risk

Be Dory In An Ocean Filled With Marlins

What we focus on expands

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Currently focusing on these organic, biodynamic wines in the hope they will expand

I was flipping through my phone yesterday morning when a news story caught my eye. I know you saw it too. The random backfiring of a motorcycle in New York City caused a panic and sent hundreds of people running for cover, fearing they were being fired upon. Last weekend’s mass shootings, added to the unacceptably long list of mass shootings already logged, have us all on edge. We’ve become like soldiers suffering from PTSD, and most of us are suffering from it without having experienced a real-time mass shooting situation. We’re suffering from empathetic PTSD, expecting we are the next victim. We’re on high alert constantly. Everything we see and everything we hear is cause for panic.

We feel unsafe. Understandably so. There have been shootings at schools, churches, malls, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, and concerts. There is not a location in our nation where you can consider yourself safe from gun violence. Through constant connection to news via our devices and social media, we have been conditioned to anticipate catastrophe.

Like most, I’ve struggled to keep my head on straight despite the barrage of negative news. I’ve worked hard to teach our sons by example that a life lived through fear is no life at all. Our oldest hasn’t been comfortable in a movie theater since the July 2008 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, but we still take him to movies. We have to. Life is filled with risk. How will he learn to live with his discomfort if we give it a foothold? Where do we end up when we allow the possibility of gun violence to stop us from taking full advantage of the freedom our country allows? 

I found this chart to help my sons put things in perspective. The possibility of something bad happening is omnipresent. The probability, however, is not what we think it is.

Gun violence is a leading cause of death in America_BI Graphics

Taken from Skye/Gould Business Insider

 

Yes. You could become the victim of gun violence, but that potential is far less than the potential of falling victim to an accident or a prevalent disease. So, do you hole up in your home, hoping to stay “safe” (whatever that means) or do you live your life? I’m not implying these statistics aren’t alarming. They are. We just need to shift our focus away from catastrophe and onto reality. Heart disease is the most likely scenario for most Americans, but it probably doesn’t stop us from eating foods we shouldn’t or sitting on the couch when we could be getting some exercise. We weigh the overall odds and make a choice. We decide the pleasure of eating the cheese fries is worth the risk of artery damage. We tell ourselves, you gotta live, right? And we are right.

Shit happens. No amount of wishing shit didn’t happen is going to change the fact that it does. Can we do something about gun violence in the United States? I’d like to think so, but while we struggle to climb this Everest-level problem we can make small changes that will positively impact our lives now. We need to stop smothering ourselves in every detail of every depressing news story and turn our minds to what matters, what we can control, and what positivity we can foster. Delete the news apps (or at least silence the constant notification barrage) and withdraw intentionally from the things that make us anxious. It won’t change the reality, but the distance we create might make us sleep a little easier. It’s not about burying our heads in the sand. It’s about choosing to place our energy on positivity in the present rather than borrowing trouble from a future we cannot control.

Finding Nemo was released in 2003, when we had a 2 year old and a newborn. It was the first Pixar DVD we purchased for our sons. I couldn’t tell you precisely how many times I’ve seen it, but it’s a lot. As our sons have grown and started spreading their wings, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on that movie, the constant soundtrack to my sons’ young lives, thinking of poor, anxiety-ridden Marlin who in his fervor to avoid losing his son causes that exact thing. It’s easy to let negative past experiences ruin current positive ones.

I understand why the folks in Times Square started running when they heard the backfire. I probably would have joined them. It was a knee-jerk reaction fomented by 24/7 coverage of our mass shooting nightmares. We’re conditioned to expect the worst. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could consciously choose to return to a time when a motorcycle backfire might cause us to startle, maybe quicken our pulse rate a bit because of the unexpected loud noise, but that is where it would end? Perhaps as a collective we could decide to be less like fearful, negative Marlin and more like glass-is-half-full Dory by engaging in some short-term memory loss. It’s time we stop terrorizing ourselves by focusing on worst case scenarios. If we’re going to focus on something, let’s focus on good and watch it expand.

Hey Coach Fox…Some Risks Are Worth Taking

The boys' first Broncos game back in November.

The boys’ first Broncos game back in November.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  ~Wayne Gretzky

Like many Denver residents, I’m still shaking my head about yesterday’s painful playoff game between the Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos, 9-point favorites going into the game and odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl, somehow managed to lose the game during an overtime period that might not have even been warranted if Coach John Fox hadn’t had Peyton Manning take a knee with thirty seconds left in the game. Now, I’m not a great armchair quarterback or anything (although my Fantasy Football team did finish second in our league this season), but Fox’s choice prompted me to shout a few choice words at my television. If the Broncos, with the ball on their twenty yard line and two timeouts remaining and one of the most successful fourth-quarter quarterbacks ever at the helm, had taken their chances they might have won the game outright, just as they were expected to do. But the coach, for his own reasons, didn’t want to take the risk. Consequently, I’m still shaking (and scratching) my head.

