There was once a sailor who was just promoted to commander of the ship.
Before handing over the ship to, the former commander (who had been leading the ship for 10 years) handed the incoming commander a large manual for things not to do as Commander. Staring at the massive book, the incoming commander asked what it was.
“That book contains the mistakes you need to avoid. Each of those mistakes cost the life of at least one sailor...As commander of this ship, you’re going to fail and unfortunately you may need to add to the lessons of this manual in the future. The important thing is to not fail by repeating any of these mistakes. If you do, those lives will be on your hands”.
I was recently told this story and it got me thinking. We all should be failing, but we shouldn’t be failing in ways that we could have avoided with a little bit of research. We should be failing because we’re pushing the borders of our capabilities and moving into uncharted territories, not because of our failure to study the mistakes of others.
With small risks, there’s little harm in putting yourself out there. Walking up to a girl, asking her out, and getting rejected isn’t a potential failure you need to avoid or consult someone on.
With bigger risks, it’s a different story. Those big risks aren’t something you should jump into - they’ve likely been taken by many before you, and there is likely wisdom you can tap into.
It’s helpful to have a smart group of people, or a coach, you can run your risks by. People who can offer perspective and ask you questions you aren’t asking yourself. Mentors, friends, and coaches can help you see your blind spots.
When doing this, be careful about who’s opinion you consult. Different people should be consulted for different things. Parents and friends aren’t always the people we should ask. They may be comfortable people to talk to, but that won’t necessarily help you in every situation.
The point is that you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and fail, as long as you are smart about it. Don’t make big mistakes that are avoidable. Build your own book of wisdom by talking with people and learning more. Find mentors or a coach to consult. Don’t leave decisions up to your brain alone.
On an actionable level, I invite you consider the failures you have been avoiding on a day to day basis that might be holding you back from growing. By the way, every one of us does this in some capacity because it’s how our brains are wired.
Is it talking to a cute stranger on the street? Is it having a tough conversation at work? Is it deciding not to post on social media out of fear of what others might think?
What small risk can you take today that will help you grow and move towards your goals? Stop holding yourself back. Just do it!