Staying on the Sidelines: A Rant and a Challenge

I don’t want to hear about how I can’t do it.

I believe the reason why so little gets done is because humans are so good at circumscribing our worlds to contain our immediate circumstances and no more. We forget about the entire world of possibilities outside of our little sphere, or choose not to think about them because thinking about them makes us feel sad or scared or angry or resentful.

We are very good — too good — at telling our fellow human beings they can’t either.

If you go out there — if you do that — if you climb that wall — if you look around that corner — the worst will happen. People will hate you. You will fail.

But if you listen, to your own cautioning voice or to others, and you stay on the sidelines in your comfortable little chair? You’ll always wonder what could have happened, if you climbed that wall or stepped outside your comfort zone or did that scary thing. You’ll think about it at night, when everything is quiet, and the small voice that speaks truth inside of you will say, “You could have tried.”

Resentment comes from failing the small voice inside of you, not from failing others or from failing yourself, but from being too afraid to try at all.

“It’s better to have tried and failed” is a proverb for a reason. The greatest regrets are usually the what-ifs. And we are capable of so much, and so afraid of trying already, that the last thing anyone needs is someone else telling them they can’t do something, or won’t succeed. If someone has gotten up the guts to try something we should applaud that person, applaud them for trying, victory or failure, and encourage them to keep trying and keep adding to the world.

If we all tried to add to the world, we’d have a much better world in aggregate. But instead we spend a lot of time telling people why they shouldn’t try, or can’t succeed, when we should be telling them the opposite and supporting them in their dreams and efforts. Real work is done by people taking real risks, not people watching safely from the sidelines, numbing their own still small voices and telling others to stay on the sidelines with them.

So let’s change this dynamic around. If resentment comes from staying on the sidelines, then staying on the sidelines is actually the scariest choice, and leaving the sidelines is lower-risk. Can we encourage people to get up from their chairs, make it the cool thing to do, cheer them on, welcome them back with open arms if they need a rest and some Gatorade, and then send them back out there?

It would be a better world.


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