When I was a little kid, my parents taught me a basic concept called “trying.”
“Trying” is the process of attempting to do something when you’re not sure that you actually have the ability to do it. “Trying” is when you take a chance even though you have no reasons to assume that your efforts will prevail.
Trying is very different from things like “being positive” or “having faith” or other common motivational platitudes frequently used to inspire people.
Trying doesn’t require any commitments other than the willingness to do something new.
“Being positive” and “having faith” is much more difficult than trying because they usually require you to actually believe that something good is going to happen.
Trying, on the other hand, is based on an open-minded willingness to use action as a tool for discovery. When you try something new, you fully understand that your efforts may succeed or that your efforts may fail. Either way, you learn something new and you become more mature in the process.
So when my dad first taught me how to shoot a basketball, for instance, he said “give it a try.” He didn’t say “you can do it” or “Don’t worry, son. You’ll make the shot and it will be amazing.” He didn’t lie to me. He didn’t inspire me with false promises. He simply challenged me to take a chance. I didn’t take that chance because I naively believed I would succeed. It was much simpler than that. I took that chance because I was willing to explore something I had never done before. I never became a good basketball shooter, but that’s okay. I tried. That’s how trying works. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. Always you learn. Always you grow.
Trying has become a lost art.
We live in a world where many people have lost their ability to imagine a basis for action other than blind faith in positive outcomes. When I encourage people to consider new possibilities, it’s not uncommon for them to object by saying “I’m not a positive person like you are.”
Here’s today’s two cents:
Forget about being positive for two seconds and just open your mind to trying something new. You don’t need to sign a contract. You don’t need to make a blood sacrifice to Baphomet. You don’t need to bet your life savings on the results. You don’t need to cash in your 401K. You don’t need to renounce your religion or life philosophy. You don’t need to quit your fraternity. You don’t need to make a concession speech. You don’t need to breakup with your significant other or divorce your spouse. You don’t need to make any predictions about what’s going to happen. You don’t need to have faith that everything’s going to turn out awesome. You only need to drop the assumption that you know everything there is to know about every possible scenario.
Trying new things isn’t about being delusional. It’s about being experimental.
Trying new things isn’t about being confident in what you think you can do. It’s about refusing to be overconfident in what you think you already know.
Life isn’t a false dichotomy between having faith and living in despair. Between faith and despair, there is a boundless sea of possibility that constantly awaits our willingness to explore. Dive in for a change. Or at least dip your toes into something exotic, fresh, strange, daring, or unfamiliar.
“But why should I try something new?”
Why not? What else are you going to do?
If you’re genuinely happy and content with the way things are, then you’ve already discovered everything you need. Enjoy it. If there’s something you don’t like about your life or the world, however, then is there really any other option for discovering what the full extent of your possibilities are?
“But trying new things is such a waste of time.”
Compared to what? Compared to not trying anything at all? Compared to just sitting around and being angry at the harsh realities of life?
If you truly believe that nothing can be done about the stuff that displeases you, then you might as well try to have some fun while you weather the storm. But if you believe there are still some ideas worth trying, then you have to actually….you know….try them.
Go ahead. Give something new a try. I can’t promise that everything will be okay, but that was never the point of trying anyway.