's done.
[00:49:26] Daniel Pink: I'm me, it's over and it's not. And so when we forecast what our life is going to be like, we don't recognize we're making a forecast about a different person.
[00:49:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:49:36] Daniel Pink: And so that's another reason why we are really, really, really, really bad forecasters. So this goes to anticipated regret. A lot of times we anticipate regrets. And as Dan Gilbert at Harvard says, we buy emotional insurance we don't need. That is we're worried about regrets. We're worried about certain kinds of regrets and they end up not materializing. And so we make different decisions to avoid those anticipated regrets. So anticipating regrets is useful, but not perfect.
[00:50:03] I'll give you an example. Let's take multiple-choice tests, all right, multiple-choice tests. So when I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, the guidance on multiple-choice tests was this, let's say, you got question nine and you think the answer is C and then you're going along and you're like, "Wait a second. I think the answer to question nine is B." Should you go back and change your answer or should you go with your first instinct?
[00:50:24] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So I learned through painful experience to just not change the answers, because for some reason, when you're really thinking about that question and you're in that zone and you're going, all this studying and also your gut will tell you if you've got, if you'd have no idea what the answer is, and you just blindly picked A, B, C, or D fine, go back and change it if you have an inkling. But if you had a reason for choosing one, I don't think you should go back and change it, man. I've done that too many times.
[00:50:50] Daniel Pink: Okay. Perfect answer because it's very revealing.
[00:50:54] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:50:54] Daniel Pink: Here's what the evidence tells us. And this is not a close call. Here's what the evidence tells us that in general, not in every instance, that you are much more likely to switch from a wrong answer to a right answer. That actually switching is a good idea.
[00:51:11] Jordan Harbinger: Really? Oh my gosh.
[00:51:12] Daniel Pink: Yes. But here's the thing, you just articulated exactly the reason why, because we anticipate much more regret, especially when it actually has happened in our lives—
[00:51:23] Jordan Harbinger: I know where you're going with this—
[00:51:24] Daniel Pink: if you switch — okay, you got it.
[00:51:26] Jordan Harbinger: If you switch your right answer to a wrong one, it feels—
[00:51:28] Daniel Pink: Boom. You got it. Right. So we anticipate, it's like, oh my God, if I switch from B to C and I'm wrong, I'm going to so regret it.
[00:51:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:37] Daniel Pink: And you're going to regret it less than sticking with a wrong answer.
[00:51:40] Jordan Harbinger: Totally.
[00:51:40] Daniel Pink: It's the same outcome.
[00:51:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's funny.
[00:51:42] Daniel Pink: So what we're doing in Dan Gilbert's phrase is that we're buying emotional insurance, we don't need, and we end up making — so anticipated regret sometimes leads us to bad, often very risk-averse decisions.
[00:51:51] Jordan Harbinger: That's so funny.
[00:51:51] Daniel Pink: So it needs to be, we need to anticipate our regrets properly. And the way to do that is to anticipate what the things are we really will regret in our lives. And we know that from these 16,000 people. We know that 10 years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, far less likely to regret the action of spending $700 on that Nintendo system than you are to regret the inaction of not staying in touch with people who you were once closed to.
[00:52:17] Jordan Harbinger: That totally makes sense. Man, it's so funny. I would even go as far as to regret changing an answer on a test where I'm not sure if those answers were wrong later, and I will just assume that those were changed to wrong answers. And that's why my score is lower. So it's all like a narrative in my own head. I know I'm not the only one who does this, for sure.
[00:52:35] Daniel Pink: No way.
[00:52:36] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny. So if we have what you call these open versus closed door regrets, if we have open door regrets where we can maybe change the current situation, does it help us to try to remedy it? Like reconnect with old friends or apologize to that kid we bullied. And what about the closed door ones, we're like that person has passed away and we can't do that anymore. What do we do with those?
[00:52:56] Daniel Pink: Well, I mean, with open door regrets, it's important, especially with the connection regrets, it's really important to do something. I'll give you an example. The biggest lesson for me in all of this is like, we think about these connection regrets, or you're ready at a juncture. Should I reach out or should I not reach out? If you're at a juncture where you're wondering whether to reach out, in my mind, you've answered the question. Always reach out, always reach out because the door is still open.
[00:53:17] Now, I have a story of somebody in the book who had a friend, a close childhood friend who ended up developing a very pernicious, horrible form of cancer.
[00:53:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:53:28] Daniel Pink: And this woman wanted to reach out to her friends. She knew her friend was in trouble, felt kind of awkward. She didn't reach out. She waited a little longer. She finally called her and that morning, the friend passed away.
[00:53:41] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:53:42] Daniel Pink: It's horrible, right?
[00:53:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:43] Daniel Pink: That's a closed door regret, but what did this person do? Her first name is Amy. This person Amy, she's like, "Oh my god. Okay, that's terrible. I feel terrible. Do I ignore—? Oh, no regrets. Do I ignore that? No. Do I wallow in it? Probably not psychologically healthy. What do I learn from it?" And then sadly, but happily in a weird way, she had another friend in that situation and she treated it totally differently where she'd called the friend regularly. They exchanged text messages and that friend too sadly passed away. But Amy says, "Well, I don't have any regrets about that." So what did she do? She forgave herself. She disclosed the regret. She extracted a lesson from it and she did better next time. And that's what we do with closed door regrets.
