The Gold Ring

Straight-jacket escape performer, Boston, Oct., 2013. Photo by Mary Dessein
Straight-jacket escape performer, Boston, Oct., 2013. Photo by Mary Dessein

“Do something, even if it’s wrong!”
When I heard my father say those words when I was a kid, I cringed. How old-fashioned, how out-of-it. Anybody knows that doesn’t make any sense. Truth be told, I was a tad embarrassed that my dad was so clueless.
Now fifty years later, I realize how clued in he actually was. I hope he is smiling.

Inaction, waiting for something to happen, or for an answer to appear have not worked well for me, although it has taken decades for me to recognize the many facets of inaction.
Caution is one thing. Inertia is another. Preparation and research can be a part of the action. ACT: Action Changes Things, I was told recently. Ask questions, go to the meeting, act on a decision, do something new, follow up on a lead. Waiting to see what will happen often insures that nothing will happen. Life is not a merry-go-round which keeps taking you past the gold ring until you grab it.
That sneaky little voice inside that says, “People will think you’re stupid.” “People will know you don’t know what you’re doing.” I have been suckered by that fearful part of me so many times. Yee gods and little fishes, fear is a thief. So is self-doubt and the part of me that allows it.
People might think I’m stupid? So what? If they do, their judgment is their business. People who know me already know I’m the best thing since apricot jam on a flaky croissant. I might be embarrassed? I have been embarrassed so badly so many times, what would one more be? Once it went past my ability to keep track of on my fingers and toes, counting my faux pas became like counting the stars in the sky: an endless and not very useful diversion.
A couple Thomas Edison’s quotes, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” And, “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Do something, even if it’s wrong. You’re going to learn something.

Dr. Howard W. Jones died last month at age 104. He still worked part-time until he was hospitalized two weeks before he died. Ground-breaker, life-changer. He and his wife, Dr. Georgeanna Seegar, pioneered in-vitro fertilization and so much more. He once said, “If I have a legacy, it’s of someone who…did not have any qualms about proceeding with the unknown because it was fun to do.”
Jack London said, “I’d rather be ashes than dust.” He knew a little bit about living, his legacy still ripples through literature.

If a mistake moves me forward, is it wrong? I say no. Dad was right (yet again), “Do something.” Pretty soon it is ten years later, or twenty, or the fiftieth birthday has past, and we’re waiting for…what exactly? Opportunity that comes on a nice platter polished with a guarantee? A possibility of success in a gilded frame? The gold ring determined to be valuable by other people?

Jodi Picoult, Dmitri Matheny, Antonio Rocha, Geoffrey Castle, Kevin Costner, and Meryl Streep did not stand around waiting for a bus that might come by. Like countless others, they did something, even if somebody else was shaking their head.

At a training recently, Elizabeth Ellis said to us, “I’m a storyteller (or writer, or…, you fill in your own blank), what am I going to do about it today?”
So something didn’t work? Okay, what am I going to do next?