In which I answer a random question generated by a website. Here’s this week’s question Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.
What do you attribute the biggest successes in your life to? How about your largest failures?
Well, this one is easy, because it’s opposite sides of the same coin.
Biggest successes? When I’ve let go of fear and just gone for it, despite my instincts.
Biggest failures? When I haven’t.
Or another way to put it is this: you can’t succeed if you don’t do, but you will always fail if you don’t. You may fail if you do but, surprisingly, those kinds of failures still lead to successes in teaching you other things.
And the fears that hold us back are not necessarily phobias or actual risks. They can be mundane as well — the fear of being inconvenienced or having to figure things out or whatever.
A big case in point for me was a few years back. It was just shy of a year after the little health scare that made me create this whole site in the first place, although not the event I wrote about in the prologue.
Basically, I had an opportunity to go to a resort in Palm Springs, spend the 4th of July weekend hanging out with a bunch of guys, and just getting out of town and relaxing.
I was fortunate enough that I could afford it, but what held me back was figuring out what to do with my dog. I mean, logistically, it was simple: Arrange for her to be boarded from Thursday afternoon through Monday morning, and I really trusted her vets to do that. Actually making the call to arrange it was another thing.
But I did, and made the trip, and wound up having a great time.
The same group was going to have an adult weekend camp in the woods near Big Bear around Labor Day, and by that time, after telling a neighbor about the whole previous thing, she told me that she’d be happy to board Sheeba any time, so this was suddenly not an issue.
But after I’d booked this one, I got an email from the organizer asking if I could give a ride to somebody from WeHo, since he didn’t have transportation up to the camp.
And I almost said no, because… how weird, right? I’m not an Uber driver. I don’t know this guy, and we’re going to be stuck in my car for hours. The only thing it seemed like we had in common were our first names.
But the lure of the experience was too much, so I said yes, picked him up, and in the course of the trip and the weekend, in which we wound up being the only two bunkmates in our cabin, we bonded, and he and I are still good friends to this day.
I’d call that a success. This was also the weekend when I learned that the late, great Sheeba actually liked cats. Who knew?
Other big wins have been when I’ve put fear aside to actually talk to people, and have managed to wrangle a few nice LTRs that way — and IRL, which is much scarier than via app, believe me. And good things have also happened when I’ve talked my way into talking my way into jobs.
Now, as for failures coming from fear, it’s obviously a lot harder to gauge when you’ve failed because you don’t really know it. If you never applied for that job, then you’ll never have heard a definitive “No.” If you never asked that person out, you can’t have been rejected.
Although maybe it’s not so much a case of fear stopping things, but rather lack of initiative — which brings us back to the do or don’t mention up top.
We can pretend that it’s fear that stops us, but that isn’t always the case. Often times, it can be laziness, procrastination, annoyance, or inconvenience. Like electrical currents, humans are quite fond of seeking the path of least resistance and, in general, this will lead to the lowest possible energy state, whether we’re talking people or electrons.
We’re certainly seeing this right now with people who are itching to get out of lockdown and go back to the life they knew. If that’s not taking the path of least resistance, I don’t know what is. They are letting inconvenience dictate their actions, not realizing that this will just lead to failure, not only personally, but systemically.
I can’t say what failures I’ve face in the past when I let laziness, procrastination, annoyance, or inconvenience win — but I can list every single case in my life when ignoring all of those and actually doing something led to a success.
How about you?