If you’re a person who lives a life worth living, then you take risks. You work your butt off and you hone your game, and when a long shot presents itself – you take it. But you don’t always make it. Because it wouldn’t be a long shot if you did.
But here’s the deal. If you do it right, people respect that. They respect your hard work and your creativity. And sometimes, that opens a door to the place where you are supposed to be instead. Because it takes failing to succeed. Just look at the false starts and failures of Abraham Lincoln or R.H. Macy or Michael Jordan.
A guy once told me on the topic of asking girls out, “Every no you get is one no closer to a yes.” While that may not be statistically verifiable, it makes a good point: you have to keep trying.
I believe I’m one of those people who lives a life worth living. I will fail sometimes. I will succeed sometimes. But I’ll keep taking risks. Because where’s the excitement in putting everything on the line for something better if you already know what outcome will be?
One of my favorite co-workers, Andrea, came into the break room while I was getting some coffee a few minutes ago, and we exchanged the normal pleasantries. But when my response to “How is your day?” was “It’s good,” she asked why it’s not great – then inquired further, asking “What one thing could make your day great?”
The thing about Andrea is I know she actually cares about the question she asked in the first place (How’s your day?). She really wants to know. And that inspires me to care more when I ask others that question too. Her sincere questioning also made me stop and think, why isn’t my day great? – which made me realize, it is. I’m having a great day. I told her my day is probably great, not just good, and that there isn’t really anything that could make my day better, partly because I got a new lead for some freelance social media/web work and partly because I met a girl recently who I’m calling tonight to set up our first date. I got a big smile on my face when I said the second part of that, and Andrea said, “Now that’s a good smile.” It’s as if her plan all along was just to get past superficial pleasantries and get to something real, something meaningful to me.
I feel very blessed to work with someone like her who not only really cares about how my day is but will take a few extra minutes to make it even better. And that inspires me to look for opportunities where I can be that person to someone else.
How is your day? Is it just good, or is it great?
I know so many kids who sing songs. Not established songs but just ones they make up as they’re going about their day. They are silly and cute songs. They get sung once in a carefree moment of expression. The kids aren’t worried about writing them down, remembering the “lyrics” or about ever singing the same song again, for that matter.
And I wonder – why, as adults, do we stop singing? I mainly mean that as a rhetorical question because I know all the answers: We’re self-conscious. We’re “mature.” We think we have more important things to do. But I think the actuality is that we’ve forgotten how to really live. A child lives in the moment, is carefree even with a troubled world around her. And she feels free to express herself. A child has a song to sing. Just because you’re an important grown-up, please don’t forget that you do too.
I decided to do Flashback Friday today with something from almost a year ago. I wrote this shortly after I’d started my current job. Oh, the difference a year makes.
I’m in the third week at my new job, and this morning I found myself sitting in a meeting I didn’t know what was about and, even more so, had no clue why I needed to be there. It was like one of those dreams where all of a sudden you’re standing in front of an audience expected to give a speech, and you have no idea where you are or what you’re supposed to say. I can’t say I’ve ever had that feeling before in real life (well, except for a few times in grad school seminars). After a few minutes of silent panic, I realized I could probably just keep my mouth shut and ride it out, which I did. By the end of the meeting, it all made sense why I was there, and, luckily, I had refrained from getting a wide-eyed look of terror on my face or from getting up and running out of the room posthaste.
A recent article by Erika Napoletano (who I think is one of the best writers in Denver, by the way) tackles a subject that I’ve been trying to implement for a while: disruption. To disrupt means to do something that scares you, whether presenting a new idea or taking on a new challenge. In this context, I take it to mean disrupting my own comfortable rhythm of the day-to-day and taking a real risk. I can’t even iterate how important this has become in helping me feel alive. Whether speaking up with a radical idea in a meeting with lots of folks way higher up the ladder than you or jumping out of an airplane, you’ve got to go for it. The rewards can be so much more than you expected.
What this recently looked like in my personal (well, semi-professional) life was playing my first show with a new band. These guys are all top-notch musicians who can hang with the best of the best professional musicians out there. I didn’t consider myself anywhere near the level of musicianship as them, and the thought of taking the stage with them sort of terrified me. But I decided I’d never know quite what I was capable of unless I pushed to find out. Well, we played that first show, and guess what? Turns out I can hold my own. Did I practice the songs almost every day leading up to the show? Yes. Did 98% of me think I wouldn’t be able to pull it off? Yes. But I didn’t listen to that. I listened to that two percent that told me I could do it. Taking the risk and achieving what I set out to in this case has changed my own perception of myself as a musician…and that is extending into my life in general. I don’t plan on ever losing the humility and gratitude I have, but I do plan to continue to nurture my growing confidence that I can achieve things much greater than I previously thought I could.
(that’s me on the far right)
Tonight when I got home, the door to my building didn’t open after I scanned my remote key across the keypad. It beeped and I heard it unlock, but the door didn’t open when I pulled. It’s done this plenty of times before, and since I’ve lived here so long, I’ve figured out the trick: pressing my thumb on the main part of the door handle then pushing in and gently pulling back on it. It sounds complicated because it sorta is.
For a long time, when this would happen, I’d get really frustrated and even a bit angry when the door wouldn’t open after multiple tries, and I’d end up pulling really hard on it to no avail. Eventually, I’d curse it under my breath and walk around to the other entrance to the building.
Getting in the door just takes knowing how it works.
I’m starting to see that this is the case with a lot of things. It just takes a little time and patience to observe and figure things out. And getting frustrated and flying off the handle (pun only slightly intended) isn’t going to help. So, for now, I’ll keep watching. I’ll be patient. And once I know how it all works, I’ll open that door and walk right in.