In 2002, Eminem won the an Academy Award for “Best Original song” with his song “Lose Yourself.” It was the first rap song to ever win that category. The song also received two Grammy Awards in 2004. It spent twelve weeks straight as the number one song in the US.
If you’re not familiar with it then let me be the first to officially call you “old.” Most people seem to know it and like it. I like it. Maybe you listened to it on the way to your basketball game. Maybe you listened to it before a big interview. Heck, I know you guys have listened to it at least once before you called up a girl to ask her out.
This song is so crazy popular because people love the message of it. The lyrics are inspiring.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,
You own it, you better never let it go,
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow,
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
Everyone wants to believe we have it in us to be a risk taker, and most of us think that we probably are. But if we’re completely honest, and accurate, we might not be as hardcore, freewheeling as we like to think we are. Just because we say #YOLO before we buy a lottery ticket doesn’t mean we’re exactly living on the edge.
I think the word Risk has become quite romanticized. Most people have been told many times to “Chase your dreams!” “Follow your heart.” “Take a risk. Take a chance, and breakaway.” (Yes, I just quoted that. #Noshame. #YOLO.) We all know these types of phrases because it’s the advice we give. How many dopey word-picture-thingies do you see people post on social media with advice on living life to the fullest and taking risks?
According to what we post, we believe that life should be spent running through wheat fields by ourselves and doing random back flips into the sky. Or maybe it’s just that those are the types of risks we believe in. When it comes to taking actual risk-risks in our lives, do we really mean what we say?
I also think that people are pretty cynical these days. We are a generation of dreamer-cynics. If that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because it doesn’t, but I think that’s what we’re becoming. I don’t know how it happened, but I think the fact that everyone gets to critique everyone else on the Internet has something to do with it.
We’ve seen it all, and we’re experts on every subject in life. Everyone has an opinion on every matter and somehow everyone is right about everything. We will advertise that we’re all for taking risks, but when someone has a risk presented to them, we will gladly shoot down their ambitions with what we would call “sound life advice.” We’ve seen people try it before. We know how it ends.
I’m not suggesting throwing all caution to the wind, and I wholly believe in asking for guidance from people you love and respect. It’s just that I’ve noticed that us dreamer-cynics also struggle at defining a few words. Words like caution. We tell someone to be cautious, or that our advice comes merely to caution them out of love. While that might be true in some cases, I wonder if we’ve started believing we’re acting in caution when we really are just acting in fear.
We want to be risk takers, but we’re afraid. We want to believe, but we don’t have the guts to fail in front of our friends. Or maybe we’ve tried before and failed. It sucks to repeat an embarrassing moment.
But what is failure? I mean really, what is it? Is it not getting the position you set out to get? Is it not making as much money as you wanted? Is it losing your money? What is failure?
If it’s possible for you to be successful at something, then it also has to be possible to fail, too; I’m not denying that failure exists. But I will say that I think we’ve used the word failure a little too freely and excessively. Especially in our own lives. I know this because I’ve done it.
Are you a failure if you interviewed for a position and then didn’t get it? Is that failure? Are you a failure if you want to have children and can’t? Are you a failure if no one asks you to prom? Are you a failure if your friends make more money than you?
I think we identify those things as failures when truly it is just that we are not meeting the expectations we put on ourselves. Failure is the downside of taking a risk, but just because you don’t get what you were hoping for, it doesn’t mean that the risk you took was stupid.
Risks are terrifying, and they are usually only perceived as being awesome when they turn out in our favor. But I think the people we see that successfully pull off some risks most likely have a pile full of risks that failed as well. They just had enough guts to keep trying.
Can you think of a time when you bet it all? As I write this, I am currently assessing my own risks and trying to make good decisions. Honestly, I am also terrified. But I think that after all of my analyses, my pros and cons lists, my calculations, and my predictions, I find myself more terrified of not trying and being stuck having to wonder what could have been. That’s the greater fear.
Seek out wise counsel. Do your homework. Don’t repeat past mistakes. And finally, please allow me to chime in with the people who post those inspiring pictures on your newsfeed: You have to try something new every once in a while. Some risks are worth it.