Nutshell Wisdom: Take a Risk Today

Nutshell Wisdom: Take a Risk Today

Writing and publishing my first book (Simple Truth) in 1990 was probably, at the time, the greatest self-image battle I had ever faced. I had always wanted to be, and planned to be, a writer. For as long as I could remember, that was how I saw myself. But, actually writing and publishing a book, that was another matter altogether.

With crystal clear hindsight, it is easy to see now:

As long as I postponed writing that first book, as long as I just never got around to actually doing it, as long as it was a project “in development,” I was safe. I could remain “potentially” a great writer. But, if I were to actually write the book, I would be trading my safe, secure “potential success” for the real world possibilities of rejection and failure.

When I was brave enough to admit what I was going through, my good (and insightful and very honest) friend, Evelyn, set me straight. “If you want to have any chance of writing a great book,” Evelyn said, “you are going to have to be willing to write a total piece of crap, the worst book ever written.” She was describing the leap of faith that we all face countless times in our lives, when we refuse to let fear be in charge. Evelyn was right: if I wanted the chance to succeed as a writer, I had to be willing — really willing — to fall flat on my face. I have continued to learn and relearn this important lesson, in more ways than I could possibly count, well beyond 1990, and well beyond the business of writing and publishing. These days, it shows up on one of my nutshell cards, simply as, “If you want to succeed, be willing to fail.”

(Any of this sounding familiar?)

When the Simple Truth was complete, Evelyn, wrote me this short note:

“Writing is a death defying high wire act, and you have pulled it off.”

Evelyn had challenged me to take the leap, and now her words marked a turning point in my self-perception — not only as a writer, but also as a human being. I keep that brief note close by, to remind me — not so much that I have fulfilled a dream, but that I am wide awake, living in the real world. I took a big risk, my big risk, and it became a right of passage into a strange new world of genuine self-responsibility. I would have never guessed the real world could be so much fun, even without a guarantee of success.

As a recovering alcoholic, I learned the value of not taking the insane risks associated with my addiction. But I have also learned that there are sane risks. These are the risks we take in our daily lives to avoid becoming stuck in the quicksand of second-guessing and self-doubt. These are the risks we take when we stand up . . . and tell our inner bullies to sit down and shut up, when we refuse to let fear run our lives.

And then there are the bigger risks — like writing my first book. These risks are more than just sane; they are necessary for our sanity.

Have you faced your big risks? Are you facing one now? Life is a death defying high wire act. Are you pulling it off?

Thom Rutledge