May 5, 2014

Take a Chance on You

station wagon dan pontefractThe early 1980’s saw me suffer through horrors of unimaginable proportions.

As an eight through twelve-year old boy, our family car was none other than the Ford Country Squire station wagon. Yes, it was a magic bucket of bolts on four sturdy wheels replete with … wait for it … fake exterior wood paneling.

The ignominy didn’t end there.

Inside the ‘woodie’ was an 8-track cassette player. I swear my parents only had money for one 8-track and – wouldn’t you know it – that one cassette was the greatest hits of ABBA.

As you can imagine, I heard the song “Take a Chance On Me” several million times.

Maybe that’s where my gumption comes from. It hurts to admit it, but maybe ABBA helped me become who I am today.

Are you afraid to take a chance?

Do you have the courage to try new things with your passions, with your career, with your life?

Does bravery emit from you as laughter does by children at a playground?

Michael Jordan once said:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

(Nike Culture: The Sign of the Swoosh (1998), by Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson, p. 49)

mj_baseballI thoroughly enjoyed watching Jordan play basketball. There was confidence. There was a bit of a swagger. There was leadership. But most of all, there was courage. He was willing to try. He was able to coach and mentor his teammates to try harder, to push for that extra inch of space. He always tried harder. He not only wanted the ball to take that last shot, he was comfortable knowing he might not make it.

He even tried baseball with the entire world wondering, “What is he doing?”

That’s part of being brave. It’s an integral piece to the gumption puzzle.

For the past five years I’ve had the luxury of working with an amazing team – both directly and indirectly across the entirety of the organization I work for – and we all accomplished incredible feats. It’s been an incredible thrill; an honour to be part of something so transformative.

I could have begun to mail it in though.

I could have rested on the security of a past track record. I could have simply collected the paycheque.

I could have resisted the ball – the last shot – and said, “No, let’s keep passing it around to one another.” That’s safer. We’ll be ok.

I could have resisted shifting from being a basketball player to trying to become a baseball player.

But I would have been untrue to myself. I would have felt as though I was cheating. To me, the journey would have ended.

I’m not suggesting I’m perfect – by all means, I’m full of foibles – but one thing I learned long ago was that life should be treated as a journey, and that journey needs to be fueled by courage, bravery and gumption.

I don’t want to fail, but I’m absolutely comfortable in my own skin knowing that things might not work out.

I invested heavily in Blackberry, and … well that’s not going very well.

I once bought a condominium that was sold eight months later for less than what was originally paid.

I gave a presentation in the late 1990’s unrehearsed, unscripted and without PowerPoint slides to see if I’d be able to pull it off. It was mediocre at best.

I toured on bicycle throughout Tuscany in 2012 (with my better half) and didn’t use a map or strategize a touring plan before the trip began. There were innumerable moments where I thought we might divorce. This included the time where a decline of 20% grade on one of the many hills in the region saw a certain someone descending the road not riding her bike, but by walking it … in her socks.

She started talking to me again on the flight back to Vancouver a few days later.

ABBAThe examples above are failures. But I learned from those failures. Most importantly, I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t pleased with the end result, but I learned and used it to my advantage in other situations.

That job I just left? It was fantastic. It was as cool as the one I left in 2008. It was as cool as the one I left in 2002 and in 1998 too.

I have no idea if I’m going to be successful in this next role. But I have confidence in my ability and my prior experience should help me navigate through the forest of the unknown. We might call it needing to have a bit of ‘Forrest Gumption’. (nailed it)

I guess you could say I’m always willing to take a chance on me. Thank you ABBA. Thank you overly grotesque station wagon.

Which begs the question, do you “Take a Chance on You?”

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