Ask any celebrity if they have regrets and 99.9% of them will say no. Some of them are people who should be waking up every morning regretting everything they’ve done since puberty, but ask them that question and it’s as if you were asking them if the moon is made of Gorgonzola. No hesitation. No dramatic stroking of the chin. No searching the ceiling for answers. Nope. Just no.
They do it, we all know, not because they’re regret-free but because saying no is easier than having to categorize every foible, flaw, or folly in order to satisfy complete strangers asking dumb questions.
But here I am, a non-celebrity, asking that same question of myself. Why? Because I just read an old interview with David Brown, in which he seemed to be regretting a whole lot of things he had done or not done, but when he was asked specifically if he had any regrets, he said, “I don’t think in those terms. I think most creative people don’t think about their failures. They think the public is wrong.”
Okay, he retracted that a bit, probably regretting he’d answered so fast, probably remembering his answer would be in print for posterity. So when the interviewer asked Brown if he thought that, he said, “Probably not as much as most people. Actually, I usually think the public is right, that the public knows.”
There. Done. No regrets.
But since I’m feeling creative at least some of the time, it got me to thinking about my own answers if I were ever to become famous enough to be asked. (First regret coming to mind: I regret that I never became famous.)
I took a little time with this, knowing you would want the truth, and while I was taking my time I realized that most of my regrets include things I’ve never had control over.
I regret not having been born beautiful, rich, tall, smart, clever or wise.
I regret not having been born in a tropical paradise.
I regret having been born in the 1930s when being born in the 1980s would make me so much younger now.
I regret not having a voice made in heaven.
I regret my two left feet.
I regret I have but one life to live.
Now for the things I did have control over:
I regret I never learned to swim. It looks like fun.
I regret letting my love for sugar and fat overcome my need for arugula. (That’s a thing, right?) .
I regret I ever sat through “Sideways” and “Lost in Translation”.
(I regret that you hate me right now for being honest.)
I regret that time I. . .
But enough about me. The interview with David Brown came from a book called, Creativity: Conversations with 28 Who Excel. It was published in 1993 and is now out of print, but if you can find it, you’ll find some great interviews with creative creatures like Gloria Steinem, Morgan Freeman, Tony Bennett, Elmore Leonard, Ntozake Shange, Al Hershfeld, and a host of others from stage, screen, the arts, and business. It’s a grand mix put together, it turns out, by an ad agency.
DMB&B, an advertising agency in Bloomfield Hills, MI, did a series of talks with 28 creative people from all fields, all genres, to take a look at what makes creative people tick. That question about regrets came up a few times. None of the interviewees wanted to admit to having any. (Oh. I see. It jinxes things. And it hurts to admit it, besides. I regret I didn’t get that until right now.)
But Tony Bennett’s answer was by far the most creative: After a Pavarotti concert, Bennett said he regretted not running up on the stage to look into the great tenor’s throat to see how he did that. It made me think of yet another regret: I regret I didn’t keep up my singing lessons so that some time in the future I might have made an album with The Great Tony Bennett.
I regret that a lot.