Go Big or Go Home
I believe I mentioned this once before: my favorite part of any book, movie, or story is the “all or nothing” moment. Take Point Break, for example (I’ll wait while you roll your eyes)(also, SPOILER ALERT). There’s a part when the FBI agent is chasing the bad guy, and the bad guy jumps out of the plane with the last parachute.
The FBI agent takes a moment to let that frustration sink in…and then screams it out, and jumps out of the plane after the bad guy. No parachute, but he’s got gravity on his side, and how hard could it be to just fall faster?
I won’t tell you how it ends, because that doesn’t matter. It’s just that balls-out I’m going for it moment that has such appeal to me, and I’m not even sure why. In fact, what I do know is that it’s dangerous in the way it lures me towards things. As a kid, when we lived near the Palisades Cliffs, I always had this draw towards the edge…wondering what it would be like to just run and jump off. Not suicidally, you understand – I knew it would be a bad idea. But there was this draw…
It’s why I started my own business back in 1999 (I still remember my lawyer’s response: “You did WHAT?“). It’s why I excelled in the Marines in some cases, and was a cautionary tale for the others in my squad in others. It’s why I have traveled more in the last seven years than in the previous thirty-seven, and why I won’t do CrossFit. There’s a danger to that tendency to want to go big or go home.
Ideals are the Only Way to Get What You Want
In my last post about how “do what you love and the money will follow (but only if you do it passionately)”, a friend & reader posted the comment Sounds incredibly idealistic to me. Then again, there really is no one true way, is there? I have to say that my response, upon some thought, is Yes, there is one true way, and it is exactly that: idealistic.
The thing is, I think that we tend to mistake “idealistic” for “unrealistic”. Which I suppose it could be considered, but I think it could also be better considered to be “the best way.” For example, my friend who made the comment has her own business (along with a “normal” job) and also is a devoted mother and grandmother. Along with that she has an amazing social life which includes a great deal of influence in the science fiction fan world. In case you think that means a bunch of nerds in a basement reading comic books, well, yeah, you’re right, but it also means things like the annual DragonCon, which draws 3,000 exhibitors and 52,000 attendees, roughly.
How does she do that? Frankly, I have no clue, but I suspect that she simply does it because that is the life she has chosen for herself – her “ideal” life. I’m not saying she has everything she wants, but she strikes me as being someone who is pretty clearly on a path to get what she wants. She works hard – I know, because trying to find time to chat with her, much less see her, is just about impossible – and another way to express that is that she works passionately to get to that ideal that she has for herself – and part of the reward for that is money.
At this point I’m probably projecting a bit too much – I actually don’t know enough about her motivations to speak with authority. But I can tell you that this is part of why I admire my children so much. All of them have their ideals, and tend to go to extremes to get them. For my eldest, for example, it was throwing some gear in a backpack and taking off to California. I don’t think things went exactly as she planned, but she sure does have some great stories to tell about what happened when she just went for it. And she came back with a pretty awesome grandson, too, so it worked out pretty well for the rest of us as well.
Middle daughter is doing the same thing, tackling the challenge of medical school in the face of some pretty stiff obstacles. My youngest daughters also chose the road less taken, opting for some life experiences both here in Madison and in far-off Atlanta before they choose their (first) careers. As a parent, of course I see some of their choices as being unrealistic – but I also see that they are coming from idealistic goals. Even if I don’t share their beliefs – and believe me, in some cases I really, really don’t – I absolutely cheer on their ability to believe.
Because what’s the alternative? To just go along with something less than ideal? To just surrender to what seems inevitable? Here’s the thing: if it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen anyway. So you might as well fight against it, on the off chance that it’s not inevitable. If we only reach the moon while grasping at the stars, isn’t that better than not grasping at all?
Yeah, it is unbelievably idealistic. But why would you be anything else?
“…why diminish your soul being run-of-the-mill at something? Mediocrity: now there is ugliness for you. Mediocrity’s a hairball coughed up on the Persian carpet of Creation.”
― Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas