Get Smart And Just Do It: A Reflection
"Life goes by very fast and you're a long time in the ground. So, you either have to hurt yourself, or the people you love, but you have to do it now." —as told to Don Adams by his mother
I'm such a damn conservative. I mean, I'm not talking about my political leanings, though it just so happens that I am a conservative in that respect as well. I'm talking about being conservative in life in general. I'm a guy who is very much risk averse. I mean, it has served me well over the years, don't get me wrong. I've done okay for myself as far as I'm concerned. I've got a little bit of investment property, I've got a few bucks tucked aside for a rainy day in my bank account, and I do play the stock market. I even take on a little bit of risk in doing that, but not a lot. Not nearly a lot.
I'm not rich. I'm not in my own business. I've got a few bucks lying around that I could start one. And, I've got a few ideas tucked away somewhere about what kind of business I could start.
But that means invading my comfort zone to do it. It means taking on quite a lot more risk than I'm wanting to. It means opening up the possibility of losing things.
I mean, I'm not really all that different than most people are, I suppose. It's hard to make change. It's hard to take on risk. It's hard to leave one's comfort zone and delve into areas of the unknown. It can be as scary as walking blindfolded along an unfamiliar street. You don't know where the curbs are, the sign poles, the traffic, and at any moment you could find yourself face down on the ground after an awful trip, or sailing through the air after making a surprise meeting with the hood of a passing car.
I like to know where I'm going, thank you very much.
But what Don Adams' mother told him one day is rather profound. Life goes by very fast and you're a long time in the ground. You really only get one time around the bend. One shot. This is it. You better make it worth it. That's what it says to me. Because once it's done, you'll be in the ground for a hell of a lot longer than you were ever up here.
If you are going to do it, you better get on with doing it, because it's quick and before you know it, it's done.
Lights out folks. Show's over.
I remember my grandfather telling me many years ago about a decision he made once in his life. He had been working for a company that made tractors and things, Allis-Chalmers, at the West Allis plant near Milwaukee, and he simply decided one day that he had had enough of it. And so he quit. I don't recall what it was that drew him to that decision, ultimately, what the dynamic was, but whatever it was, he made the decision that that was what he was going to do, and that was it. Heedless of the consequences. He wasn't happy with it, and so it was time to move on.
But that was a good paying job back then, you know? Good pay. Good, solid benefits. And he had mouths to feed. Three daughters and a son, and of course there was his wife at home as well. And like anyone would have, there were bills to pay. And there did come a time that he regretted making the decision. "I think I made a mistake," he told himself once. "I thought, maybe I had been a little too cocky."
But then, hindsight is always 20/20. He eventually wound up working for what was then American Motors, which was ultimately bought out by Chrysler at one point—though, that came after he retired from AMC after 30 or so years working there. But he had a great pension, great retiree benefits such as fully paid medical. The decision he made ultimately turned out to be the best one that he could have made since Allis-Chalmers had gone belly-up in the 1980's, and while the company is still in operation today, it's a shell of its former self. Many former employees lost it all, including my uncle who had worked there for 11 or so years. And the West Allis plant is now nothing more than a strip mall and a few office buildings.
Had he not taken the plunge and risked it all, he might not have been so lucky in his later years.
It's a small example, I know. He didn't start a business or become rich. But it was still a decision that could have changed his life for the better or for the worst. It could have shaped his future in a good way or in a bad way. But it was one that he felt he had to make, to leave Allis-Chalmers and embark down an unfamiliar street irrespective of what might be the result of that. The decision he made could very well have hurt himself, it could have put his very livelihood on the line, and ultimately, it could have hurt the people he loved. But he had to do it. He had to do it then. Because the hands of time were ticking away, and life goes very fast indeed. He told me once, "Sometimes you think to yourself at the time, 'shit, what the hell did I do?' but then look back and think 'I'm glad I did it.'"
My grandfather lived a simple life. He didn't take on a lot of risk overall. I think it served him well. Looking at it, the Allis-Chalmers decision he made wasn't even perhaps risky at all when you take in all of the 93 years he lived. Surely, there were riskier things. I know there were riskier things. But I think the moral of the story I got from his tale, and that I take away from Don Adams' mother's very profound statement is that you have to believe that it will all work out if you go after whatever it is you want to do with the knowing that it's in you to not let it all fall to pieces. It doesn't mean it will be easy. It doesn't mean you'll even succeed. You can do down an unfamiliar street, but do it smart. You don't have to go at it blindfolded and walk into a passing car. Granted, it doesn't mean you'll have any better idea where the street leads to, or where you'll end up, or even if it's ultimately going to be the place you thought you'd get to. But you can at least see what's in front of you along the way, and choose your steps accordingly.
I write this as I feel I am at such a point in my life now. A point at which I can choose. A point which I feel I want to make a choice. Whatever happens, I know it's up to me. Still, I am a damn conservative. At some point I know I've got to get smart and just do it. Make a decision. The clock is ticking. The question is, will I? It's quite a question.
I heard it said once that he who risks nothing, in the end risks it all. I think that's what Don Adams' mother meant by what she said. I think that's what my grandfather's story says to me.
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