When I was younger, I was fairly conservative with my choices. I was not foolhardy. I held things close to my chest. I was careful to protect myself from possible disappointment. I avoided pain at all cost. You know…better safe than sorry, right? Well, as I’ve gotten older and been able to enjoy the unsweetened benefit of hindsight, I have come to realize that my only regrets in life are a direct result of the chances I did not take, opportunities I did not seize because I was cautious. I understand that you only get one go-around, so when an opportunity presents itself now, no matter how frightened or uncomfortable I am, I try to take it. It’s better to give something your honest all, to put yourself out there, and go balls-to-the-wall, than it is to spend the rest of your life wondering what if. Second guessing yourself is a worse fate than failure.

Today as I sat shaking my head about Coach Fox’s game decision yesterday, I found myself wondering if he is already second guessing his choice. If he’d let Manning play those thirty seconds and try to put together a drive down the field, we might have lost the game in regulation. Manning could have been picked off or there could have been a fumble. It might have ended badly. But, what if it hadn’t? What if Manning had pulled out another one of his clutch performances? Thirty seconds is still plenty of time in a football game when you’ve got a competent leader at quarterback. Perhaps we’d been have been able to give Matt Prater a second shot at a crucial field goal or maybe Manning would have been able to hit Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker for a touchdown? We’ll never know. I believe, as Alvin Toffler said, “It’s better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.” In the end, people respect those who dare. And, those who dare never have to wonder what if.

 

Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: A Coward’s Guide To Becoming Brave

Me with the lovely and talented Miss Vivienne VaVoom

Last weekend I had the opportunity to hear New York Times best-selling author Richard Paul Evans speak. Although he’s sold millions of copies of his books, I’d never read one of them so I had no idea what to expect from his speech or what, if anything, I might glean from it to help me on my own personal book journey. He spoke about the realm of self-publishing and what it takes these days to become a best-selling author. He was engaging and personable, full of positive energy and self-confidence, which is probably how he has gotten as far as he has because publishing is a difficult business that can diminish even the bravest souls. I watched him carefully, trying to determine if I had the same chutzpah he does, wondering if I could be bold. Then, he made a statement that caught my attention: “Every time I take risks, my life gets better.”

I’ve been repeating that statement to myself for five days now. As it has flipped over and over in my head like a rock in a tumbler, it has become shinier and brighter and more attention worthy. Life does get better when we take risks. We get nowhere when we are cautious or fearful. We stagnate when fail to use our imagination. The accomplishments in my life of which I am most proud were only realized after I’d been willing to move in a direction that made me uncomfortable in some way. I probably haven’t been uncomfortable enough often enough.

But, there have been moments when I did take what I felt was a personal risk. At those times, I’ve definitely come away a better person than I was before I began. I once took a dance class from burlesque queen Vivenne VaVoom. This required me to rehearse, create a costume and persona, and perform for an audience. I became much more self-confident after that exposure. And, there was my master’s thesis. It was a three year ordeal that I nearly didn’t finish because I had a child and then became pregnant with child number two. All the while my yet incomplete thesis postured on my desk and hurled taunts at me: You’re not good enough. No one really cares what you have to say, anyway. You think you’re special or something? Still, I pushed myself. I wrote while my son sat in his exersaucer in the room with me. I edited while he slept. I wrote four rough drafts before my thesis director was ready to let me defend. I flew back to Illinois for my defense, pregnant and nauseous, but I at last earned my master’s degree. In doing so, I learned that even with kids I could accomplish goals I set.

Now, I prepare for another uncomfortable risk as I stand on the precipice of authorship. It’s scary up here. I’ve started writing, but I’m not sure if I’m heading in the right direction. I do know, though, that my life will not get better if I don’t take this risk. Still, I’m talking to myself a lot to steel my nerves: You can do this. You’ve got it in you. Believe in yourself.  The part of me that is angry with myself for not taking this risk sooner gets a regular backhanded smack from the part of me that knows that I could not have attempted this in my 20’s because I wasn’t brave enough then. I needed these extra 20 years to set down firm roots so I could begin to inch ever so slowly up and out of myself. Above my head at my writing desk is this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…do the thing you think you cannot do.” Writing a book has always been the one thing I was sure I could not do. I wanted to do it. I just didn’t think I could. I’m setting out and taking a risk to prove myself wrong and to create a better, stronger, wiser me.

What is the thing you have told yourself that you cannot do? Are you brave enough to risk it to see if your life gets better? What is one risk you have taken that made your life better? Please share your stories because I need all the inspiration I can get as I continue this journey.