Don’t Trade Years for Seconds

When he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars because his wife was annoyed at one of the comedian’s jokes, Will Smith traded several years of his life for a 30-second reaction.

Imagine standing there a few minutes later, finally, after decades, holding the Academy Award for Best Actor, and having to give an acceptance speech to a room full of people who now hates your guts — and, worst of all, rightfully so. The adrenaline! If a situation like that doesn’t cause your body to produce a stress reaction worth the equivalent of seven years of grunt work, I don’t know what will.

If you’re not a Hollywood star, your chances of ruining both your career and your inner peace in a single moment are lower — but not nonexistent. Plenty of CEOs have been fired for hitting the wine too hard at the company Christmas party, and many an athlete has lost their biggest sponsor over an offhand comment at a press conference. Often, it is only after the mistake that the loss of life force truly begins.

But even in our everyday lives, we commonly trade more time later for silly indulgences today. Every cigarette puff now might be a few hours you won’t have in your 80s, and every meaningless spat with your spouse today could turn into days of silence after retirement.

Don’t trade years for seconds. We all make mistakes we can’t take back, but let’s at least try to not make them on purpose.