“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first base.”
– Frederick B. Wilcox
I love that quote. It’s a great reminder that risk is a necessary part of life if you want to achieve anything great (as defined by you, of course). Those words pop in my mind when I find myself doing something “for the money” despite having no passion for it while half-trying (but really just hoping) to succeed at my pie-in-the-sky goals — and cursing the fact that I haven’t reached them yet.
Going through the motions takes valuable time and energy away from working toward our true goals.
Some of you may be thinking, “But we need money to live!” and that there’s nothing wrong with earning an honest living, no matter what the job is. You won’t get an argument from me on that. Many of us have responsibilities beyond ourselves, so there are times we have to suck it up and bring home the bacon. Period.
It’s also important, though, to be ready to reach for the proverbial brass ring (however you define it).
Will timing ever be perfect? Nope. Are you guaranteed to succeed? Hardly. Can I promise you there won’t be nights when you’re staring at an empty refrigerator, licking the inside of the peanut butter jar for dinner? Can’t.
But I bet you knew this:
If you want to win big, you’ve got to play big.
And for ordinary folks like us, playing big never seems to come with a safety net.
Several years ago in order to supplement my income while starting a freelance writing career, I taught English part-time. It wasn’t fabulous money, but it was steady, and it allowed me to eat, which is always a bonus.
With each passing lesson, the dread factor rose exponentially. The mental and emotional drain coupled with the traveling stole valuable time and energy from my efforts to build a freelance writing career — what I had been proclaiming was my goal.
At the end of my contract, I was faced with a choice: keep teaching for the guaranteed money or devote myself to this freelance writing thing once and for all.
I chose the latter, and it paid off big time as I gradually began building a name for myself, and I do mean gradually. Trust me, my tax returns from those early years were beyond pathetic, and we won’t even talk about the kinds of “meals” we had around here for a while. But I don’t regret — or forget — one single second of those tough times.
The decision to *not* teach gave me my time and energy back. It motivated me to earn back the money that I’d be missing and then some. And it also gave me a swift kick in the bum to dedicate myself to what I had been saying was my ultimate goal.
I brought my actions in line with my goals.
How often do we know exactly what we want to achieve but still spend most of our time doing something else? The “must-dos” take up so much of our time and energy that we’re left with little if any for our true goals in life — and we’re left feeling unsettled, unfulfilled, and downright exhausted from trying (and probably failing) to do everything well.
Please don’t think I’m immune to keeping my foot on first base for too long, though. What a fantastic, stifling crutch a steady, predictable income can be, especially for someone who has both had one and not had one. I was reminded of this again recently by Srinivas Rao, who writes about losing his “safety blankets” at Skool of Life — and unfortunately not by his choice. Yet Srinivas writes about “embracing uncertainty”:
“The beauty of an uncertain future is that it’s open for being written according to your desires.”
In fact, just as with my English-teaching job, I’m now at a similar crossroads now with a long-standing writing gig that guarantees me a nice chunk of income every month but fails to spark my writing passions and also isn’t moving me forward. I feel stagnant. The opposite of progress.
I know I’ve taken all the positives I can from that position, and now it’s time to move on and refocus on my goals.
It’s time to dedicate myself to things that will move me forward, closer to where I want to be.
Of course it hasn’t been an easy decision. It never is. There’s just no telling how this will turn out — whether I’ll achieve my ultimate goals now that I have this “free” time to pursue them, or more tangibly, whether I’ll make up that missing money, and if I do, how long that might take.
But I do know, especially in the current economy, I’m outrageously lucky to have been able to choose when to drop my safety net. Whether the choice is ours or not, it’s scary to gather up your future in your hands and tend to it with no guarantees. But it’s awfully exciting too, isn’t it?
As carissima Diana Baur at A Creative Simplicity writes, though, sometimes you have to “forget the parachute“:
“Relying on our parachutes has made us blind to something: we do have wings. Eventually we can, if we really want to, throw the parachutes away.”
It’s during those times as we fly parachute-less — whether it’s by choice or not — that we find out what we’re really made of, what we can truly achieve, and so much more about ourselves and others, which I’ll leave to explore in future posts.
Our desired end points vary, but once we’ve zeroed in on what we want, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to devote enough of our precious time toward achieving our goals. Otherwise we’re looking at pipe dreams, guaranteed disappointment, and no chance of ever stealing second base.
And while we’re on the baseball theme, why not swing for the fences once in a while too? Play ball!
Have you been guilty of wanting to steal second but keeping your foot on first?
What steps can you take to move forward toward your goals, even if they involve risk?
*I’ve written more about the palazzo in the photos at Inspiration Via Acqui Terme.