It just occurred to me. I’ve never been punched in the face. Not once. Not even close. In fact, the only physical fight I ever got into was in 5th grade. It was an awkward slap-a-thon with another kid over some missing scratch-n-sniff stickers. Not one of my prouder moments.
Now, you would think that roaming the planet for 41 years without getting punched in the face would be a pretty decent accomplishment. Maybe not worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize or anything like that. But at the very least a high-five or something. Especially considering that I grew up with glasses, braces, buck teeth and a trombone.
But it’s not.
It’s not because the reason that I have never been punched in the face is because I have never pushed someone or something far enough beyond the breaking point that’s worthy of a punch in the face. I’ve stepped up to the line. Maybe even danced around it a bit. But I’ve always been painfully aware of that line and kept a pretty safe distance.
I suppose I could romanticize it to make myself feel better. Maybe label myself a lover and not a fighter. Or perhaps find a different cliché out there that would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But the truth is that I have never been punched in the face because I play it safe. And I have the lack of scars to prove it. Inside and out.
What’s the Problem With Being Safe?
Don’t get me wrong. Safe isn’t always bad. There is a benefit to playing it safe. You don’t get hurt as often. And when you do get hurt, it just kind of stings. It’s not that “knock you on your ass for a few days” kind of hurt that you might get otherwise. And while we’re at it, playing it safe allows you the benefit of being able to sleep at night too. That’s always nice.
But there is also price to be paid for playing it safe.
Sometimes that price is as simple as wondering what it feels like to get punched in the face because it’s something you’ve never experienced before. And other times the price is the pit in your stomach that comes with backing down from an altercation for fear of getting punched in the face because it’s something you’ve never experienced before.
There’s a big difference.
What Does Being Safe Cost You?
I’d like to pretend that not getting punched in the face has not cost me. After all, it looks like it hurts! And I’m sure that if I were to ask someone who’s been punched in the face what it feels like, my guess is that nine times out of ten the answer would be an enthusiastic “it sucked!”
But I would imagine that having that experience would also make you stronger. Knowing what it feels like to get punched in the face has to make you less afraid of getting punched in the face. You know what it feels like. There is no more mystery. And when you are less afraid of it, you are more likely to risk it the next time an opportunity comes up.
It’s not that you are now more comfortable with stepping over the line. It’s that you’ve actually moved the line.
Let’s look at this a different way for all of my fellow peace makers out there. How many times have you heard that “rags to riches” story about someone who came from nothing and became an overwhelming success? We all assume that they risked it all because in reality they had nothing to risk. But I don’t agree. I believe they were able to risk it all because they already knew what it felt like to have nothing. And having nothing is not as scary the second time around. In other words, they aren’t afraid of getting punched in the face because they already know what it feels like. And when you already know what it feels like, it takes some of the mystery out of it. And with the mystery goes a lot of the risk.
But for those who have never really experienced having nothing, the thought of it seems to be too risky. You are afraid of what that first punch in the face might feel like. So you build it up and make it scarier than it really is. Assume the worst case scenario.
And so you play it safe.
But Isn’t Playing it Safe Risky?
Not only is playing it safe a risk, but it is even more of a risk than not when you take a step back and look at the entire timeline that is your life. When you consider the whole playing field, that punch in the face is merely just a blip on the screen.
But not the repercussions that come with spending your life avoiding that punch in the face. The time spent wondering what your life could have been like. And all of the resentment that comes with that.
Keith Cunningham once said something that has haunted me every day since the first time heard him say it. “Hell on earth would be meeting the person you could have been.” (Tweet This)
It haunts me because when I look at all that I have accomplished in my life, if I had to be brutally honest with myself, I’ve been playing it safe. At least by my standards anyway. Sure, a bunch of times I have danced pretty close to the line. Maybe even stepped over it once or twice when no one was looking. But when it came to getting punched in the face, I have allowed my inner wussy to control my decisions. I’ve been ruled by the two most dangerous words in the English language:
- What if I had started blogging sooner?
- What if I finished writing that book?
- What if I went to that seminar at 18 instead of waiting until 30?
Risk Is Just a Part of the Game
There is no way to win without risking something. You can’t get to second base without taking your foot off of first. And staying on first base for the entire game guarantees you are going to lose. So, it’s not a matter of whether you should risk it or not. It’s a matter of what you are willing to risk.
Because not risking anything is actually risking it all.
So, as we near the end of another year, I have decided that it is time. Time to risk it all. Time to remove the words “what if” from my vocabulary.
It is time for me to get punched in the face. And I am currently taking applications in the comments below.
Who’s with me?