Suppose you haven’t won an award.

Or you aren’t getting on well at work.

You aren’t getting the briefs you want.

Or you’ve just lost your job.

Or you’ve been trying for ages and you can’t get another job.

Or you just lost a pitch.

Or you just lost a client.


You’re feeling depressed because it feels like failure.

You didn’t get the result you wanted.

But the issue isn’t really did you win or lose.

The issue is did you do absolutely everything that you possibly could?

Or did you hold something back?

Were you worried about upsetting someone?

Were you frightened of being embarrassed?

Did you let someone talk you out of doing it?

Or did you give it absolutely, positively everything you possibly could.

And then some more.

If you did all that, and you still failed, then you have nothing to reproach yourself for.

You can be satisfied that you did everything possible.

There was nothing else you could do.

But if you didn’t do everything you possibly could.

If you’re now thinking what else you could have done.

If you held something back, that’s regret.

You’re regretting what you could have done, and didn’t.

And that’s when depression sets in.

They have an expression in Brooklyn for this.

They say, “Yeah, yeah: coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

In other words, when someone is telling you what went wrong and why.

Telling you about what they could have done.

What they would have done.

What they should have done.

But, and this is the reason they’re talking about it in the first place, it all adds up to the same thing.

They didn’t do it.

And now it’s too late.

Could you have worked later on the pitch?

Would it have been better if you’d done more work while you had the chance?

Should you have called the client yourself and discussed your ad instead of leaving it to the account man?

Could you have asked traffic for more briefs?

Would it have made sense to put your book together earlier?

Should you have taken more risks in your ads instead of always playing safe?

“Yeah, yeah: coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

I think that should be everyone’s greatest fear.

Not whether we won or lost.

Not whether we got the result we wanted.

But did we go beyond what was reasonable to get it?

Did we give it everything possible?

Did we go so far, put in so much effort, that all our friends said we were working too hard?

Because when our friends and family say we’re working too hard, that’s when we know we’re working at just about the right level.

They’re over the pub, or watching TV.

And they’re telling us that we’re working too hard.

That we should be more like them.

Over the pub or watching TV.

Take a look and decide for yourself.

George Bernard Shaw said, “I want to be totally used up when I die.

I don’t want them to bury any unused parts.”

I think that’s an ambition that’s a lot bigger than just winning or losing.