People Regret Not Working Harder – Not Working Too Hard

One of the most annoying memes dominating my Facebook feed lately is this one: Deathbed Regrets: The 5 Wishes of Most Dying People. I’m not bothered so much about the incessantly plauditory comments the meme invokes (so true! great reminder to reset my priorities!) or the fact that thoughts of death are closer to me these days than I’d like, but rather, because at least one of these claimed regrets – about working too hard — is just plain wrong.

I don’t doubt that people – including lawyers – regret having worked too hard. Presumably, many probably didn’t love their work, but kept at it to support their families or because they enjoyed the material accoutrements that a high salary conferred but realized too late that things don’t matter as much as relationships.

But I think that what far more people regret than working too hard is not working hard enough.  Never finding that thing so captivates them that working round the clock is like dancing a jig.

For those of you new to the law –  embarking on solo practice or who’ve stumbled across a practice area that excites you – and who dream of building something that will last or leaving a mark, throw yourself into it full force while you can. Let it consume you while you have the luxury of time and no family demands on your side. Burn the midnight oil, run on adrenaline-fumes, knock yourself out.  Because if you don’t, that’s the one, lasting regret you will have.


  1. Paul Spitz on November 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

    No. Not even close. I regret not going on a second date with Jennifer Aniston, but not working hard enough? Nope.

  2. Experienced Transactional on December 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Well, from 15+ years in law I can safely say that I will definitely regret not working harder to do something I really love – which is not the practice of law. Lawyers who aren’t all about practice get enough shaming in the profession as it is, they don’t need more (e.g., if at some point your solo practice is miserable, because law is not enjoyable/is draining and never restoring, please be joyous and free and NOT ashamed of not loving it “enough”).

  3. SkepticalC on December 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Somehow a nuance of this “regret” got lost. Maybe it wasn’t that people regretted working too hard, it was really spending too much time at work. There is a big difference. The real lesson might be – find ways to make more efficient use of time at work so that you do not regret either not working hard enough or making enough time for more important things/people.

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