It’s a serious mistake to allow yourself to get caught up in the “what-if” and “how-to” trap — attempting to project all problems and solutions in advance of taking action. The reality is that no one can ever hope to know all the problems in advance, let alone all the solutions.
Further, most of the things people worry about never even come to pass. Or, if they do, they end up being not nearly as bad as envisioned. Even better, some of the most ominous circumstances often turn out to be nothing more than disguises for great opportunities.
All this has reinforced my belief that, all other things being equal, taking bold action is almost always a good idea. I thought about this last weekend when my son asked me if I would take him to a University of Maryland football game on a perfect-weather Saturday.
It was quite a request, considering (1) I had never been to Maryland’s Byrd Stadium and was not certain how to get there; (2) I estimated that the University of Maryland campus was at least an hour away in modest traffic; (3) it would take us about an hour to get ready to leave the house; (4) it was 1:30 p.m. — two hours before kickoff; and (5) we had no tickets.
Nevertheless, seeing an opportunity to be anointed Father of the Week, I replied, without hesitation, “Sure, let’s do it.” Some might call this impulsive; others might refer to it as abject stupidity. However, I would argue that a fair and enlightened individual would recognize it as nothing more than temporary insanity.
But something just felt right about it. It was a beautiful, sunny day; I felt like I could run a marathon backwards; and I saw it as one of those great Steve Martin-type bonding opportunities (as in Father of the Bride).
We pulled out of the driveway at 2:30 p.m., an hour before game time. Surprisingly, traffic was unusually light, even as we began to near the University of Maryland campus. Even more surprising, the stadium came into view about forty minutes after we left the house. I still haven’t figured out how that was mathematically possible.
Now for the not-so-small matter of parking. Cars were jammed into every square inch of space on the side of every road anywhere within sight of the stadium, so I frantically looked for a parking garage. But before I could locate one, would you believe that a single parking space on the side of the road suddenly appeared — amidst thousands of parked cars — about five minutes’ walking time from the stadium?
After I parked the car, my son and I jumped out and began following the crowd toward Byrd Stadium. At this point, I was thinking what a shame it would be if it was a sellout and we’d have to turn around and go home.
Amazingly, however, as we approached the front gate, two men were standing right in front of us, one holding up a pair of tickets. He said they were his season tickets, but that he was going to be sitting elsewhere with his friend that day, so he just wanted to “get rid of them.”
He told me they were on the fifty-yard line and that he had paid $40 apiece for them. I braced myself for his asking price — $75? $100? $150? Another surprise: In an almost apologetic tone, he asked if $20 a ticket sounded reasonable to me. I refrained from hugging him, and quickly peeled off two $20 bills from the cash stash in my pocket.
Thus far, I had been wrong about every dire thought that had crossed my mind before agreeing to take my son to the game, but I felt certain I would be right about one thing: I wasn’t holding 50-yard-line seats in my hand. Scalpers are hardworking entrepreneurs, but they’ve been known to shade the truth a bit.
Surprise again: Our seats were, indeed, smack-dab on the fifty!
At halftime, since I hadn’t eaten anything before leaving the house, I began perusing the menu board at a garbage … er, concession … stand. It quickly became evident that my late lunch was going to be two hotdogs, an ice cream sandwich, and a Pepsi.
To avoid apoplexy, I reminded myself that what I was about to eat was at least healthier than cyanide-laced Kool-Aid … though not by much. Besides, the dogs were only $5.00 each, which wouldn’t even buy you a bun at Orioles Stadium.
After we finished our gourmet meal, we stopped by one of the restrooms for a little relief. How pleasant. It made the rest rooms at old RFK Stadium look like the Ritz-Carlton. Shows how easy it is to please college kids. Good thing they think it’s noble to suffer with the masses, because they definitely were suffering.
Nevertheless, the bottom line was that it was a great day, a day when everything that seemed like a problem ended up being a plus. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that things turned out so well, given how many times I’ve witnessed this type of scenario play out over the years.
The moral is that when you really want to do something but are apprehensive because you see so many “problems” on the horizon, try something novel: Do it anyway! You won’t bat 100 percent, but if you continually fail to take action, you’re guaranteed to bat zero.
And even if things don’t work out as you envisioned, you’ll find that in a vast majority of cases the fallout is not nearly as bad as you imagined. More than offsetting any pain you might endure from your missteps are the many wonderful, unexpected things that will often come into your life as a result of taking action.
All I know is that all of the would-be problems resulted in an absolutely great day, so this article earned a place in my empirical evidence file.