I would rather regret the things that I have done than the
things that I have not.
– Lucille Ball
“It’s March Madness baby!”
Anyone who has watched a college basketball game announced
by Dick Vitale will know exactly what that means: It’s time for
the 64 best college basketball teams to square off in the NCAA
tournament for a shot at the national title.
The coaches and players from these 64 teams prepare both
mentally and physically for what is known as “the Big Dance.”
But being invited to the Dance is only the beginning. Every
person on every team knows that every game, from this point
forward, could be the last. Every night, they fight for the chance
to stay at the Dance, one game at a time. They know they have
to leave everything on the floor. This is their chance to show the
world what they’re made of.
My husband has been a college basketball coach for nearly 12
years, so I can appreciate all the hard work and dedication it
takes all year long to make it to the Big Dance. As a slogan from
a Nike T-shirt once said: “Welcome to Bracketville! Stay as long
as you can…”
If you’re not familiar with March Madness, perhaps I can put it in
perspective for you. Imagine that in your job, you spend 40 to 60
hours per week, all year long, working toward one big meeting
where you hope to win a huge deal from your toughest client. To
win the business, you have to prove that your products/services
are better than the products/services of 63 of your fiercest
competitors. Anything that turns the client off to your
presentation sends you back to the drawing board for another full
year of hard work, competitive research, regrets and secondguessing
yourself over what you could have done differently to
win the business.
They don’t call it March Madness for nothing!
You don’t have to be a college basketball fan to be drawn into the
emotions of the tournament: the pressure the players and
coaches face, the split- second decisions they must make, the
buzzer- beating shots that make fans storm the floor, and the
Cinderella stories that capture our imagination.
You see, March Madness is really about dreams and about living
life without regrets. We all have dreams. But to actually see
someone else’s dreams being made – or heartbreakingly lost –
live in our living rooms is the ultimate form of reality television.
At the end of the game, the worst thing players can feel is regret
for the shots they didn’t take or the plays they didn’t execute.
Most often, it is the things they didn’t do that cost them their
dream of a national championship.
Lucky for us, the pursuit of our personal and professional dreams
aren’t broadcasted to millions of people. But if they were, what
would people see? When it comes to your dreams, are you
experiencing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat? Are you
in the game, fighting for your dreams with everything you have?
Or are you sitting idly on the bench, afraid to go after your
dreams because of what might happen? If you’re on the bench,
ponder this month’s quote from Lucille Ball – it is full of wisdom
When we decide to truly get in the game – when we find the
courage to go after our dreams, commit to doing the work to
make them happen, and play as if everything is at stake – we
can experience a peace of mind that comes from living without
regrets. John Wooden, the most successful coach in college
basketball history, defines success as “peace of mind that is the
direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to
become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
Your dreams are yours to pursue, to live and to enjoy. Whether
your dream is to run a marathon or to run your own business,
the worst thing you can do is to keep it a dream. Go after your
dreams with everything you’ve got. If you don’t, you may
find yourself in the final seconds of the game of life, filled with
regrets over the shots you didn’t take and the plays you didn’t
execute to win your dreams.
A Call To Action
Now that you’ve caught the March Madness bug, let’s turn it into
action. Take some time to think about the following:
Find a great coach
When it comes to achieving dreams, athletes have a huge
advantage- they have coaches who prepare them for the
pressures they will face, help them develop strategies for
winning, and keep them focused on what needs to be done to
If you truly want to pursue your dreams and live without regrets,
you need to find a coach or mentor (or several, for that matter).
A coach helps you reach your full potential and develop a game
plan for achieving your dreams. A coach keeps you motivated, on
track and focused on the important aspects of your life. With a
coach to support you and back you up, you’re more likely to take
measured risks in pursuit of your dreams.
There are countless professional career and life coaches out
there, but you don’t have to incur the expense of a paid coach
when you’re surrounded by people who are well qualified to
mentor you. Look around! Co-workers, church members, friends
and family members can all be great coaches. Once you find a
coach you’re comfortable with, share the following with him or
• You have a dream that you strongly believe in, and you
could use a coach to encourage you and guide you toward
achieving that dream.
