The Art of Throwing Your Hat in the Ring

I didn’t get into Harvard.

There are many reasons, but this is the main one: I didn’t apply.

I didn’t give myself a shot because I didn’t think I stood a chance. Because if I didn’t throw my hat in the ring, I didn’t have to confront the pain of getting it thrown back at me. We’re on the same team, myself and I. But too often, I let my defense crush my offense.

And it’s not just Harvard. There are dates I never went on, jobs I never got, places I never traveled to.

There’s a whole lot of life I’ve missed because I disqualified myself before the race even started.

Last year, I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. Here is a moment I’ve kept with me since:

Ash Wolfe is a theater director. One night, during an audience talkback, a woman shares that her daughter wants to be a director. It’s so hard to make it, the woman says. Shouldn’t I encourage her to do something where she stands a chance? Ms. Wolfe replies yes, it’s hard. And then she tells the woman this:

“I think you should tell her that’s wonderful, because the truth is, the world will probably whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should.”

It’s just as true for ourselves. The world will try to whittle us down, we never should.

That’s not our job. Our job is to move forward, with respect for long shots and rowdy ideas. Our job is to take our hat – knowing it might come back to us – and throw it in every ring.

If the world disqualifies us, the pain won’t last. But we will. And we will knowing that we gave ourselves a shot.

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