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As it turned out, there wasn't. Everything else I saw only served to make me appreciate the Granite Building even more: It had what all the other buildings lacked. And the price was right. (When I told a friend in San Francisco what it cost, he asked, "Do you get a roof with that?") The timing seemed right too. Developers from Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and elsewhere had been circling, buying up properties and setting off a long-overdue revitalization of a downtown that over the course of the past 20 years had become the hollow core of a city on the skids.

I would keep two floors for myself and sell the rest as luxury condominiums, one 3,000-square-foot unit per floor. I asked friends who are more financially astute than I am to run the numbers and see if the project made sense. One came back and said, "Let's put it this way: I couldn't do it."

Well, of course he couldn't do it—he's a conservative guy who orders the same thing for dinner at his favorite restaurant every night. What was the worst that could happen? I asked him. "You could lose your shirt," he said. Well, that would be bad, I agreed.

My option on the building was about to expire. I was having trouble sleeping. I needed to come to a decision. I recalled a magazine article I'd read in which some self-help expert urged people to list the best and worst decisions they'd ever made, as a way of taking responsibility for their mistakes and understanding the faulty logic that had led to them. I got out a legal pad and drew a line down the middle. "Best Decisions," I wrote at the top of the left-hand column.

Uh. Let's see. Well, there was the time I refused a marriage proposal from Mr. Wrong—I figured that was to my credit. And yet, a few months ago when I was unpacking some moving cartons, I came across a packet of letters he had written me and thought what a shame it is that two people who once had so much in common could fall completely out of touch. So, though I don't for a minute doubt my decision, it did have some rather sad ramifications. There must be some other decisions I made that were better than this one. I let it stand, but I put it in parentheses.

Next I wrote: "1. Moving to Paris." Now that was absolutely the right thing to do. Although it was only a few months later that my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and I'm still sorry that I didn't spend more time with him in the years before he died. So I put that in parentheses too. Then I sat for a while and tried to think of another good decision I had made, but nothing came to mind, so I decided to move on and come back to this part.

For "Worst Decisions," there was no shortage of material. "1. Choice of college." For years I'd been wondering how different my life might have been if I'd gone to that fancy Ivy League school I got into but didn't attend because I found the students so intimidating. I would know things that I don't know now and have friends in lofty places. On the other hand, I would never have met two friends from my freshman year whom I now consider family. So maybe that wasn't such a terrible decision after all. I crossed it out. New number 1: "Staying in the wrong job too long." Okay! No doubt about it that was a mistake. And yet. I walked away with skills that helped me nail the next job. I gave this some thought, then crossed out that entry too.

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