[00:54:23] Jordan Harbinger: It's essentially changed our course of behavior and not sit there and beat yourself up. That makes a lot of sense.
[00:54:28] Daniel Pink: Confront it. Don't ignore it. Confront it, forgive yourself, disclose it, extract a lesson from it. Do better next time.
[00:54:35] Jordan Harbinger: When you were taking your survey, you mentioned, they changed a little bit by age. Was it different for men versus women as well?
[00:54:42] Daniel Pink: It's interesting. So for the quantitative survey, I sort of regret not asking this question because there's some other research on this, but I did separate people by the samples large enough that I could do cross tabs by gender. And there were some differences between men and women in the surface domains of their regrets. So men had more career regrets in women. Women had more family regrets than men. I don't think that's a big surprise. There's other research showing in the existing academic literature to oversimplify a bit having to do with sexual regrets. And in general, to oversimplify a bit, men typically regret the people they didn't sleep with and women tend to regret the people they did sleep with.
[00:55:16] Jordan Harbinger: Also not a huge surprise, probably I think, yeah. I won't go into that one. Okay. Thought about it. I anticipated the regret of going into that subject. Changed course of the interview.
[00:55:27] Daniel Pink: Well done.
[00:55:28] Jordan Harbinger: So it's working already. Yeah, it's working already. You have a practical or a technique in the book that I like, which is mentally subtracting positive events. Can you take us through this? This is kind of, I'd never thought or heard about this.
[00:55:39] Daniel Pink: Yeah. This is a good way to do a downward counterfactual on at least to make yourself feel a little bit better. And it's based on some interesting research in social psychology about this capacity for time travel. And essentially what you do is you think about your current life and you take away something that is important. and imagine that it never happens. So you can think about, let's say I had never met my wife. All right. I mentally subtract that it is a hellscape. And I sort of imagine what my life would be like. It is a hellscape and it makes you more grateful in the moment. It makes you more appreciative of what you have, and it's a way to sort of calm yourself and feel better about the moment. By mentally subtracting those positive events. And it's sort of built on the technique that was done in It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey is visited by an angel and the angel takes him back and says, "Look what this town," whatever town is called.
[00:56:29] Jordan Harbinger: I can't remember it all.
[00:56:30] Daniel Pink: I can't remember either. "Look what the town is called if you would never been born." And it was a hellscape, I'm going to use that word again.
[00:56:37] Jordan Harbinger: I'm going to look this up because otherwise, people are going to email us and be like, it's called Bedford Falls, which is what it's called.
[00:56:43] Daniel Pink: Right.
[00:56:43] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, it doesn't say what it would have been called, but it was called Bedford Falls. Oh, it is now Pottersville.
[00:56:49] Daniel Pink: Right, right. Because that was the bad guy in the savings and loan.
[00:56:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right, okay.
[00:56:53] Daniel Pink: So George Bailey is visited by an angel and the angel takes George and shows him what Bedford Falls would be like if George hadn't been born. So it is a mental subtraction of a positive event. It is a counterfactual. And what George sees is a hellscape that his presence on the planet actually made Bedford Falls a better kinder, richer place.
[00:57:16] Jordan Harbinger: So, what is the purpose of this, again? I mean, of course in his case, it's to make him, I don't know, feel better about himself or something like that.
[00:57:21] Daniel Pink: Yeah, no, it's a technique for making us feel better.
[00:57:23] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:57:24] Daniel Pink: And sometimes we simply do want to feel better. And so if you have a regret that is hard to undo and you still feel bad about it, and you've already extracted a lesson from it, but it's still lingering, you can try to do it at least. You can say, "Oh, I should've studied abroad. I'm going to try to go to Italy next year. I may still feel bad about not studying abroad, but at least that junior year I met my good friend, Hiram, and that's really important to me.
[00:57:51] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So this is like a, almost like a rationalization process, but something that's a little bit more better than just, well, yeah, it's a more organized way to do this and I can get behind that. I think it's important to do that, but there's got to be—
[00:58:02] Daniel Pink: It deepens — and you know what? What it does is it can deepen your sense of gratitude for what you have.
[00:58:05] Jordan Harbinger: There you go.
[00:58:06] Daniel Pink: And we know that having a sense of gratitude, actually explicitly feeling and expressing gratitude is very, very good for us.
[00:58:12] Jordan Harbinger: Can we overdo this kind of thing with regret aversion or anticipating regret? It seems like there's a way to just do this so much that it blows up in our face.
[00:58:22] Daniel Pink: Hundred percent. You're totally right. One of the things that you see is pretty well-known research having to do with the way that people make decisions or anticipate their decisions, both make decisions and anticipate courses of action, some people are maximizers. They like, "I'm going to get the best out of everything. I'm going to maximize every single decision."
