I’ll be thirty three in September. My girlfriend and I are discussing buying a home and the question of children has come up one or two hundred times. I’ll let you in on a secret; I don’t feel like I’m ready. And I should know; I’ve felt like I’m not ready for pretty much my entire life.
Let me tell you a story. Many years ago I decided I wanted to work in advertising. I didn’t yet have a degree so the grad recruitment schemes were off limits. I had no contacts to speak of in the industry and no idea how to make any. But I really wanted to do it so I came up with a plan. I had a friend print me up a t-shirt; on the back it said:
I want a job in advertising.
And then I put my phone number at the bottom.
I figured that I must meet people in the advertising industry all the time but I just didn’t know who they were. The person in the queue behind me at the supermarket could be an art director. The person sitting next to me on the bus could be a copywriter. It stood to reason that if they knew I wanted a job one of them might be able to help me.
I felt silly sometimes, walking around with that t-shirt on. I had a few odd comments; though strangely no odd texts. And after a few days, someone handed me a business card. It actually worked! He was the creative director for a large advertising agency and he asked me to give him a call. To my eternal regret, I never did.
Why? I chickened out. Opportunity knocked and I hid behind the curtains. I bottled it. You see, the thing is, I wasn’t ready.
But what did I expect? There are things in life that you can prepare for. You can be ready to go to work once you’ve showered and dressed and had your morning coffee. You can be ready to watch a movie once you’ve got the popcorn in and switched off your phone. You can even be ready for scary things like exams if you’ve studied hard. But those aren’t the moments life is really made up of and I’ve come to realise that being ready, in those big, life type moments, doesn’t really mean being ready at all.
The moment I chickened out of, the call I didn’t make, wasn’t about me being a complete newbie in the world of advertising. It wasn’t about me being a beginner with no experience and no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t ready in that sense and, of course, I couldn’t be. You can’t learn to swim without getting your feet wet and I wasn’t there, standing on the edge of the pool, expecting to master the breaststroke by thinking about it really hard!
No, what I wasn’t ready for was to take a risk. I wasn’t prepared to get shot down. I wasn’t willing to take this idea I had in my head and test it in the big bad world. I was as prepared as I could possibly be in that moment in so much as expertise and experience was concerned, what I lacked was the willingness to leap and perhaps to fall.
Now, a decade on, I have a great deal more experience of the world but all I can really say I’m ready for is stuff I’ve done before. Everything else is about doing something I’m not ready for. And that’s some scary stuff. But there’s something scarier still.
That right there is your life passing by.
If you’ve got a dream of any kind, an ambition or desire burning in you, then every day when you don’t take your chances, every call you chicken out of, is just letting the clock run down.
You can tell yourself you’re waiting until you’re ready but the point is this: you never will be. There is no moment when suddenly it all falls into place. There is no ready when it comes to life stuff; there’s only the willingness to take a risk, make a leap, and be willing to get up again if you fall.