Better Late Than Never?

If you look at tried-and-true sayings to rationalize your behavior, you could choose “It’s Never Too Late,” “Better Late than Never,” or find justification for the opposite course of action with “Too Little, Too Late.” 

What’s a rational person to do?

There are certainly many times when what we do for ourselves or our career is too little effort, too late.  Nothing will reverse the course of events or someone’s opinion once we drag our feet and fail to act.

On the flip side, you can probably recall instances when taking action–even though long overdue–has been almost the same as putting that same action into practice much earlier.

Recently, I got a thank-you note from a young, distant relative to whom I had sent a graduation gift nearly 18 months ago.  The thank-you wasn’t longer and intentionally more heart-felt as a reaction to it’s late delivery.  Nor did it convey the sender’s remorse at not having sent an acknowledgement in a more timely fashion.  Still, my reaction was relief that the gift was delivered and received in the manner that I had intended.  I wondered if this girl’s mother had been harassing her all these months, or if she just got motivated one day and sent out her cards as etiquette demanded.  Regardless, I was delighted to hear from her.

Over the weekend, a friend was bemoaning her financial situation.  Her client was unable to pay a vendor, so my friend worked out a long-term payment plan that took three years to pay this vendor personally.  When the final payment was made, the vendor expressed extreme gratitude that my friend found a way to honorable close the debt–without legal action–even though it took such a long time to complete. 

We always hear the conventional wisdom that we should contact people that we’ve dropped along the waysides of life, so as not to feel regrets when that person is no longer available to hear our apologies or praise.  I’m struggling with this right now with a particular client who is embarrassed to talk with me at the completion of our project.  How do I reach out to this person again without embarrassing him further–or do I wait and follow up when it seems to me that another attempt at reconciliation is long past due?

After getting my relative’s thank-you note in the mail, I realize that my proverb of choice is “Better Late Than Never.”  Sometimes time and space are really what’s needed for clarity and action.  No regrets–regardless of punctuality–always seems to be a better choice than deciding what timing is “right.”

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