Harvey Mackay ColumnHumorist Erma Bombeck once wrote a column titled “If I had my life to live over.”  In it she offered such nuggets of wisdom as, “I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded” and “I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.”

Country singing star Tim McGraw wrote his blockbuster song “Live Like You Were Dying” shortly after the death of his father, baseball great Tug McGraw.  I understand the notion that you have to live each day as if it were your last.

I was taught this at an early age by my golf coach at the University of Minnesota, Les Bolstad.  He got me to focus on things like no one else ever did.  When I was preparing for the NCAA Golf Championships at Purdue University my sophomore year, he told me to line up each putt and think of it as the last putt I will ever make.

Today I have that same focus.  Before each speech I think:  This is the last speech I am ever going to make.  This is the last negotiation I am every going to enter, so it better be good.

And then I get ready to do it again!

If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently?

I’ve thought about that more than once.  Besides the routine items like spending more time with my family and on leisure activities like golf, I came up with my own list.  I still have plans to work on a few of these!

  • I would have been more available whenever a friend was in trouble or was going through a tough time due to divorce, financial trouble, job loss or even DUI.  I would move mountains to contact them right away and say I heard about your problem … I’m thinking about you … and if there is anything I can do to help, let me know.  And I would wish them luck.
  • I would have been a high school basketball coach because at that early age you can make a huge impression on a youth’s goals, ethics, discipline, respect and outlook on life.  You touch and shape many lives.
  • I would write down all my goals at an early age, like my friend Lou Holtz who wrote down 125 goals.  And once he accomplished them, he tore them up and wrote down more goals.
  • I would love to be a Mr. Fix It.  All my life I’ve been challenged in this area.  For example, when my wife Carol Ann was pregnant with our first child, I came home from work and the light in the kitchen was not working.  I called an electrician who came out and told me, “I’ve been an electrician for 28 years, and this is the first time I’ve had to make a house call to change a light bulb.”
  • I would have become tech savvy early on and been quicker to embrace the power of social media.
  • I would have studied abroad.  My parents were right when they told me that travel is a great teacher.  I did take off on a three-month European trip with two of my buddies and we visited 16 countries.  It was a tremendous learning experience, and I wish I had done more of it at a young age.
  • I would have earned an MBA and taken business law classes.  I’m a firm believer in continuous education, but other than getting my undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and attending a Graduate School of Business Executive Program at Stanford University, I never took additional formal business education.
  • I would have liked to ski the Bugaboo Mountains in Canada, and run with the bulls in Pamplona to feed my sense of adventure.
  • I would have challenged myself by running more marathons and starting earlier than age 56.
  • My wife is an art historian, and I wish I had taken some courses to be able to converse at her level.  She is also a wine connoisseur, and I wish I had learned to appreciate fine wines.
  • I would have interviewed my parents and grandparents and learned more about our family history and genealogy.  I treasure the lessons I learned from my father – but there is so much more information I wish I had gathered.


Mackay’s Moral:  Carpe Diem!  Seize the day.


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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