Stretch Yourself (Say, “yes!”)

For some of us (me), the natural tendency is to say “no” to new opportunities, often because we’re timid or fear failure. This is a BIG mistake (if it is a habit). Saying “no” only reinforces that we are “failures,” hurting our self-esteem. In contrast, saying “yes” provides at least two benefits: (1) it helps us learn new skills, abilities, etc.; and, (2) it boosts our confidence to stretch ourselves more. It’s a virtuous circle, often. Besides, it makes life more fun. Even when we actually “fail” at the new. “Better to have loved and lost. . . ” To try is to love life.

Example: My dad said “yes” when he was asked to be his fraternity’s president, even though he had no leadership experience. Yada, yada, yada, he later won the first and only “Mr. Fridley” award for being one of the lead farm advisors in California. (Think “Green Acres.”)

Caveat: This isn’t a principle, just a rule of thumb. Saying “yes” to heroin would be stupid in almost all circumstances. Use your brain, check the facts, be rational (as should go without saying).

“Follow your passion!”

Great advice, unless you’re among the multitudes whose “passion” is not readily apparent. One’s “passion” is not an intrinsic (inborn) characteristic that requires only “letting go.” No. You must actively find and develop it.

How? By searching! Try different things, occasionally invoking the “Risky Business” mantra (“What the F_ck!”). And, don’t give up on something too easily – give it a chance. “Passion” is not a mere interest. It is an interest cultivated through growing knowledge and mastery. (This is the story of most successful careers.)

For example, my father wanted to be a cowboy from a young age. He took this interest and developed it by, e.g., learning how to ride horses, working summers as an actual cowboy driving cattle from Colorado to Texas, obtaining his degree in animal husbandry. This pursuit ultimately culminated in a career as a livestock specialist. (As a boy, he went so far as to sleep with a stick between his knees with his ankles tied together to give himself bowed knees. Not recommended!)

Note: Playing hours of video games does not count as pursuing a passion unless you are a game developer!

“Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the F_ck'”

I don’t like vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity (cf. most popular movies these days), but this famous quote from “Risky Business” has a legitimate – even important – use. Especially for those of us who tend to be overly cautious or analytical (you know who you are!). Here’s the full quote:

Sometimes you gotta say ‘What the F_ck’, make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying “What the F_ck” brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”

This is not an excuse for illegality or immorality (as it was for Joel) or even a green light for gratuitous profanity. However, sometimes the phrase can provide the psychological push you need to get past your insecurities, fears and other inhibitions and to take beneficial, life-changing action. It can turn motivation from fear into motivation from conviction.

Bad use example: “I’ve never cliff dived before, but what the f_?!” <splat>
Better use example: “The idea of investing in this start-up scares me, but I’ve done the research, due diligence, etc., so what the f_?” <billionaire> 🙂