Day 193. Take Heed

I’d wanted to write about this the day after President Obama’s State of the Union address, but I got distracted.  Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t a ‘political’ post.  I’m not about to dissect nowhereevery word he said.  The media has already done it.

Done it.  And done it.  And done it.  I just want to talk about two sentences in his speech :  “We were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can.” 

Truer words were never spoken.  What struck me was, the sentiment applies to almost every human endeavour you can think of.  We are so obsessed with ‘getting it right’ all the time, sometimes we never get started.  We stay stuck.  We go nowhere.  And you know what?  We end up losing by default.

We’re so afraid we won’t be good enough, we never sign up for those art classes we’ve always wanted to take.  Or the dance lessons.  Or we don’t apply for a job we’d like for fear we wouldn’t get it. We’re afraid our low offer might be rejected, so we don’t bid on the house we like.   Or we don’t ask the pretty girl out.  Or start training for the marathon.  Or enter the golf tournament.

Because if we don’t think we can ace it, we’ve made ourselves believe it’s not worth trying.

The amount of money we have to raise seems like an impossible task so, instead, we do no fundraising at all.  Cutting through the red tape to get a new initiative off the ground is complicated, so we abandon the idea all together.  There’ll be so many others applying for the same grant, we decide it’s a waste of time.

And if we can’t come up with a perfect 10 solution to the health care crisis, why bother taking the first step.  If we can’t solve the immigration problem in the first go round, what’s the point?

Why take on projects we can’t win in round one?

Why take on projects that challenge us?

Why take on projects we might lose?  Even if the odds are just as great we’d win.  Why is it we can’t see the biggest risk of all?

That if we don’t, we’ll never accomplish anything.  We’ll just stagnate.  We’ll never get out of the rut we’re in.  Our problems will get worse and worse.  Nothing will ever get fixed.  Or changed.  Or improved.  Or re-invented.  Or just plain invented.  Until all hope is lost.  It could happen, you know.  If we don’t snap out of this paralysis we’re in.  The paralysis we’re in, as individuals.  And the paralysis we’re in as nations.

It’s time for collaboration.  Between individuals.  Between party lines.  Between the public and private sectors.  Between countries.  The issues we face are too huge to solve alone.  Both intellectually and financially.  They’re too complex.  Require too many resources.  It’s time to be willing to start somewhere.  To move forward, even if it’s teeny, tiny baby steps.

To see the possibilities and not just the pitfalls.  To believe we can, instead of convincing ourselves we can’t.  To understand just going for it, is success in itself.

Entrepreneurs do it every day.  Successful investors do it every day.  Even throughout this financial crisis.  So why can’t we?  So why don’t we?

25 thoughts on “Day 193. Take Heed

  1. Ha! Perhaps I’m the opposite. Or maybe I learned the lesson of “just do it” long ago. In any case, I tend to dive right in and get going, mostly to see if I like it or not. At one point I thought I’d like to decorate cakes. I took a course and purchased equipment, but quickly realized that my classmates were way into the class. They were all planning to start businesses! I just wanted to learn techniques so I could make my treats for work look less homemade! Needless to say, cake decorating didn’t stick. But vegetable gardening did. Maybe sewing will too.

  2. This made me think.
    I used to be very proactive. Then since I had some issues with mental illness I have allowed myself to stagnate as you put it. Although I feel I’m at the beginning of the end. This new job, the cycle challenge and running are just the start of what i have planned.
    And if I failed, at least I tried. It’s like that saying…’You regret what you don’t do, not what you did’.

  3. This reminds me of a course I did years ago, on getting over the fear of public speaking. We had to keep reminding ourselves before we got up to speak, that we should “aim to be useful, not perfect”. It also changes the focus from yourself, to the purpose and to the effect on others.

    • You are SO right. Although I’ve worked very hard to overcome it, by nature I am shy. And I have always been scared silly at the thought of public speaking. When I first worked at Ogilvy, we had a Creative Director for a time who was the most amazing presenter. I envied her ease with it, and her great style. And the more I tried to mimic her, the more I failed. One day she told me to be myself. That I had to find my own style and, when I did, I’d enjoy myself and it would get much easier. She also told me I’d have my ‘great’ days and my not-so-great days and that was ok too. I cannot tell you what a difference that made. You have just inspired me. I think I will blog about my adventures, and mis-adventures, with presenting. Thanks. I owe you one 🙂

      • Thankyou – it feels so nice to know I’ve actually inspired someone 🙂 I had to do the course back then as I was one of those people who would have almost rather died than get up to speak! I actually did the course twice over, the lovely lady running it would allow you to repeat the course for free if you agreed to be her “fairy” and assist with the setup & organisation of each session, which was a really good idea. I got a real buzz from conquering that fear. I know I’ll always be nervous but I can always aim to give a useful presentation and that feels good.

        I’ve said this is another comment recently, but perhaps part of the problem is that we are all too self-focused these days and this adds to the problem of not starting something – too much concern about being a ‘failure’? Not enough ability to laugh at ourselves & say “who cares” and try anyway?

      • I was so terrified I could barely speak. And I agree that we’re too self-focussed. We HAVE lost our ability to laugh at ourselves, which is a crying shame 🙂

  4. Right on, Fransi! We can only take a second step after we have taken the first. I relate to the fear of public speaking. Never had to do it but those few times I had to answer a question in a meeting surrounded by a dozen or so people who ranked above me in the corporate hierachy set my palms to sweating and my voice quivering.

  5. The next step to this that angers me is how we attack someone who tries to make a difference. It’s never going to be perfect. Why not build on it or adjust it rather than threaten to rip it down or maybe that’s what politics are all about. On a side note, I just finished teaching a public speaking course yesterday. I really enjoy doing it because you can really see people bloom. They may not all end up perfect speakers but they all grow.

  6. In some ways, I embrace failure as an operating mode. It is one of the sure fire ways to figure out what works and what doesn’t. No knowledge is gained without effort and consequently, without failure.

    • I completely agree with you. The best, most life-changing lessons I’ve learned have always come from my mistakes. Our successes don’t teach us nearly as much.

  7. Pingback: F is for Fabulous «

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