If I had to pick the best movie line I saw last year, it would have be from “We Bought a Zoo.” Yes, I know it came out before last year, but I can’t bring myself to pay for a theater ticket when I’m shelling out a couple hundred a month to keep myself entertained as it is.
In the movie, the dad tells his son, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you something great will come of it.”
That line conjured up memories of a thousand opportunities I’d missed simply because I didn’t possess the courage to act. In the movie they were talking about love. And that’s always the one that requires the most courage. Truly, if not for my wife’s impatience with a babbling young man whose “strategy” was to ask her to work extra shifts in the hopes that she’d eventually grow attached, I’d still be single. And she’d be exhausted.
Breaking!!! Man hailed as a hero when he asks a girl out!
It’s odd that a man can run headlong into enemy fire to defend his platoon, but turns blatant coward when face to face with a pretty brunette (the first part is fiction, I was in the Navy, the pretty brunette part is true). Both situations involve courage, but one seems so much harder.
That’s because it’s personal at the one-on-one level. More than anything else we are afraid, not of failure in and of itself, but the knowledge that someone knows you failed. In our minds, we’re sure that pretty brunette is going to laugh at us and then tell all five-thousand of her facebook followers what a buffoon we are.
We feel fear when we consider a new business venture as well. You could spend a lot of time and energy on something you believe in, only to have it fail in the end. What will people say about you? You may want to work for one company in one department, but you fear picking up the phone and calling the person who heads that department. Why? Is he going to hang up on you and laugh at your brazen arrogance?
Of course not. Here’s a little secret: the girl, the boss, the people you’re trying to sell your product to–they’re human, too. They have fears. They hate being rejected. They may even be reading this at the same time you are.
Fear is universal…like pimples
You will find that your biggest fears are shared by everyone you’ll see today. The most beautiful girl will wonder if anyone likes her. The most successful CEO will stare out his office window and re-think the decisions he’s made, wondering if he’s made a dreadful mistake. A best-selling author will be sure she has nothing else to say, the next manuscript will be crap.
Every one of them has needed 30 seconds of insane courage more than once in their lives. And they’ll all respect you for conjuring it up as well. The girl may say “no,” but she’ll feel fantastic that you asked and will always consider you a friend (maybe more, sometimes you gotta be persistent). The customers will certainly say no. But the great salesmen of our time will all agree on one fact: you’ll hear “no” a lot more often than “yes,” but every “no” only puts you one step closer to the “yes.”
“What if’s” Suck
Take it from someone who’s at least halfway through this journey we call life. You don’t have an infinite amount of time. One day you’ll wonder “what if I’d made that phone call thirty years ago…”, “what if I’d started writing that novel when I was 23…”, “what if I’d marched up to that girl and said ‘hello’.” There are far too many “what if’s” and not nearly enough “I did it’s”.
“I did it” gives you greater courage.
“I did it” overcomes fear.
“I did it” gives you bragging rights, even when you fail.
In my previous post I suggested you spend your time around people who share your passions and avoid the negative influences in your life. If you’re taking my advice, those people will be there to console you when you do fail and celebrate with your victories. They won’t mock you for trying. They may give you grief for not trying, though. Nor will they be jealous of your victories, but feel as if your victories are their own. These are what we like to call “friends.” That’s how you can tell who the real ones are. If you can’t imagine your victorious triumph in whatever it is you’re contemplating, then imagine theirs. The smiles, the whooping and cheering, the absolute tears of joy they’ll shed for you.
Hold that image in your mind. Now…
There’s something you have to do right now, isn’t there? Don’t hesitate. Can you pull it together for 20 seconds? Go. Pick up the phone. Send the e-mail. Tweet. Open a new Word document and type “Chapter 1.” Whatever. You may have the same opportunity again tomorrow, or you may not. If you wait a month, the answer will probably be the same. So let’s get on with this, shall we?
The 20 seconds of insane courage is the first of the “Things I wish I knew when I was 20″ on this post. The second is this:
I’d rather have a thousand “no’s” in a pile at my feet than a single “what if” hanging over my head for the rest of my life.
Let me know how it went.