by Patrick McNerthney
The retreating glaciers of the last ice age formed my neighborhood. As they slowly melted – screaming in protest – and headed back to Canada, then eventually the North Pole, they took vengeance on the earth by carving out huge canyons, which eventually filled with salt water, which in turn filled with rich people’s boats after the second technology boom in Seattle and everyone became a wealthy software engineer or manager thereof and lived happily ever after. Excluding yours truly.
Yesterday I got up before sunrise. I drove two miles to the beach to stand in this salt water and throw various fishing lures at Coho or “silver” salmon – which tend to fill Puget Sound this time of year. I determined the fish were present based on the 54 manually counted, expensive looking sport fishing boats on the water that morning (likely purchased with cash by my tech-employed neighbors. The reason determining the salmon’s presence is an issue, is that these fish have a specific migratory pattern: they’re born in a river, swim out to the Pacific Ocean for a few years, then return to the river of their birth to reproduce. After which they promptly die. So Puget Sound is kind of the halfway point on this final journey home and quite frankly, I am trying to speed up the “final” part by intercepting one of these slippery bastards utilizing a rod and reel, (hopefully) well-tied knots and a lure that says “I am a fish totally smaller than you and therefore you should swallow me.”
Here’s the thing – I haven’t ever caught a fish off this beach.
Understandably, ones’ chances are better off on a boat in deeper water, but as you’ve likely deduced I do not own a boat, and my friends with boats (the best kind of boat ownership) are rare. And yes, I have acquaintances with boats and if they ever invite me I go–but that doesn’t happen too often for undetermined reasons (that may relate to my insistence on wearing a captain’s and/or pirate hat onboard).
Thus the beach is my option! This particular one is so close to my house–such quick and easy access–that I deeply believe it is no accident we ended up living here. So, all I’m sacrificing is my sleep, time, effort, strain, a little bit of money and possibly my sanity…all this to not catch fish.
The logical question is, why do I do this? My wife would love to know, as would my kid who’s taken up my wife’s mischievous grin upon my return, always asking, “Did you catch any fish?” when they already know if I had, I’d be marching in with the salmon raised high over my head like a Superbowl trophy.
Okay, so why do I do something where the metric that defines success – in my case making fresh-smoked salmon – has not only yet to be obtained but has a distinctly low percentage chance of actually happening?
It’s called “being crazy”, but in this case, crazy is a good thing. Let me break this down for you:
We talk about risk like it’s a bad thing. But we can’t accomplish anything without risk. The important part is taking risks that make sense (and yes, fishing off a beach has risks, see the aforementioned, expense/sleep deprivation/frustration statements). To do so – as I’ve learned from some super smart people – it’s wise to consider:
- Is the reward worth the odds of achieving it? (In other words, let’s look at the challenge/success ratio.) The lower our chances of things working out, the bigger the reward better be, or vice-versa: if we’re very likely to achieve our goal we should be comfortable with a smaller return.
- Are the consequences of being wrong going to prevent us from trying again? (HINT: this one is the most important in my opinion).
So as you can see, to me the reward* (an actual Coho salmon/ returning home in triumph to surprise my skeptical wife and kid) is commensurate with the low odds of achieving it. And certainly (and thankfully) if I don’t succeed I can try again as many times as I want.
*It’s also important to consider other rewards. For example, even if I don’t catch a fish, I love being up to my waist in the salt water, in the company of osprey and porpoises and seals, watching the sun rise, etc. – it’s pretty cool.
Years ago, before I understood this, I opened a business that was a very risky proposition, and didn’t consider either of these salient points. I learned a lot from the process, including the pain of consequences that prevent me from trying it again. Although I will say in hindsight, it may have been worth the risk based on the incredible amount of knowledge gained. Hmmmmmmm.
For you, taking risks may involve change and we often don’t make changes based on our unrelated, irrational fears about what could happen, which are in turn mostly based on deep feelings and a story we tell ourselves. So if you’re looking at becoming a risk-taker, instead of focusing on the fear, focus on what the reward is, what the odds are of achieving it, whether it’s worth it, and what the consequences of failure may be.
Fine Art Miracles (FAM) believes bringing creative expression to your residents and loved ones is an accomplishment that’s well worth the risk. Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and Dance and Movement Therapy all enhance the lives of the elderly, children with challenges, and anyone who needs help with daily living, by giving them tools that connect them to both the outside world and to their inner selves. With creative expression, they can show their mastery, change their environment, tell stories about who they are, and connect with their past and with their community.
The act of making is empowering, impactful, and creates possibility. Remember: Attitude follows action, and with little opportunity to feel relevant due to the depression and anxiety associated with social isolation, FAM offers a way to literally break this barrier and create the joy of connection. Now that’s a great accomplishment!
So what are you waiting for? The reward is huge, the odds are in your favor, and if it doesn’t work out you can easily try again. That’s my kind of risk! Reach out and get started today.
Guess what? Rain is on the way; this weekend is set to be a soaker. But the fish move fast so I’m going on Sunday as it may be my last chance to take one of my favorite risks. And this time, maybe I’ll hit the grocery store on my way home and pick up an imposter… That should even out the odds!