• Explain why you feel he or she will make a good coach. (Is
it his/her professional qualifications and experience? Is it
because of the respect you have for what he/she has
• You realize that only you are responsible for doing the work
necessary to achieve the dream, but you need someone in
your corner who can help you stay focused, energized and
A good coach reminds us that there is no time for regrets,
because the game of life is never long enough to make up for the
things we didn’t do.
“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for
When I was a software sales executive, my vice president told
me these words, and I’ve never forgotten them. He said, “If a
multimillion dollar deal is at stake and the client wants something
you think the company can realistically and safely concede, make
it happen. If you don’t, your competitor will gladly take the
client’s business while you’re stuck in the lobby, staring at your
PDA, waiting for corporate’s approval.”
Many times, we don’t go after our dreams because we spend too
much time thinking about what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s
like sitting in a restaurant with someone who can’t decide what
to order. It’s frustrating and it’s time consuming. You wonder, “If
you can’t decide, are you really all that hungry?” If you can’t
move forward toward your dream, is it really a dream to begin
Certainly, it’s important to weigh the risks and the benefits of
any endeavor. But you can’t sit around waiting for others’
approval before you decide to pursue your dreams. At some
point, you just have to make it happen. Making decisions, taking
action and living our lives in forward motion allows us to attain
our dreams without regrets. As long as you’re moving forward,
you’re on the right track.
How can you keep forward momentum? Consider the following:
• Ask yourself this question: Whose approval do I feel like I
need to have before I can follow my dreams? Write down
every name that comes to mind. Then, consider what would
happen if you decided to “ask for forgiveness instead of
permission.” In other words, what would happen if you
pursued your dreams against these people’s wishes?
Chances are, although it might cause some temporary
upset, your decision wouldn’t create any lasting negative
effects. On the other hand, not following your dreams will
leave you with lasting regrets.
• Once a month, check yourself to see how you’re
progressing toward your dream. (Doing this check-up with
your coach is even better.) Never regret any action you
took to achieve your dream, even if it didn’t produce
results. Forward motion of any kind is positive. If something
you did was ineffective, simply shift your focus, get back on
track and minimize any actions that might derail you again.
All of us have inspirational people in our lives who fuel our souls.
Please share with me your stories of those who have succeeded
against the odds or who make this world a better place. Every
month, we’ll share an inspiring story with the Wake Up Call
Community. Simply email your stories to Info
Once there was a tall, lanky kid who grew up in North Carolina
and loved to play baseball and basketball. He came from a
working class family that never took for granted the food on its
table. He and his older brother played one-on-one basketball for
hours on end – that was when his true love of the game began.
But in his sophomore year of high school, his dream of playing
varsity basketball came to an end when he was cut from the
Michael Jordan could have spent the rest of his life wondering,
“What if?” But he decided to put his pride aside and give it his
all. Some people might have given up after being cut from the
team. Instead of being discouraged, Michael used the cut as
motivation to work harder than ever on his game. On the days
when he felt like giving up, he’d visualize his name on the varsity
team roster posted in the gym.
With that drive to win, he achieved success on a dramatic scale
by winning six NBA championships, owning a professional
basketball team and running a multi-billion dollar shoe and
apparel line. He is widely regarded as the greatest person to ever
play the game of basketball and is one of the most recognizable
athletes in the world.
Michael Jordan exemplifies the principle in Lucille Ball’s quote. He
chose to take risks to follow his dream rather than risk living with
regret. I truly hope you will make the same choice. With a desire
to win and a focused attitude and heart, you will spend more
time celebrating the present and less time regretting the past.
Let Me Be Your Wake Up Call
What people are saying about Mercedes:
Mercedes’ presentation was heartfelt and inspiring. She
exemplifies our desire for service learning. She was a perfect
complement to the initiatives we have set in the Hansen
Leadership Program. -K.M., Doane College
Portions of Wake Up Call may be reprinted in your
organization’s newsletter, provided the following credit line is
Copyright Mercedes Ramirez Johnson. For more information and to subscribe
to the free monthly ezine, visit www.MercedesRamirezJohnson.com.