Premortem: Preventing Regret (Kingston’s Journey #57)

Premortem Preventing Regret Kingston's Journey #57

Previously we conversed on how to discern the difference between regret and hindsight bias and let off on preventing regret.

To briefly recap, regret is knowing that at the time of the opportunity you had everything you need to act and seize the initiative, but you didn’t while hindsight bias is using the superior information you have now to reflect on a past occurrence and wishing you can travel back in time to prevent.

With that established, both of these instances are retrospective. While preventing regret is forward-looking. Stephen Covey’s concept of empathy was used to differentiate regret in hindsight bias by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, that someone else being your 15, 20, 25 year old self.

The Concept of Premortem

Now to prevent regret we do the opposite, we see our future 50, 55, 60 and Beyond self as a different person and instead of empathy will use a technique management professionals called pre-mortem. The term pre-mortem is borrowed from medical professionals whom perform post-mortem to determine cause of death as portrayed by TV series such as NCIS and CSI.

The premortem is the opposite, business strategies use it to make an assumption that X will fail in the future and what needs to be done to prevent that failure by looking backwards from that future hypothetical occurrence back to the present moment.

From there you can devise a plan to prevent failure.

Now take this technique and apply it to our own lives. We look to our future selves as a different person and use the best information we have at our disposal to see you but they might regret. this is difficult and a guesstimation to a significant degree because the future is so unpredictable.

But here’s what we do know.

The Guarantees of Aging

  1. Your body will decay and that decay will accelerate as you hit middle age and beyond.
  2. Most people will have more social and economic responsibilities as you grow older (mortgage, business, family, etc)
  3. You will have more know how about a variety of different topics which is a natural byproduct of age and experience.

Implementing Premortem

With these three givens, we can branch off and propose some potential regrets.

  1. With a decaying body, some of the more strenuous physical activities would be exponentially more difficult. For instance, I took up Muay Thai earlier this year and last year in Thailand because it was something I really wanted to do. Even in my early twenties I felt aches and pains which are the bad types and I had a gnawing realization that if I was even 10 years older, I wouldn’t have been able to go at it as hard as I did (plus I was working a day job), my body would just not be able to recover.
One of many training sessions

Another example, it’s a fact that as we age it’s more difficult to have children. Especially for women. My dad was pushing 60 in my mom 40ish when they conceived me but that is the exception not the norm. So if potential regret now since using premortem now houses is having no or too few children.

  1. What or if you have a screaming baby in hand and a mortgage, it’s hard to just drop everything and say “let’s go!” at an opportunity that crosses your path. those opportunities often entail a cross-country or InterContinental move which is difficult when you’re at a later stage in life and have already put down roots.

And this goes beyond geographic mobility, if others are depending on you economically, dropping your steady income to chase after a wild idea you have that may or may not pan out isn’t the most feasible route.

  1. Thirdly and most abstractly, you’ll likely know more about a given topic when you’re older than you do now. So perhaps you have a goal in mind but you don’t know how to achieve it. The key is as you work towards it you’ll gain the knowledge and experience. Each step you take opens up more opportunities and know-how. But you have to start stepping, even when you don’t know the answer right now, you’ll figure it out.

Now all these have the commonality of requiring you to take action now to look after that old guy or gal which you will become. Because frankly, using this premortem, you will discover problems and hypothetical regrets that that OG is helpless to.

So aren’t you going to help yourself out?

There is wisdom that comes with age, yes. But there are certain privileges that are lost as the years and decades pass. Privileges that need to be seized, now.

And milking those privileges will be a topic for another time.

Kingston S. Lim
June 10, 2020
Mexico City, Mexico

There is wisdom that comes with age, yes. But there are certain privileges that are lost as the years and decades pass. Kingston Lim

Life Update: I did my first podcast interview last week talking about my experience as an EFL teacher in Thailand. I found that I’m still slightly autistic in the manner that I’m not the most socially aware person. I was telling a story about my yellow food coloring laden water guns and how I used them in class. By the interviewer’s body language when he started covering his mouth I knew he didn’t like the story. I only recognized this in hindsight when I was watching the recording.

What I find humorous others may not especially since many of the things I did would not be allowed in an American school. A valuable lesson to take away.

I’m used to watching myself on camera, I cringed when watching the podcast interview though as it was not just a monologue which I normally do but a conversation with another person. Reminds me of when I recorded my lectures last November, I tolerate watching those videos now after watching it so many times. I’ll do the same with this interview recording.

Seek Discomfort

About Kingston’s Journey Series: Kingston’s Journey is a lifelong series. This is the travel journal I take with me. Whether you have questions such as how to change my life or how to travel the world, I think you’ll find value in the life lessons I’ve experienced and documented in this travel notebook. They may serve as travel inspiration for you. In Chinese, there is a saying, “讀萬卷書,不如行千里路.”

This means, instead of reading ten thousand books, why don’t you walk a thousand miles. This is my inspiration to travel every nation (or as many as possible) in my pursuit of my global MBA by learning as much as possible and recording these life lessons learned only by travel. In the end, I think the achievement of dreams, personal growth & aspirations out there through travel and adventure will lead to a more fulfilling life. Living and experiencing the “now” is how I’ll make my life a great memory in the future.

4 thoughts on “Premortem: Preventing Regret (Kingston’s Journey #57)

  1. An adult told me when I was about five years old that grown-ups don’t like candy; only children do. I believed that for a little while until observation proved it false. I came from a family that did not lie, so I also learned from that encounter not to take what people say at face value.

    I also thought about the future when I was a child. When I was about ten years old, I noticed some little lines between my eyebrows after squinting at the sun and accurately predicted that that is where wrinkles would be when I was old.

    I think it is important to teach children at a young age that this is their real life. What they do now has lasting effects. When they are grown up, they will not suddenly be someone else, as I once thought. I think you have learned to live in the moment and not squander the opportunities of your
    life. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your welcome, I read so many personal development books. I remember one of them off the top of my head comparing a person’s life with a plane flying from New York to Los Angeles.

      At the beginning of the journey, if the plane was just 1 degree off, it will miss LA by a long shot. But towards the end of that journey, minor deviations matter little.

      Our life is that plane bound West.


  2. Pingback: “Grab It By The Reins”(Wiser Next Week: On Opportunities) – Kingston S. Lim

  3. Pingback: “Ask And You Shall Receive”(Wiser Next Week: On Finding Solutions) – Kingston S. Lim

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