You Never Get Anywhere by Playing it Safe

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

We often find ourselves in a place where things aren’t going quite the way we’d planned. That may be due to no real fault of our own, but as I’ve mentioned before, when we sit still the world moves past us. Before long, we find ourselves sitting in the same place with no momentum and that much further behind. We can catch up, but it’ll take a lot more effort than if we’d just kept moving in the first place.

It happens on the job, where demands change and what we were hired to do no longer meets the “needs of the company.” It happens in relationships where people grow, and we don’t always grow along with them. And it happens in life, where time never stands still and every year, we find ourselves with one year less to accomplish our goals.  

That last one has been on my mind a lot. In two months, I’ll reach the age of “early retirement.” That’s where the government says you can start drawing Social Security, but only if you don’t make any real money on the side. In another four and a half years, I’ll reach the age of full retirement. I won’t go into what that entails, except to say I’m not where I wanted to be by this point.

I think we all face that sooner or later. You wake up one morning and realize you’re not where you wanted to be on the corporate ladder. You drive past an area of nicer homes and remember when that was your dream. Or winter comes along and you repeat your annual pledge that by this time next year, you’ll be living someplace warm. You know, the same one you repeated last year.

And through all of it, you have to admit the reality that you’re where you are because this is where you’ve worked to be. It may not be exactly where you wanted to end up, but I think we can all admit we’ve left a little on the table in that regard and taken a breather when we could have done just a little more. All those undone things keep stacking up until one day, we have to pay the piper.

I know there are things in my past that I could have done differently. And when I look back, what stands out the most aren’t the risks I took where the outcome wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, but the opportunities I passed up or simply didn’t work to their full advantage. There’s some level of risk in everything, but risk alone doesn’t stop us from moving forward – it’s fear that stands in our way.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” A baseball field has three places where a player can stand safely and wait for an opportunity to advance. Oh, they may taunt the pitcher by stepping out a little, but let the pitcher turn their way and they take a dive in the dirt, back to the safety of their base. They’re stuck in that position unless somebody else gets lucky.

And you know, after you’ve hit the ball and raced as fast as you can to beat the odds, it’s nice to be standing safely on base. But you can’t stand there forever. Sooner or later, you either have to move forward or wait for everyone else to fail so you can put on your glove and take up a position where your only mission in life is to keep somebody else from advancing.

Sure, people may remember that magnificent diving catch that prevented somebody else from getting on base, but in baseball there are no real statistics to reflect how many times you caught a fly ball. All anybody cares about is your batting average – how many times did you swing and hit the ball far enough to get on base?

We all face opportunities to hit that ball. Every time you step up to the plate, there’s one thing you can count on – there will be a pitch coming, and it’ll be coming fast. We can either watch as that opportunity sails past or do something about it. The choice we make in that instant will determine whether we bring the crowd to its feet or take that lonely walk back to the dugout.

Sure, you may swing and miss. But you’ll never hit anything with the bat resting comfortably on your shoulder.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day.

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

If You’re Not Driving, You’re Just Along For the Ride

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

The weekend is over, and it’s back to the grind. I hope you did at least a few things for yourself this weekend, in the midst of all those other things you have to do. It’s funny how the boss thinks we all go home on Friday evening and just sit around and rest all weekend. That doesn’t happen very often, and usually when it does, it’s because we’re too sick to do anything else.

I spent my weekend trying to regroup from a setback that threatens to undermine a lot of what I’ve worked to accomplish, and to refocus my mind on the next steps moving forward. It happens to us all, and it can make you feel the weight of the world come crashing down. We can let these moments define us, or we can use them to redefine ourselves. This is where we find out what we’re made of.

Things rarely go just right. Life is a series of ups and downs and, like the world’s most thrilling rollercoaster, some of those ups and downs are a lot bigger than others. But without those scary drops, we’d never have the momentum to make it up the next climb. And, as any coaster enthusiast knows, when the track flattens out, it means the ride is just about over.

I’m not sure I every want my track to flatten out. Sure, I could do without some of the death-defying twists and turns along the way, but without them life would be pretty boring. The thrill comes from facing those terrifying situations and standing tall on the other end. Without any of those steep drops and twisting inversions, the line for a rollercoaster would be pretty short.

The reason we enjoy things like that so much is because, no matter how scary the ride appears, we know deep down it’s not nearly as dangerous as it looks. We may get bumped around a little, and we may get dizzy at times. We may even wish we’d skipped the churro dog and dumpster fries we ate right before we got in line. But there’s little doubt we’ll make it safely to the end.

It’s that way with almost everything we face in life. With very few exceptions, there’s nothing we’ll ever face that doesn’t present at least the possibility of a positive outcome. And, more often than not, the odds of a successful outcome are much greater than we think. It’s all in how we approach those situations. We can take control, or simply go along for the ride.

