Yes, I’m aware of the irony of titling my first post of 2012 after George W. Bush’s autobiography. Decisiveness is one of those traits highly valued in leaders, that they are firm and resolute in their convictions. Strangely enough it seems immaterial what those convictions are, as long as they are unwavering – someone who takes the time to examine an issue thoroughly before committing to a course of action is dismissed as a ditherer. It’s assigning total vindication to the concept of leaping before you look, inasmuch as it matters less that the leap will actually kill you than it does that you were certain about leaping in the first place. I’ve chosen this topic for my 2012 leadoff slot because it relates to my sole New Year’s Resolution: to be more decisive. Which is not to imply that I’m advocating the abandonment of sound judgment; it is certainly not to suggest substituting recklessness for reason. Rather, it is the idea of committing fully to a course of action instead of hemming and hawing and gaming out all possible failing scenarios first. Acting the latter is the equivalent of standing on the side of a busy roadway watching cars race by, when you really should be in that race. You should have been in it eighty-three laps ago, but you’re waiting for an elusive “perfect moment” to jump in. Truthfully, you’re not waiting for a perfect moment. It’s a fable you’ve conjured to rationalize your unwillingness to shift into gear and step on the gas. It is the eternal lament of the coward who has resigned himself to never trying.
We can sit back on our couches and slam the politician with the redneck opinions, the auto-tuned singer of dubious talents but ample cleavage, the latest hack vampire novelist, the hopelessly wooden thespian, the football team that never wins. But every single one of those people chose to stand up and try. It doesn’t matter that they may have succeeded because of how they look or who they knew or just plain dumb luck. They could have stayed home and kept to themselves, settled for a less than ordinary life. Something compelled them to take that fateful step into traffic. Ambition is not a vice; indeed, it is the driving force at the heart of all human progress since the beginning of time. I’m writing this on a computer and sharing it with the world because someone long ago decided they wanted something other than pen and paper. And before that someone decided they wanted something other than chisels and stone tablets, or charcoal and cave walls upon which to record their thoughts and stories. Star Trek was never about going timidly where thousands had gone already, if, you know, it was perfectly safe to do so and no one else would be upset by it. Hard to imagine getting excited about a television series like that, isn’t it. As it is hard to imagine getting excited about a life of hesitation and half-heartedness. Those who make a mark on the world use their whole heart. One shudders, like Ebenezer Scrooge confronted by the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, at the prospect of looking back from the tail end of life at endless opportunities forsaken and dreams that never got off the ground. That beautiful girl you never had the courage to ask out. The trip you never took. The jobs you didn’t apply for, the promotions you didn’t chase after. The novel you never submitted to a publisher. The treasures locked inside your soul that you never chose to share with anyone else. What then are you taking with you as you shuffle off this mortal coil? What are you leaving behind? Someone, I think it was Mark Twain, had a great quote about being more disappointed twenty years from now by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did – regardless of whether you succeeded at them or not. Regret is the most burdensome of Jacob Marley’s chains.
My promise to myself for this year, then, is to charge at life. If I am to fail, then I want to fail with a huge Graham-shaped hole left in the wall I just ploughed into at full speed. (Full credit to Aaron Sorkin for that delightful metaphor.) Moreover, I hope to never again answer the question, “What do you want to do?” with “I dunno, what do you wanna do?” That is giving up one of your most precious freedoms as a human being – the freedom to decide the course of your own life. Even in matters as seemingly nonchalant as what to have for dinner. 2012 for me, is to be a year with no regrets, and no chances passed up. That is the stuff of living itself.
Oh yes. And I also promise to blog more.