Max Smart (Agent 86) may have made famous, 'missed it by that much', but we, too, tend to use the term to express our feeling when we do not succeed but go close. We might miss making it on time to catch a flight, missing the bus by just a few seconds, getting pipped at the post for a job that we thought was our for the taking, or finishing a race just behind the competition. All qualify, and then we usually beat ourselves up about just missing out.

The opposite of missing something by that much does not seem to get equal attention. We do not seem to find people congratulating themselves after making a flight or a bus in the nick of time or even winning an election by just a few votes. We figure that it's probably 'good' that it happened, getting there or making it by that much, but then our focus shifts to what's next? And if there's no crisis, we create one.

Missing something by that much can be a dangerous trap; a reminder of how we've failed, and how close we've come to winning. It rarely leads us to prepare more, to avoid the experience and feeling next time. We just insulate ourselves from the next, inevitable failure.

The important thing to remember is that the universe (and surprisingly few others) could not give two hoots. In fact, as far as the universe goes, it does not even know we exist. Far better, it sees, is to celebrate the wins, mourn the losses, then get back to doing whatever we do. It's all about going forward.

Optimism beats pessimism any day of the week. Old age (or any age) is certainly no time for pessimism. We know that, all things being equal, optimists outlive pessimists. We can enable an optimistic response by keeping things in perspective by asking

  1. What's the worst that could happen? And if we can live with that worst-case scenario, there does not seem like any need to worry about something over which we have little or no control and can live with.
  2. Does my response carry the meaning I want to convey? It's the golden oldie that Epictitus bought to our attention a couple thousand years ago: it's not what happens to you but how you respond that matters most.

Missing by that much can be tough only if we let it be.