What made speaking for commencement at the University of Pennsylvania irresistible to Denzel Washington? Was it the prestige of receiving an honorary doctorate, the thrill of inspiring thousands of graduates and parents?
None of the above, according to the Star Tribune. “I had to come exactly because I might make a fool of myself,” said Washington. “I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Nothing.”
His speech went on to enumerate a few of his early failures: almost flunking out of school, a miserable audition for Broadway. His message was that failure is inevitable if you do anything worthwhile; accept that, learn from your failures, and keep going.
I love this advice. I think it’s much needed, at commencement and throughout our lives. It’s easy to stay safe in our routines or settle for just okay. But there’s so much more to life than that. It’s also easy to think we can’t do any better than we are. But in almost every case, we can.
Yesterday was a pretty awesome day for inspiration. In addition to Denzel Washington, Jon Morrow wrote How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise, and Get Paid to Change the World, and Stacey Curnow wrote How To Quit Your Job (Even When You’re Scared Out Of Your Mind).
Suddenly, I sense the universe may be getting impatient with my efforts to liberate myself. But could it possibly be more impatient than I am?
All of this has required me to take risks, make dramatic changes, and grow, grow, grow.
Having tried it both ways, I can tell you, do the scary stuff. It’s so worth it. Each thing I’ve tried has seemed almost impossibly scary before I did it, a bit uncomfortable as I did it, and nothing but awesome in the rearview. The more I do, the more awesome I feel. It’s exhilarating. I don’t know when I’ve felt so alive. Now, like Denzel Washington, if something is scary, you can just about count on me to dare myself into it. If I don’t, my awesome coach Jonathan Mead will.
It’s a little over a year ago now since I first had the idea for this blog. Day 17,011 could have been just like any other day, and every day after it could, too. In fact, many of them were.
But I just can’t see staying in my beige box and living the B+ life forever. Every disaster reinforces this notion in my head. My job is fine, and I’m lucky to be employed during this recession, but the fact is, if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the first thing I’d do is quit.
Well, we all have a terminal illness. It’s called life. You have to make it count–nobody can do that for you.
Reading the posts about Jon and Stacey quitting their jobs was very inspiring for me. They took the leap, left behind the false security of conventional life, and started building their own paths. Jon did this despite major medical problems. Stacy did it despite having a husband and son to support.
It’s easy to make excuses for why we couldn’t possibly do something. Following your dreams can be hard and scary. You will have failures along the way. Even if we hate what we’re doing, it seems easier to keep doing it than to change. But Stacey and Jon did it anyway. Look at all they’ve accomplished.
I’m hot on their trail. What about you?
I’m not saying everyone should quit their job. If you enjoy your job and find it meaningful, more power to you! You’re already where I’m trying to get.
I mean look at the bigger picture. What do you need to do to follow your dreams? What small steps can you take today to get started? It’s time to start taking risks and making things happen.
“Do you have the guts to fail?” Denzel Washington asked. “If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.”