Better to Risk Boldness than Triviality

It’s better to risk boldness than triviality.

Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Waking up today, I grabbed my cup of coffee and headed into my Holy Hour. What’s a Holy Hour? For me, it’s prayer and meditation – a chance to spend time with God. At 4am, the house is silent, my head is clear, and the day is still to come. When you clear your head and listen, many things appear. Some thoughts may wander to the day ahead. Some may look at the day behind. Sometimes intractable problems get an answer or the hint of an answer. Occasionally, there is reassurance on your current path or a nudge in a different direction. Often, peace appears when you are able to let go, or at least, loosen that grip on life.

Today, some meditation on Scripture turned into a bit of self-reflection. There are always opportunities for improvement and silence leaves them no place to hide. Rolling toward the end of my Hour, the whisper emerged. Sometimes, there is a whisper.

I made you for boldness.

By itself, today’s whisper is vague and of little value. Is it a call to action? Is it referring to a decision? Is it a reflection on a point of failure? I’ve spent some time with the notion already and will continue to discern it’s broader message. That is the gift of it.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about you. I felt compelled to write it today. For some reason, it needed to be said now.

We’re all made for boldness. We all matter and we’re made to live our lives as if we matter. You see, you are a person of consequence. What you say has power. What you do changes the world.

Most of us spend too much time playing it safe. Living as if we aren’t of consequence. Acting like we don’t matter. Worrying that we aren’t noticed. Scared that we’ll screw up. Forgetting all that we are called to be. Feeling as if no one else in the world sees the infinite potential hidden within.

We are taught to color in the lines. Follow the rules. Wait our turn. Avoid the wrong answer. Respect authority. Know our place. Not to say anything stupid. We are conditioned to fear these and many other failings. We frequently equate our value to how we think others see us. We often act based upon the feelings that plague us.

Along the way, we begin to believe that no one cares. Or, that we can’t make a difference. Our worth becomes the sum total of the indignities heaped upon us over time. All of it occasionally interrupted by the flashes of brilliance that keep us hoping. A small hope that keeps us pressing forward.

In that world, boldness is the radical notion that you are consequential. That you can make a difference. That you matter. Boldness is believing something else than the sum total of those negative messages coming back to you. Boldness is daring to feel alive and vital in the skin you inhabit.

I made you for boldness.

Looking around, I see so much fear. It drives us to do terrible, craven things. Fear causes us to retreat, doubt, and hesitate before the grand possibilities that might be. Station, status, or zip code doesn’t matter. We’re all wrestling with the same demons. Find a bit of success? How dare you! Fall on your face? How dare you! Real and imagined, the demons remain.

What does it mean to be bold in your own life? Firstly, it means letting go of the fear. Fear of what may or may not be. Fear of what others think. Fear of failure. Fear of looking stupid. Fear of disappointing. Fear of a wrong decision. Fear of failing.

Letting go of fear does not mean you won’t feel fear. Letting go of fear begins with realizing that you are not in control, for so often, our fears creep in from the places in which we feel that we are not in control. Let go of control, and the illusion of it, even if just for a moment. You control yourself. You control the choices you make. You do not control your imperfections or the humanity that is our shared condition.

You also do not control what anyone else thinks, says, does, or does not do. That is not your responsibility.

Boldness starts with seeing a better future. Your future. Your family’s future. Boldness is daring to think that you might do something. Boldness is believing you are consequential – that your choices are consequential. Boldness is making those choices believing they will effect meaningful change. Boldness is moving toward your future vision despite resistance. Boldness is being fearless in that pursuit, even when it feels incredibly scary.

Sometimes we have to abandon the good to get something better. Often, we have to leave safety to begin the journey. At least the perception of safety. We’re never as safe as we think we are and rarely in as much danger as it may appear. We must imagine boldly. We must act boldly. We must believe boldly.

Denying boldness is to risk triviality. Smallness. The safe idea? Trivial. The risk-free decision? Of little consequence. The status quo? More of the same. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can remove risk from the world around us. We try to do it for our children. We try to do it for ourselves. Often, we try to do it for our companies, clients, patients, or students. Sorry, our world is full of risks. The dangers are real. To pursue this path is to risk triviality. To chase safety is to accept triviality.

Our companies need bigger ideas. Our business models need imagination. Our jobs need bold energy. Our reflection in the mirror must show determination to be more than we are today. Our challenges must be met with boldness. If we do not risk boldness, we risk triviality. If we do not choose to be bold, we will be of little consequence.

Boldness is not cavalier or foolish. Boldness follows the signs. Boldness is good stewardship. Boldness is showing up and leaving it better than you found it. Boldness is counter-cultural and self-assured. It doesn’t matter where you are. Boldness says “I matter” and I will live in a way that reflects that belief. Boldness is trusting even when I don’t feel it.

I made you for boldness.

The whisper returns. I can’t get it out of my mind. Will you be bold today? Can you be bold? Do you believe that you matter? Is your life of consequence? Whether you recognize it or not, your life is of consequence to someone. Whether you can admit it or not, there are those around you who are counting on your boldness. Don’t risk triviality.

Today, risk boldness. We’re all counting on you.

Showing 2 comments
  • Jerry Berry

    “Sometimes we have to abandon the good to get something better”

    Nice piece Phillip.

    Excuse me for picking out one point from a virtual smorgasbord of things to ponder. I have had occasion to mention over the years to a few individuals, something I heard and do not know who to credit for the original thought. “Good is the enemy of the best it can be”. It has always been a tough place to recognize that we are in, and almost impossible to get out of by ourselves. Ironic that we are typically better off to be in an uncomfortable setting that leaves us without a choice to make it better.

    • Phillip Berry

      Thank you! Two good reference quotes for this concept:

      “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
      – John D. Rockefeller

      “Sacrifice really means giving up something good for something better.”
      – Stephen R. Covey

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