Life rewards calculated risk
Richard was a nine-year veteran of a midsized police department. He consulted with me because he was unsatisfied in his work. As it turned out, he loved being a police officer, but he found that he was frustrated in his attempts to get a promotion.
“I keep missing the sergeant’s exam.” He explained.
“You didn’t pass?” I asked.
“No, I keep missing the deadline to get my paperwork in so I can take the exam. No matter what I try, I don’t seem able to get the file together so I can get it in on time.”
Dr Phil: Try to pick up the cushion next to you.
Dr Phil: Please, just humor me. Try to pick up the cushion.
Richard easily picked up the cushion.
Dr Phil: No Richard, I asked you to try to pick up the cushion.
Richard: What, I just did.
Dr Phil: I know you did it, but I asked you to try to pick it up.
Richard played his part and tried to pick up the cushion. He grasped it, and while making a strained face, pretended to be unable to pick it up.
Dr Phil: My point is that you either pick it up or you don’t. Try is simply a word adults use to give themselves permission to fail.
Dr Phil: Sure. You failed to turn in the exam application didn’t you?
Richard: Yeah, but not on purpose. I just ran out of time. Between work and the kids and coaching… I can’t do everything!
Dr Phil: I understand that you have a lot on your plate, but by using the word try, you are giving yourself permission to fail. You either do it or you don’t. Try means you didn’t do it.
We need to judge ourselves by our behavior. We need to judge others by their behavior. Actions count. Intentions are merely thoughts.
I should be a multi-billionaire. That’s right, billionaire — with a “B.” The reason is because I invented the Frisbee when I was four or five years old and picnicking with my family at a park. I took a paper plate off the table and winged it with all my might. It was amazing. It flew! I had just invented the Frisbee. My mother was not impressed with my aeronautical skills and growled at me to stop making a mess. This scared me so much that I ran off whimpering. The newly invented Frisbee was lost in the confusion of my mind. So, if the truth were told, it is my mom’s fault that I am not a multi-billionaire. Years later, some guy named, uh, Wham-o I guess, wasn’t traumatized by his mother and went on to market a flying disc. He is probably a multi-billionaire.
I think it is a fair assumption that if I happened to meet Mr. Wham-o one day he would not recognize my accomplishments. I suppose he would not share his wealth with me, the true (kind of) inventor. He would probably point out that if I really was the inventor I should have patented my idea. Then I should have developed the plastic molds. I should have figured out the packaging, marketing, and the distribution of my product. I did none of that. I simply whimpered off into the poor house of obscurity.
I once heard an inventor talk about the difficulty of getting a product to market. He said, “The ideas are easy, I have them all the time. The hard part is getting others to back you with cold hard cash so you can bring the ideas to the marketplace.”
The same is true in most parts of an individual’s life. I have heard it a million times (at least). “I was going to…” You know what I’m talking about, the Indian tribes: the Shouldas, the Couldas, and the Wouldas. “I should have…” “I could have…” “I would have…” Probably the three leading openings of the excuse sentence are:
“I should have applied for that promotion.”
“I could have invented that.”
“I would have done a better job than Bob.”
Other common excuse sentence starters…
“I meant to…”
“I was going to…”
“I didn’t know how to start…”
“I would have done it but…”
The road of life is paved with good intentions.
The list is huge. We love to let ourselves off the hook if we do not accomplish. Excuse making is an international pastime. I am very strict on this subject with myself. Either I did it, or I didn’t do it. I am on time, or I am late. No excuses. If I am late, I messed up. It wasn’t traffic or anything else. It was my lack of awareness or self-understanding. I am responsible for my life. I take this responsibility seriously.
I am frequently told by parents, “My child doesn’t act his age.” The key word in this sentence is the word act. Act is the root of the word action. Life is action. We are judged by our completed actions. You either do or you don’t. Do is an action, Didn’t Do is an inaction. Inaction is nothing. You are judged not by your intentions, but by your results. If someone runs into your car, do you care that he intended to stop? I doubt it. You judge the person by his action. (Using your car as a brake!) If your friend told you that she would pay back your loan by the end of the month so you could pay rent, does it help you pay rent if she meant to pay the loan? We are all judged by our actions.
“What have you done for me lately?” is the real world. If you are on time for work sixty-seven times in a row, great. But when you’re late, does anyone really care about your sixty-seven wins? Probably not. Would your landlord care that your friend really did mean to pay you back? Or, does the landlord judge you by your actions (You didn’t pay your rent on time and you loaned his money to some idiot who didn’t pay you back).
If a condom works, do you really think about it much? Probably not. You just lie there thinking about how good you are in bed. But, if a condom breaks you are suddenly very attentive. Wow, you’re a lot like your parents or your landlord, always focusing on the lack of appropriate action and complaining about it.