How many times have you heard the phrase, “You’re making a HUGE mistake!”? I’ve heard it 18 times (yes, I keep track) that I can distinctly remember in my professional life. Add in the personal life decisions - to get married young, to have kids close together, to get tattoos, to get ears pierced (c’mon everybody was doing it right? right?), etc - and I come up with more than two dozen times when I was told that I would be making a mistake. Fortunately, that type of foreboding response doesn’t seem to resonate with me and I shall attempt to explain. Let’s start with the dictionary.
1: a wrong judgment : misunderstanding
2: a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention
1: to blunder in the choice of <mistook her way in the dark>
2a : to misunderstand the meaning or intention of :misinterpret <don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said>b : to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of
3: to identify wrongly : confuse with another <I mistook him for his brother>
Based on definitions above, I would argue that for the individual to judge my decision as a mistake, the individual providing the opinion would have to have specific, intimate knowledge of the potential outcome. Is that possible? Can a person really know exactly what is going to happen to you if you make a choice to change careers? Pursue a project? Relocate? How can they possibly know how you’re going to react? Can anyone truly foresee the long term impact of your decision? Perhaps people weren’t really saying, “you’re making a HUGE mistake!” Maybe what they were trying to say was, “you’re making a decision that I don’t support”; or perhaps “you’re choosing a path that I fear”; or better yet, “a path I don’t fully understand.”
So how does, then, one handle naysayers? Do as George Jean Nathan said and treat them with “polite inconsideration”?
I’ve heard countless stories from friends and family lamenting how they wished they HADN’T listened to their negative Nellies and jumped at the opportunity to pursue crazy project X; or conversely, wished they HAD listened to such and such who told them that they SHOULD do crazy thing Y. For me specifically, if I had listened to what I'm sure was well-intentioned advice, I would not have experienced the events, or met the people, or accomplished the things that I have in my life.
Now, to be clear, I’m not arguing in favor of reckless abandon or doing hurtful, spiteful and certainly not illegal activities. I think it’s a carefully weighted balance of filtering out the fear from the productive counsel; then, above all, DO something, ACT on it.
I recently mused that one can waste an entire lifetime lamenting how things should be...instead of how they can be. If you find yourself fearful of the potential outcomes, you may never find the possible outcomes. The take-away for me is this: one day you’re going to wake up and be 80 years old, how many different experiences will you have chalked up? My wife and I created a manifesto for our kids (call it our family operating plan) and in it we say “that only experiences count”. I truly believe that. When all is said and done all you will have in the end is your memories, your stories; and stories require action.
Try it for yourself. Take an inventory of all the times you were advised that you were making a big mistake. Don’t have that many? Maybe it’s time to consider “making a mistake.” As I said in a previous post, “If you don’t step in it once in a while, you’re probably on a too-well trodden path. Take a detour.”
So where have I been? Transitioning to a new role and relocating again would probably be enough to take some time off and ease up on the extra-curricular activities right? No, higher levels of day-to-day stress or significant career / personal upheavals don’t require me to “slow down” or “take it easy”; I still have my nights and periodic, non-family, quiet times where I can reflect, meditate, and “ideate”. This latest hiatus was due to my body crapping out. And not the kind of oft-purported stress-induced shut down or mental breakdown; I find that those kinds of breakdowns are prevented with daily exercise, proper nutrition, sex with my lovely wife, and humor. I’m talking about my internal organs just deciding that they’re going to stop working, completely out of my control. This time it’s my gallbladder (my appendix decided it was time to exodus about a year ago).
In a nutshell, the entire month of March was spent in hospitals, Doctor’s office, specialist offices, testing offices, radiology departments, you name it. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I didn’t have any classic indicators that normally accompany a failing gallbladder. It wasn’t until my wife talked about my condition with her best friend that we finally asked the Doctor about a HIDA scan; a long test that is used to determine if the gallbladder is functioning properly even if there are no gallstones. As it turns out, my gallbladder is not working and it must be taken out; so now I wait for the minimally invasive procedure.
Whilst all this was happening, I observed two things. One, I found it curious (and frustrating) the frequency to which friends and family kept proffering advice and defaulting to stress-induced causes despite me presenting overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Second, if life is a balance between mind, body, and soul - for me, body is the base. As I stated before, I actively manage the mind-body-soul interaction by exercising daily, eating ridiculously healthy, reading prolifically, ravaging the wife, entertaining the boys, and meditating as best as I can. But when the body, through no control of my own, decides it’s done, the whole equation goes. I have no surplus energy to put to my side projects; I have no personal desire or drive to keep creating instead of simply consuming. My entire focus falls on getting better, to getting the “host” back to working order.
I oft get upset when things don’t work as they should, especially when I follow all the prescribed preventative measures. I.e. if you get regular oil changes, you should get longer car life. Therefore, my reasoning goes, if you eat healthy & exercise regularly, you should get a longer, more consistent, body life and body performance. However, based on this latest episode, perhaps the equation isn’t that easy (especially when you think about George Burns). Perhaps some things truly are out of my control despite my best efforts to mitigate them. Better stated, instead of getting upset when things don’t operate as the “should”, more acceptance is the key. To be clear, however, I’m still not going to “slow down” Mom, sorry.
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)