17. “I wish I could play it again,” said Sam.

For many years the old axiom of no risk equals no reward has been present to serve as a constant reminder of nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Last week we spoke of those folks who have mastered the Habit of Seeking Whynot. Those people who, regardless of ideas, suggestions or choices presented to them, instantly conjure up multiple reasons for why these are bad ideas/won’t work/aren’t worth pursuing.

I am often surprised by people who, having read one of my blogs, contact me to share their own personal experiences and a phone call I received last Thursday while I was at the airport waiting to board a flight really brought home to me the importance for all of us to invest energy in acquiring the Habit of Exploring Possibilities in order to rid ourselves of the Habit of Seeking Whynot.

The caller identified himself as being a retiree in his mid 70s who quit the workforce at age 65 and now ekes out a meager living by doing odd jobs to supplement his pension.

He told me that my blog last week reminded him of threeoccasions in his life where adhering to the Habit of Seeking Whynot has left him filled with regret.

Some 30 years ago his son-in-law approached him with the suggestion that he consider investing in a fairly new company based out of Washington State, called Microsoft.

This was the early 1980’s and his son-in-law’s proposal was he invest $10,000.

So convinced was his son-in-law in in the future success of this company that he offered to lend Sam, my caller, $10,000, interest free, on the sole condition that he repay the money over 48 months.

He told me that he didn’t believe back then that this whole idea of computers would amount to anything. He rejected the offer without even allowing his son-in-law to explain why he thought the investment was a sound one. He just knew this whole computer thing was a fad that would soon blow over.

He said that he remembered writing out a list for his son-in-law of 12 to 15 reasons why this was a bad idea, why Microsoft would fail and why he was upset that his daughter had married such a jackass.

Had he gone along with the suggestion, today he would be the owner of 137,000 shares worth more than $3.5 million.

Not bad for a fad.

Around that same time a friend approached him with the idea of becoming involved in a network marketing company called Herbalife. His friend enthusiastically explained people would “pay anything” for help in losing weight and that the early distributors in this company would clean up. The cost of entry was small, the potential returns enormous and all he would need to do would be to share this product with as many people as possible.

Once again, out came the piece of paper and pen and the list was compiled of the many, many reasons why this was a bad idea that wouldn’t work, why they were already too many people involved, the market was saturated and it was probably illegal.

Naturally Sam declined the offer and, with a twinge of envy in his voice, explained that his friend “worked like a dog” for five years and has lived like a king ever since.

Some 15 years ago his family doctor advised him to start taking care of himself. It was suggested that he pay more attention to his diet and commit some time each day to exercise.

He went on to tell me that he clearly remembered telling the doctor that his aunt Agnes had lived to be 97, ate a high-fat diet mixed with junk-food, smoked two packs a day, consumed copious amounts of alcohol, and finally died after slipping on ice and suffering a head injury. He explained to the doctor that longevity and good health were standard in his family and as such, there was no need to modify his life-style.

Throughout the conversation I listen to him wheeze with each breath. So it was no surprise when he told me the last few years had been rather awkward as his failing health had drastically impacted his quality of life, and how he wished he had listened to the advice of that young physician all those many years ago.

He’d had an opportunity to invest, on very favorable terms, in what would’ve provided him with a tremendous return, and had used the Habit of Seeking Whynot to turn it down.

Similarly he had declined the opportunity to participate in a business opportunity with low investment and high return and had ignored the opportunity of improving his health when it was presented to him.

The Habit of Seeking Whynot is an absolute method of ensuring we cannot fail. It’s also a guaranteed way of preventing success.

There are people on this planet who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Sam, my caller, is one of them and he gave me some parting advice to share with you my readers.

He said if you have any aspirations for a life of fulfillment, then develop the Habit of Exploring Possibilities right now.

That’s not to say you need to leap at every opportunity, but rather, before rejecting ideas outright, or making assumptions that have no basis in fact, examine everything presented to you with an eye for seizing opportunity.

I detected a tremor in Sam’s voice when he said he once heard the definition of narrow minded as being a person who could see through a keyhole with both eyes.  As he looks in the rear-view mirror of his life, what he sees most clearly is regret. 

Let’s take a pledge to make a habit of exploring possibilities rather than suffocating  them before they take their first breath.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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