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bear by san

March 2017

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genuine risk

everybody's scared of things that they don't understand and all the living they don't do.

Here is thing I learned when I was 29, which I now give away for free:

If you want to do a thing, do it now, or as soon as feasible. Because there might not be a later.

If it is a complicated or expensive or hard thing that takes many stages or has a steep learning curve, start working on the parts you can work on while you can work on them, then move on to the next thing. Accept that there will be a lot of failures along the way, and that you can come back from nearly any mistake that doesn't involve making a left turn in front of an oncoming semi. Concentrate on yourself and what you can do, and don't rely on other people to fix things for you, even though you might love them or they you. (This doesn't mean you can't love friends or family or partners. Friends and family and partners, in the long run, are the thing other than Useful Work and Adventures that make life worthwhile. Well, all that, and a really nice coffee and tea kit in the kitchen and the skill to use it. But that last thing isn't terribly expensive unless you make it be.)

But to succeed at a thing--a job, a relationship--in the long term, the thing is: You Must Commit, even though commitment is scary. And commitment is scary because once you're in you're in. It's not bobbing around close to the shore, paddling with your feet. It's both feet and swimming as hard as you can out where the rip currents and the sharks are, where the water turns blue.

You can't hold back because you're afraid of getting hurt: you have to accept that you are going to get hurt, and put your hand in the fire of your own free will.

It's like climbing. You can make sure you've got good ropes and a belayer you trust (you SHOULD make sure you have good ropes and a belayer you trust!), but there's moves you can't make unless you're willing to risk falling. I'm not saying follow your bliss off a cliff, in other words: part of being prepared and committed is having the right kit, whether it's money in the bank for the lean times when starting off as a freelancer, or a partner who supports your work, or being young enough that starving in a cold room for a few years with pneumonia is romantic (I have the T-shirt!).

That's why it's scary. It's scary because you are taking an actual chance.

But: things don't work out the way you want them to if you just kind of drift along seeing what will happen. Nice things might happen! ...but they didn't, for me.

Basically, what I figured out was that I had to be a protagonist if I wanted anything to happen, and part of being a protagonist was accepting that I might fail. And then have to deal with that failure. And that if I didn't do it I would more or less inevitably fail, but I could pretend to myself that it wasn't because I wasn't good enough and that I didn't know why.

Seeking success, in other words, meant letting go of a layer of ego defense.

This realization directly led to me having the career I always wanted, and doing pretty well at it.

It also led to me having the best relationship of my life. I wish I'd learned it when I was sixteen, rather than twenty-nine, but I had some things I had to work through first.

So that thing you want to do? Assuming it’s not illegal or immediately fatal? Do it now.

Comments

There's a lot here that I've known or picked up along the way, but it's something that I sometimes need a reminder of (I will either hesitate forever, or jump in with both feet, rarely a middle ground). But I love framing it as being the protagonist of your own story, and needing to let "go of a layer of ego defense."
good advice!

I ususally just go with "go for it, and if you fail, you learn from that, dont be the first NO to come from yourself"
Bravo! (applause)

All of this!
Get out of my head.

Srsly. You always post this kind of shit exactly when I need to hear it. It'd be creepy, if it wasn't so helpful. <3
I’m in full agreement with the post and all the comments here! Thank you for reinforcing what we know with a much-needed and eloquent reminder. I’ve been following the “do it now” path as I’m living what I call my endgame. While watching my older relatives I’m concerned that when some major health issue strikes, I’ll no longer have the freedom to do what I can do now.

I love the idea of being the protagonist in my life. I think this merits t-shirts or somethin’.
This Garfunkel and Oates song is pretty much my go to sound track at the moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw2qEUwFbGM
A few months ago, I suddenly realized I needed to get with the program now if I want to write novels and short stories and see them published. Next week I'll turn 60. Point: It's never too late to get started. Thanks for the epiphany-making moment in your post, it's a great reinforcer. You are amazeballs!
Agree with absolutely everything you've said! I've only recently realised that most of my problems - both in climbing and life - come from a fear of committing to big scary moves. And while this may not be the year I crack the next grade boundary or sort out my relationships, it is going to be the year I stop letting my fears prevent me from even trying...
Having dealt with fifteen years of self-loathing over cowardice, I always try to reframe this as figuring out what one actually wants. I have destroyed chances by jumping too early. I have spent resources I really didn't have by trying to do something I wanted to do, but wasn't ready for, because that is what everyone is supposed to do-- commit before you're ready because you'll never feel ready, right? So I try to figure out what I want. And I try to forgive myself for both cowardice and metacowardice.

It's advice aimed toward people who aren't me, really. I'm glad you inspire the people who are not me.
Absolutely. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want and develop a plan to get there. No argument there at all.

That's what I meant when I said, "If you want to do a thing..."
I'm also glad you mentioned the ropes and preparation. Most of the time I read this advice-- and my self-loathing for cowardice dates back to high school-- it's more 'jump off cliff, build wings on way down, if you fall it's because you didn't risk enough so you weren't really trying'.
See, that's total bullshit and self-delusion. IMHO.
Also, whoever says that is spouting nonsense. You can prepare and prepare and prepare and still fail. Risk without the possibility of failure isn't risk.

It's just that, in my experience, if you really want something, you have the option of not going for it, and not getting it, or going for it, and either getting it or not getting it. But one of those requires much more investment and so is scarier. However, it also carries the possibility of greater reward.

That's what I'm talking about. There's no moral element to that at all. Only an element of desire. There's no point in taking big risks for things you don't really want, after all.

And anybody who says there is a moral element is wrong.