Regret is worse than embarrassment

On boxing day in 2004, a massive earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia. It caused a massive tsunami that killed 250,000 people on beaches in thirteen countries.

But Mai Khao beach in Thailand suffered no deaths, despite it being right in the Tsunamis path.

This was thanks to Tilly Smith who was 10 years old at the time. She was on holiday from the UK with her parents and they were on an early morning beach walk.

Tilly noticed the tide had receded and there was no water on the beach. But no one seemed to be worried. The resort staff were not bothered and neither was Tilly’s parents.

But 2 weeks prior while at school. Tilly had watched black and white footage of a Tsunami in Hawaii that took place in 1947. 

She recognised that the funny frothiness of the water looked just like the movie she had watched in science class.

She started to tell her parents, they didn’t know what she was talking about. People hadn’t actually seen a Tsunami before.

But Tilly became more and more agitated as she was sure this was a Tsunami.

If Tilly’s parents listened to their daughter they would cause panic on the beach.

What if it wasn’t a Tsunami? After all, the chances of it actually being a tsunami are extremely low.

If it wasn’t a tsunami, Tilly’s parents would have looked like complete idiots. Can you imagine the embarrassment?

But Tilly’s parents did listen and they ran up the beach yelling tsunami, tsunami! The guards and resort staff cleared the beach and everyone ran to a 3 story building just minutes before the first wave arrived.

Tilly & her parents saved the lives of 100 people that day and Tilly went on the be thanked publically by Bill Clinton.

I take two lessons from Tilly’s story. 

Firstly, you don’t need credibility to do something.

What credibility did Tilly Smith, a 10-year-old from Surry have on the subject of Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean?

It would appear from the outside that she had no credibility. But I’d argue she actually had the most credibility of anyone on the beach that day. Due to the recent video she watched.

Credibility doesn’t come in the form we expect. Credibility is overrated anyway, it only comes after the fact.

Secondly, Tilly wasn’t embarrassed. She was too young to be embarrassed. She hadn’t yet felt the pain of embarrassment that develops with adolescence & continues throughout adulthood. 

She wouldn’t shut up about the tsunami because she didn’t care how she looked.

As adults, we fear embarrassment almost more than anything.

Every year people die from choking on their food in public places. They get up from the restaurant table. Unable to breathe, they head to the toilets, where they can’t look silly. After failing to dislodge the food alone, they die out of sight. 

You could say, they are literally dying of embarrassment.

Fear of embarrassment stops us from asking silly questions in meetings. It stops us trying new things or thinking differently.

Fear of embarrassment hinders innovation and the discovery of something fresh and new.

Fear of embarrassment stops us dancing like we mean it and it stops us asking that girl or guy out for coffee.

I am somewhat of an expert in doing silly things, writing silly things and looking like an idiot.

But trust me, you lose the sense of embarrassment quite quickly when you realise there is a feeling far worse than embarrassment and that’s the feeling of regret.

Regret is worse than embarrassment.

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