Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This Is How You Become Great...

...You hang your balls out there.

For those who don't recognize it, that's a near-quote from the Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire. (The actual quote is "That's how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there.") Of course, the movie is best known for the catchphrase "Show me the money!" but it's this lesser-known line that has always resonated with me.  It's uttered in a scene when Jerry is picking up copies of this manifesto that he's written from the copier, and the guy who works there has seemingly read it and is singularly impressed:

For me, that line has always meant that in order to reach your full potential, you have to risk failure - and often a huge, embarrassingly public failure at that.  But let's face it: there's risk inherent in almost everything that we do. You want to play basketball for your school? Then you have to go out for the team and risk being cut. You want to be a lawyer? Then you may have to take on mind-boggling debt to make it happen, knowing it might take you decades to pay it back. You want a beautiful wife? Then you've got to have the stones to ask her out in the first place and possibly get rejected.

In short, very few of us are going to be able to play it safe and get everything we want out of life. It simply doesn't work that way. It's certainly true in terms of writing. After you finish writing something, you have to be willing to put it out there - let the world see it, smell it, critique it, etc. Lots of people will probably call it awful. Some will say they hate it. Others will say they had to finish reading it at gunpoint.

But guess what? Someone will say they liked it. A few people may even say they loved it. And at that point you'll be grateful that you didn't let fear of failure (and the accompanying risks) keep you from personal and professional fulfillment - or at least striving for them.

In the old days, they would say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." You've got to be willing to let it all hang out there if you're going to get where you want to be (or anywhere at all, in some instances). No one's saying it's going to be easy, but few things that are worthwhile in life are.

In retrospect, don't be afraid to take risks, accept the challenge, or run the risk of failure, because that's how you become great...

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