Running with bulls in Pamplona is risky, eating with chopsticks in not.
Right now I work in a sushi restaurant at nights as a side hustle while I try to get my physical therapy practice off the ground. Over the course of the last few months, I have observed countless people pulling out their chopsticks and immediately rubbing them together like a knife and a sharpening stick. Why? They are trying to remove any rogue splinters from their eating utensils that could potentially end up in their lips or tongue. Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. For anyone who has used chopsticks, they know that the two pieces of wood connect on the thick ends. Those ends are typically used to pick up food and move it from the communal dish to your own personal dish. The tapered end, the end that wasn’t connected to begin with, the end that doesn’t have any splinters, is the one you use to pick up food and put into your mouth. Now, I have been eating sushi for years using those same chopsticks and have never once gotten a splinter in my mouth. Is that luck? I doubt it for 2 reasons: 1) I use the appropriate end and 2) there is almost no risk of splinters whatsoever regardless of which ends you use.
So why the long narrative about chopsticks and splinters? Watching people go through this ridiculous tradition made me realize last night how many people are so risk averse that they will do silly things (like rubbing chopsticks together) to avoid potential pain (like getting a splinter stuck in their face.) Now, this is not a new revelation by any means. Countless authors before me have written about this very topic, probably far more eloquently and adept than I have but I want to put my thoughts on paper just in case someone can benefit from this.
Last night, I thought about the perceived risk that I took in starting my own business. There were a few sleepless nights where I was concerned about the loan I had taken out and whether that had been a good idea. I wondered if I was putting my family in some sort of mortal danger. I was scared of failing because of what I didn’t know or what I couldn’t accomplish on my own. There were and still are many unknown variables but I took the risk anyway.
4 months into this whole ordeal I have learned a lot that I would not have known or believed back then. It turns out, taking out that loan was the only way I was going to get things off the ground. My family is not in mortal danger. I am not failing, in fact, I am slowly growing in ways I could never have imagined.
Starting this business seemed extremely risky for me because I have a very real fear of debt. But the reality is, I have been living with student loans and mortgages for years and thrived in spite of that. There was no need to worry about such a silly little undertaking like starting my own business but I didn’t understand that until I actually did it.
There are so many times when we create this big scary monster of “what if” in our heads that completely paralyzes us from doing the exact things we should be doing. We should be going back to school to get that degree or starting a family or applying for that new job or whatever it is that your heart desires. It seems scary because of all the lies or misconceptions we tell ourselves. For instance, the first 21 years of my parent’s marriage my mother would not drop anyone off at the Newark airport because she was CONVINCED that she would take a wrong turn, end up in New York City and get mugged. After driving there once with a friend, she found out that it was very easy to get to the airport and that she rather enjoyed the ride. That was 21 years of self denial in a pleasurable experience because of one negative thought!
We all have our boogie men that prevent us from doing something because it seems scary or risky. Do yourself a favor and ask, “Has anyone before me done what I want to do now?” Chances are they have and chances are very good they succeeded. Why not you?
Taking an objective look at risk is difficult because we are emotional animals. Set aside some time to thoughtfully reflect on what is stopping you from doing what your heart desires. Are the risks real or perceived? Pay attention to what others have done before you and remember, success leaves clues.
Taking risks is never easy, real or otherwise. But you don’t want to be like the rest of the herd that just goes with the flow, do you? Take a risk, eat some metaphorical sushi without rubbing the sticks together and see what happens. You might be surprised.