“Risk comes in all shapes and colors: bankruptcy, heartbreak, failure. The alternative is a world without risk, without color, without knowing if you could have made that business work, if she would have truly loved you, if you would have finished that race or project or garden or painting or triathlon or… whatever. If, in other words, is risk’s purgatory. I know I don’t want to spend any time there.” Georges St. Pierre
Don’t we all have these ‘ifs’ buried deep in our memories?
I have a business I tried to start. I know I didn’t give it my best. I was too afraid. Every now and again I pull it from my memory vault, polish it up, and wonder could I have made it work? Did I blow my only shot?
In The Magician’s Nephew, the first of the Chronicles of Narnia, Polly and Digory come across a bell with this inscription:
“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”
“What if” is the purgatory of risk, as St. Pierre said. If we, because of a lack of courage, take the easy road, we get to live with nothing but ‘ifs’ for the rest of our lives. We live in a vaguely comfortable world without danger, but we become “cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).
It breaks my heart to see so many ‘cold and timid souls’ among my peers. They’re too scared to commit to a relationship. They’re scared to quit their job and go to school. They’re scared to move out of their parent’s place.
Because what IF it doesn’t work out?
What if it does?
No joke: the world is a big scary place. I’ve got to acknowledge that not all risks are worth taking. The Georges St. Pierre quote comes after an explanation of his calculated risk. In Narnia, Polly and Digory awake a wicked witch when they strike inscripted bell. In other words, I’m not advocating ‘YOLO’ (though a little of that spontaneous spirit is a good thing for homebodies like me).
I’m reminding myself that fear is inevitable, but I need to look past the fear, or the complacency, or the discomfort, and make a calculated choice. Then, when ‘if’ comes calling, I can at least say “it wasn’t worth it” not, “I should have tried.”
It may be as small as engaging your new coworker in conversation, even if his accent is difficult to understand. That’s my adventure this week.