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.”
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)