Before seeds of missed opportunities become weeds of regret, they can be watered by “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Miraboli

Today’s newsletter begins with, of all things, a math puzzle!

Imagine that you are a test driver for Ford or GM. You have been given the task of driving the test vehicle a distance of two miles on the 1-mile long test track at an average speed of 60 miles per hour. In other words, you must drive two laps of the track at an average speed of 60 MPH. For whatever reason, you are distracted or pre-occupied during the first lap and the instruments in the test car read that you completed the first lap at only 30 MPH.

The problem question: How fast must you go on the second lap in order to average 60 MPH for the combined two laps? Warning: This is NOT a trick question; there is a legitimate answer. Take your time with this puzzle.

Most people taking this little test quickly respond “90 MPH.” But that is incorrect. The correct answer: it cannot be done. Why not? The original assignment was to drive the car for two minutes. (Driving one mile at 60 MPH takes one minute; two miles at 60 MPH takes two minutes). The driver actually took two minutes to complete the one-mile journey at half the assigned speed of 30 MPH. All the assigned time had elapsed.

OK, but what’s the point? The superficial message is that, when you are several minutes late for a meeting or appointment, it is far more difficult to make up the time than we may realize. But I don’t write these letters to develop my readers’ math skills, nor to address their tardiness or procrastination.

The larger message has to do with the title of today’s letter: missed opportunities. Life affords us chances, at various times, to engage in meaningful, or kind, or generous, or supportive acts. We either capture them, or they slip away. Many years ago, when my father died, many people attended his funeral, but some did not. I still recall, vividly, both lists. My fine wife recently spent ten days with a friend facing a challenging health issue to support both her friend and her husband. I know that my wife’s friend will never forget that kindness. It will influence how she views my wife and their relationship forever. I also know my wife treasured the time she spent with her dear friend.

Each of us can recall, in our own lives, numerous positive gestures as well as missed opportunities. Perhaps some of my readers (and this writer) may be experiencing a twinge of guilt as we reflect back on such a past situation. There isn’t much to do about that now.

But today’s message has more to do with the future than the past. Guilt and shame about the past shows the presence of a conscience, and that’s good. Those who lack a conscience are scary and, thankfully, there aren’t too many people like that. However, guilt is paralyzing. It keeps us stuck in the past. The best way to move forward, past guilt, is always to take positive action.
Homework: Be aware of, and sensitive to, opportunities. It may be as simple as a kind word at a key moment, or as involved as hours, or even days, out of your life. No matter.

Seize the opportunity. Help someone realize how valued s/he is.

Dear Optimist, Pessimist and Realist: While you argued about that glass of water, I drank it.