[00:58:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:58:40] Daniel Pink: Other people are satisficers. Okay, some things are good. And what the research tells us very clearly, it's not even close, is maximizers are miserable. They're just miserable because you can't maximize in everything. And I think an important lesson in life and certainly, how we reckon with our regrets is that when we anticipate our regrets, we try to maximize by minimizing ever regret. Should I have potato chips or corn chips? Which one I will regret more?
[00:59:04] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:59:04] Daniel Pink: Should I have macaroni and cheese or a hamburger? Should I buy a blue car or a gray car? You're going to go crazy.
[00:59:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:59:09] Daniel Pink: What we should do, on most of our choices and this is hard for people to deal with because we're in this world of maximization, on a lot of our choices, we should just satisfies because it's not going to matter. It's your Nintendo story there. All right. However, we do know from a chorus of 16,000 people, the stuff we will regret over the long term. And so we should maximize on building our stability, our connections, our boldness, and our. And I think that gives us a lesson for living. We want to optimize our regrets, which is satisfies on a lot of things but maximize by anticipating what we know you're going to regret for an enduring time because we know that these enduring regrets give us signals for what makes a life worth living.
[00:59:52] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. So we don't want to necessarily minimize our regret, but kind of optimize our regret. I think maybe you've even wrote about this. Yeah.
[00:59:59] Daniel Pink: Bingo.
[01:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: So we want to do it right instead of just not doing it at all or doing it so much that now it's — yeah, we're spending six months deliberating the color of the car.
[01:00:07] Daniel Pink: Exactly. I mean, it's a dirty little secret. Maximizers are miserable. Okay. "Oh my gosh, should I put on my gray sweater today or my blue sweater today, you know? Oh, which color?" I mean, you're going to go crazy. You can't maximize — and what's even worse than that is, not only do you end up making bad decisions in the moment, but you have huge opportunity costs because you're not thinking deliberately about the stuff that really does matter, which is like, yeah, you should reach out to that friend you haven't talked to. Yeah, you should do the right thing here at this juncture rather than the wrong thing because it's going to bug you if you don't do the right thing. Yeah, play it safe or take the chance? You know what? Take the chance because you're probably not going to regret that. And the other stuff doesn't really matter.
[01:00:49] Jordan Harbinger: Dan, thanks so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. Great conversation as always.
[01:00:53] Daniel Pink: Jordan, always a pleasure talking to you. Thanks for having me.
[01:00:58] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with a former pimp and how he uses mind manipulation.
[01:01:05] Mickey Royal: A pimp teaches a woman how to manipulate men. So I'm teaching her, but what she notices after the teachings or during teachings that, "Hey, you're a man too." So it's only natural that she works these feminine wiles on you. That's smart prostitute will make a fool out of a stupid pimp any day. So any vice you may have, they're just hooks. You get to the point where you become a narcissistic sociopath. You become empty. You become hollow. You experience no joy . You experience no pain. You want no love. You want no hate. You're just an empty room. You can't love money. You can't hate it. See the puppet master can not have any interest, any wants, any lust, any desires, any dreams, any goals, nothing. Why? So he can control your lust, your dreams, your desires. You don't do anything so that you can become everything.
[01:01:57] I have an aversion for women who are six feet tall and like one woman was saying, "In my heels. I'm 6'5". You're 5'7". But I find myself looking up to you." See I'm 10 feet tall around her and she's all-powerful than my presence, so we can't separate. Anything that was insecure about you that you thought, it evaporates.
[01:02:15] You know, I've been shot twice. I've been stabbed once. Mexican mafia tried to kill me in my sleep. I've done three bank robberies in my life, two on purpose, one by accident, knowing what I know, the scars I've received, the consequences that I pay, would I do it all again tomorrow? Yeah. It was that good of a rock. I would not be strong enough to resist the allure. It does have a deep psychological effect. And the only way to avoid the effects is to stay there. Even the woman, I told you who lives in the $11-million house, we just got quiet one time. And I said, "Do you ever miss it?" And she said, "Every day."
[01:02:50] Jordan Harbinger: For a chilling peek into the shadow world and the life and mind of a former pimp, Mickey Royal check out episode 548 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:03:00] Hope y'all enjoyed listening to this one. Personally, I have no ragrets about this episode. If you're thinking it might be creepy by the way, to reach out to somebody who you haven't spoken to in a while, just think about this, think about how you would feel if they reached out to you. Would it be creepy? The answer almost always is no. So if you're worried about how you do that, or you're feeling awkward about doing that, definitely go and check out Six-Minute Networking. I made the course just for people who are feeling that way. It takes just a few minutes a day. jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find it. Super, super easy, not even six minutes, I would have called it, not even six-minute networking, but it seemed a little bit less catchy than Six-Minute Networking. jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find it.
[01:03:41] And the book, by the way, it's interesting. It has all these anonymous people's regrets inserted through it. Dan Pink is a great writer. Big thank you to him for coming on. Links to all things Dan Pink will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links. If you do buy the book, it does help support the show. Transcripts in the show notes. And there's a video of the interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or connect with me on LinkedIn. Anywhere you can find me, I always enjoyed engaging with you.
[01:04:10] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's dealing with some regrets definitely share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of this show. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share this show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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