And if you already know where the ride is headed, the option of just sitting quietly in the passenger seat becomes a simple question of whether the destination is someplace you want to go. On a rollercoaster, you’re at the mercy of the ride’s designers. You go where the track leads, every single time. Once you’re strapped in, there’s no turning back.

But in most of the things we face in life, we don’t have to just sit there and go along for the ride. At any moment, we can slide into the driver’s seat, take the wheel, and either correct an errant path or choose an entirely different destination. The choice is ours to make. And sometimes, it’s only when our primary choice goes away that we can clearly see all the other options we’ve been missing.

It can feel scary. It can feel dangerous. But some of life’s greatest achievements come from moments of desperation, when we have to either stand up and fight or lay down and quit. And in those moments, the kiddie cars may seem a lot safer than hopping back on a rollercoaster. But in the end, it’s just a much slower and less exciting way to end up right back where you started.

Just this weekend, I read a quote in “The Magic of Thinking Big” that fits this situation perfectly … “I’d rather burn out than rust out.”  I read those words several times, and their meaning set in deeper every time. I’ve seen where the “safe” road lead. There’s very little risk, but there’s also very little excitement. We can stare at a mountain all day, or we can climb up and see what’s on the other side.

Life is an amusement park. It’s got everything from park benches in the shade to the most death-defying rides known to man. Some people ride, and others watch from the sidelines. And others just sit on that park bench and as they eat the world’s most expensive ice cream and watch life completely pass them by. At the end of the day, they’ll all end up right back where they started.

You’ll face challenges. There’s no doubt about that. And some of those challenges will scare the daylights out of you. The question is, do you close your eyes and hold on for dear life, or do you throw your hands in the air and yell “rock and roll” the whole way down?

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

A Boat That Isn’t Rocking Isn’t Going Anywhere

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Forty-three years ago, almost exactly to the minute, I was sitting outside a Navy recruiter’s office in Fort Lauderdale waiting for my recruiter to arrive and take me to a land far, far away. At least that’s how it felt. Over the next several hours, my life would change in ways I could never imagine. And over the next 12 years, I was slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) changed into the person I am today.

I’ve often wondered where I’d be today if I hadn’t chosen that path in life. I had opportunities for some pretty high-paying work as a commercial artist – you know, back when people drew pictures instead of computers. But, as a result of my time in the Navy, I followed a more technical path and ended up with a job that suits my personality completely. I’m pretty happy with the outcome.

It’s easy to look back and wonder how our lives may have changed if we’d done things differently. I look at mistakes I’ve made over the years and I wish I hadn’t made some of those choices. But everything we’ve done in life, both good and bad, has led us to where we are at this very moment. One minor variation along the way would have changed our lives completely.

So, here’s the question – if we can so clearly see how the decisions we’ve made have led us to where we are now, why is it so hard to see how the choices we make today will affect the rest of our life? We always seem to think as long as we don’t change anything, we’ll continue on our current path indefinitely. “Things are going fine – don’t rock the boat.” Sound familiar?

But the reality is, a boat that isn’t rocking at least a little isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s probably not even in the water. Now, boats may look real pretty sitting there on dry land, but they completely miss their only intended purpose until they’re allowed to roll with the wind and waves. And in doing so, we accept the risk that, sooner or later, storms will come. It’s just part of owning a boat.

And it’s part of anything we do in life. Starting a family is one of the most wonderful blessings we’ll ever experience. To see a baby come into this world, one that’s of our own flesh and blood, is nothing short of incredible. Yet, with the first poopy diaper, we realize it’s not all marshmallows and roses. A thousand diapers later, reality starts to set in. This will be an E-ticket ride to the very end.

Now, we could have made the choice to just leave things as they were. “We’re doing fine, just the two of us. Life is good. Don’t rock the boat.” And I know a lot of people who have made that very choice. It works for them, because we all have different values. Sure, they’ll never know the thrill of holding a grandchild in their arms. But they’ll never know the heartache of seeing their child in tears.

We all make choices every day. To some degree, each of those choices will have an impact on our life moving forward. Even the breakfast sandwich I defrosted last night. I know the nutritional value in that sandwich, and suffice to say it’s not the best choice I could have made. Even now, I have the option to take it to work with me or just leave it there. I know the decision I’ll make. We all do.

I probably won’t feel any immediate effects from eating a sausage & egg biscuit instead of a bowl of oatmeal. But over time, those choices do stack up. Much like the other choices we make on a less frequent basis. Do you take a class to develop a new skill or spend that time at home? Do you start that business, or stick with what you know? Do you ask that girl out, or play ball with your friends?

The choices we make today will have some level of impact on our life, some more than others. And not making a choice is a choice in itself. You may think you’ll stay right where you are, but the reality is, you’ll just sit still as the world passes you by. The most beautiful home will eventually fall down if nothing changes.

Rock the boat. Take a few risks. A whole new life is waiting to be discovered. There will be some storms along the way. But unless you’re willing to go through those storms, you may never know the wonders that await on the other side.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved