(Photo: Gonzalo Saenz)
There’s a quote from Hugh Laurie, the star of House, that really captures the tragedy of not going for the opportunities in front of us:
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
I have to constantly fight the temptation to wait until I’m ready. I’m liable to be the kind of person who thinks they just need another week on that project, or a few more practice runs before I’m ready to expose myself to the world.
The only way I’ve been able to achieve anything is when I had people around me who didn’t play by those rules.
Here are few examples of times in my life I wasn’t ready:
1. Playing guitar in front of an audience
Despite years of casual picking and strumming, I am still a woefully novice guitarist.
I started playing in my teenage years, having begged my dad for an electric guitar. I would thrash my way through power chords and Blink-182 songs, usually hidden away from everyone else, and thought maybe in a few years at best I would be able play at an open-mic for fun.
Then a friend who was way better at guitar than me suggested that we should put together a little band, and as soon as I tentatively agreed, he declared with excitement in his voice: “And we should definitely play a gig at my end of year party in September as well!”
Now this scared me for two reasons: (1) I had never played in front of anyone (for good reason: I was, and am still not a good guitarist), and (2) This guy threw HUGE parties, which meant everyone from school would be there.
This guy was the social hub. He was responsible for those enormous end-of-school parties that happen once all the exams are over. His house was that place where everyone you knew would be invited (think Steve Stiffler in American Pie).
And now I knew that day was fast-approaching, I wasn’t allowed to wait any longer.
I practiced every day at my friend’s house, learning chords and endlessly practicing riffs, mostly because I was terrified of humiliating myself in front of my entire school year.
When the gig finally came, I got my first taste of singing with a microphone whilst trying to play guitar (it’s hard). I also had to deal with the technical side of keeping time with other instruments (even harder). I also had the horror of having one of my guitar strings snap in the middle of playing and had to swap guitars halfway through the song.
By professional standards, the gig wasn’t going to attract any record labels.
But it wasn’t terrible either. It was scrappy. It was loose and under-rehearsed. We nailed a couple of songs, and even though I was never going to be in a real band of any success, it was exhilarating to belt out a few chords and muddle through a few of my favourite songs with my friends (I was held up fortunately by genuinely talented musicians). For an evening I felt like an actual performer.
The crowd cheered. People enjoyed the set. It wasn’t The Beatles’ farewell on a London rooftop, and we were in no way ready to perform, but because I was forced, I got to learn a thousand lessons about performing on stage that I would have never learnt otherwise.
During my university years I decided to jump on a popular bandwagon and get into the sport of rowing.
At first, I was totally unfit to be any sports team. I had strength, but my aerobic fitness was nowhere near the level it needed to be to seriously compete.
I considered leaving it and waiting until the following year.
When I squeezed through the trials, I knew I had gotten a lucky break (I’m 6ft 1 and have a lot of natural strength). I thought maybe I would just enjoy the training, but didn’t hold serious hope of being picked for the final eight who would row in the summer competition.
I thought I could hide away, just train, and maybe think about seriously competing in a race next year.
But then our coach sprung a surprise on us: “Our first competition is in six weeks. I want you all to be race fit and ready to compete by then”.
I was stunned.
If you’ve ever tried rowing, you’ll know that it takes weeks or even months just to be able to row in a boat that’s balanced and stable, let alone being ready to compete and face off against other crews in an aggressive head-to-head race.
And yet somehow that’s exactly what we did. I trained every day. I got fitter than I’d got in my entire life. After six weeks, we competed in our first competition and reached the quarter finals. Then, after another six months of grueling early mornings and intense team workouts, I was asked to compete in the biggest race of the university summer calendar.
Bear in mind I was still not a great rower. I was fitter and stronger than I’d ever been (the exquisite joy of finding abs on your stomach!), but was I really ready to compete in big races? Not really. I still had sloppy technical problems. I screwed up and took some dodgy strokes in races.
But suddenly, waiting to get ready was no longer an option. We were booked to compete so we showed up, ready or not.
Over that year we won way more races than we lost, and were hailed as one of the strongest teams on the river. I’m looking up at my award (an enormous rowing oar with our crew’s names painted on it) right now as I write this.
It’s funny now to think I was so close to bailing out from one of the best sporting experiences of my life because I didn’t feel ready.
3. Meeting Girls and Having Relationships
In my early adolescence, I spent a lot of years watching other guys have all the fun with girls because I couldn’t bear to put myself on the line.
I wanted the perfect scenario, and it never came. For years I told myself I would meet girls in a few years, when I was more successful, older, and confident.
I said I would do it when I knew what I was doing. I said I would approach women when I felt ready and in the right mood. I said I would take chances with girls once I had got a six-pack in the gym after working out for 6-8 months.
I used to think of all kinds of reasons why I just couldn’t take that initial step. Why the circumstances just weren’t right for me to meet any girls whenever I went out.
As I got older and developed my abilities, I became much more confident. I had friends (and a brother) around me who pushed me and wouldn’t let me off the hook.
But with that came new excuses.
Now I had no problem meeting and attracting members of the opposite sex, but I would make excuses about why I wasn’t ready for a relationship. Because I didn’t have my life together. Because I didn’t have a cool apartment to bring girls back to. Because I didn’t have the time and was busy working on my studies and career.
The irony of all these situations is that I had it the wrong way around the whole time. I had told myself that once I was ready, I would be able to commit to serious action.
The opposite was true: Once I was forced to take serious action, I began to get myself ready. And it always led me to extraordinary experiences.
Saying yes to playing a gig put me in front of an audience and taught me how to hold the attention of a crowd.
Saying yes to a rowing competition got me to learn how to row and helped me achieve success at a high level.
Saying yes to meeting women and having relationships gave me access to a whole range of colorful experiences I can’t go into here.
Every stage of my life I now know to look for that feeling of not really being ready.
Anything I feel too prepared for, or that doesn’t involve even a tiny sense of danger, is usually something I’ve already outgrown, or something that isn’t going to give me a new experience.
Most people get too comfortable in life just being an expert in one comfortable area.
My challenge to you is to find ONE area you can be a complete novice at, or at least one area you are putting off taking chances in today because you don’t feel ready.
Write down below how you’re going to force your hand so that you take some action towards it this week. Make it something that gives you that tiny knot of fear in your stomach when you realise you’re going to have to do it.
Then chase that feeling.
*One more thing*
Six months ago I remember being in a restaurant with my friends and getting a phone call from Matt. “Can you go outside?” he said.
He was excited to tell me about his brilliant new idea – to have me write regular articles under my own name for his website. But while he was enthusiastic and fired up about it, I felt that old immediate sensation of discomfort and nerves flood my body. I had my usual feelings of hesitation, even as Matt reeled off all the reasons why it would be a great idea. I could sense his vexation and concern when he heard in my voice that I was on-the-fence about the whole thing.
“Just think about it this way” Matt said “it means that your stuff is going to be read every week by thousands of people. Pretty cool right?”
I told him I’d think about it. I wasn’t sure if I was ready.
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65 Replies to “The Logical (But Stupid) Reason Most People Miss Out On Life”
I like it :)
I totally needed this. I always default to “I need to be in better shape” when there is a guy I really like that is interested in me. I put off the relationship because I’m afraid that he will reject me/I’m not good enough. I’ve been doing it for years thinking that when I look exactly perfect then I’ll be ready for a relationship. My friends think I’m crazy and push me to put myself out there often. I just need to take the first step.
Thank you so much for the encouragement!
Thanks Mary – yep I used to think the exact same thing.
Thank you for sharing this view. Sometimes done is better than perfect!
Waiting for the right time is my perfect excuse for everything work relationships
And one thing that scares the heck out of me is going out alone to a bar club or at a social event. The few friends I do have are in relationships and can’t go out as freely so each weekend I end staying at home when I know I could be going out meeting new people and although I know it’s not easy because people aren’t very friendly it something I should “train” myself for Heck I already talk to strangers everyday at my job minus well not be afraid when going out
Try going out to scheduled events by yourself – i.e. gym classes, meet-ups, or talkative networking event or a hobby. These things are the best way to start and you have the perfect excuse to meet people when you do it (just make sure it’s an activity you actually WANT to do though or you want be motivated to keep it up).
Another insightful article. Thank you, Steven. I’m glad Matt convinced you to write them weekly, even though you didn’t feel ready. I think you’re doing a great job and it allows us to get another point of view and your brother to focus on other things. It’s motivating to see what other people can achieve when they don’t feel like they’re ready. I’ll put this approach into consideration whenever the “I’m not yet ready, let’s wait a bit more” issue comes up again. I’m sure it’ll be soon enough and I’ll try not to bail out, but just do it. If I fail, it will at least be a new lesson learnt. : )
One thing I’ve been doing (thanks to Matt & you) is saying yes to events (like parties) when I knew no one but the host. I used to only go if I found a friend to come along, but I’ve actually started to be ok with going by myself and have met some great people. I’ll keep on doing that, it’s fun and not as scary as it seems.
Keep it up Claudia – I totally respect that and have taken that same risk many times myself. Often great things come of it and it really develops your social skills.
Thank you, will do.
And I just realized I misspelt your name. Sorry about that. I might go with ‘Steve’ from now on. ;) Cheers!
The way you write about all of these different topics is just so interesting and it makes me want to read more!! you’re great!!! keep up the awesome work!
and btw, this article is probably the one I’ve liked the most so far, probably because it is the one that speaks to me the most in this moment of my life.. Thank you for sharing it with all of us!!
That’s lovely to hear – glad it resonated with you. Thanks Sara.
Nicely done Stephen! :)
Thank you Stephen. I am afraid of trusting again. Afraid of trusting myself too, in my ability to find a good person, one who will add to my life and not take from it. Yep, I guess I have trust issues.
Thanks Marlene – I think the same rule applies when you don’t feel emotionally ready for something like a relationship – you kind of have to commit BEFORE you can feel certain about every little detail.
Wish you all the best,
I’ve got a hate love relationship with these articles. But great to be pushed, Thanks Stephan.
I’ ve got this from art-academy where I signed myself a year ago to performance-art. I did’n feel ready. I see myself as perfectly shy but it lead myself to a mentor I adore and some public performances. Nothing big but it means a lot to me.
That’s awesome Selina. Yea, I also find they don’t always have to lead somewhere big, they often just get you to an experience you’ve never had before and usually teach you something.
Thanks for commenting!
Wow !! I loved this article :)
You just brought to my mind the year 2012 where I moved to another city and travelled and experienced this same nerves and excitement :)
Hugs to you for bringing it all back for me!!!
God bless :)
Thanks so much Lorine! Hope you take another plunge this year.
I also had for years to fight the feeling of being ready to take action. One of my ballet teachers, years ago, told me I needed a bomb behind me. I never knew what she meant, now I’m older I do of course. Always the excuses of not being technically the best, waiting to be ready, to believe you are good enough.
You are lucky you have great people around you to push you when needed and you have the talent and drive to succeed within you even if you didn’t know it.
My life has turned out in the way that I don’t now have the mindset to miss out on life. It has given me the drive I never had before, not to wait until I am ready. It has made a woman out of a girl, but it has come at a price.
Thank you for being so open in this article, it’s lovely. We are so glad Matt asked you to write here and you agreed, ready or not! You are destined for great things Stephen,
I mean this in a ‘I believe in you kinda way, rather than ‘we must both be Taureans and I’ve read the annual horoscope kinda way’!
I like the metaphor of having a bomb behind you :) I know what you mean though, these lessons often come at a high price; many of the best ones in my life certainly have been learnt from hard experience.
Thanks so much for the compliment Kathryn.
Thanks Stephen! I love this article. It just inspired me to work on a project/dream I’ve been thinking about for years! I look forward to all your articles and I’m so glad you pushed yourself to write them.
That’s amazing Cassandra. Make some progress on it asap!
Amazing article!!!! So timely for me – was just talking about this with a friend this morning.
I have spent years waiting for things to be “perfect”, using the excuse of “I’ll do it once I am ready” and basically never taking a risk or a chance, in ALL areas of my life, for some time now.
I just started to take risks a few weeks ago and have already had some really cool results from relationships and work. I feel the confidence building and both friends and family have commented on it.
I finally signed up for a certification program for trauma counseling, that I was hesitant to consider until “I was ready”.
We are so lucky that you “took a chance” and starting to write the articles for the blog. They have been really insightful and thought provoking and it is great to have another perspective. Keep up the fantastic work!
So happy that it struck a chord with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me you enjoyed the piece Shev.
this article remind me ( the orphan kids day ) I was terrified to participate because I thought I’ll lose a child or the kids will be crazy , naughty , or kooky . every volunteer has at least 5 kids . at the beginning they were 5 but they become 9 !!!!!! so I was telling my friends I can’t do it I’M NOT READY . but I found myself the next day with them playing the kids , eating with them , ….. by the way they were angels . I really had a great time with the kids , even some kids from another group thought that I was the mother of the nine kids . I was happy and that made me ask myself why I was terrified ??? then i knew why , because my mother and my older sister always tell me if I did something wrong ” amazing what are you doing , we will see how would you take responsibility , diffidently you will fail….”. honestly it still hurts me because they are my family . that made me realized important thing which is we should always ask ourselves why are we afraid of doing (this thing or that thing ). so , the orphan kids day was one of the best days in my life .
Stephen Hussey not you only got my respect but you amazed me ( by the way few people can amaze me and you are one of them . you aren’t less than your brother you are like him a hero )
thank you Stephen
Wow – Thank you so much – It’s definitely much harder when you have to break out of your family’s expectations and barriers, so I greatly respect you for going through that and taking chances regardless. Sounds like it really paid off!
Keep it up!
Oddly as I’ve gone through my 30s I now absolutely know how right you are. It’s never too late to start but aways too late to wait. Luckily I’ve still lots of years ahead but many things I’d have had more energy for when younger…. so do it now. ..
You’re 6’1″ ?
I am indeed ;) And no, it’s never too late to start.
Take care Emma x
This is great!! I’ve often thought that I not only need to wait til I’m ready but also til I’m older. I’ve put off a lot of things thinking that I’m not ready and because I’m not ready I’ll make mistakes. And I think it’s a common emotion to feel but it’s something we need to address sooner than later or we’ll continue to waste time.
Thank you for taking those leaps and sharing your experiences.
No problem Nicole :D
And here you are now writing your awesome article which all of us like to read imagine if you said you weren’t ready! Its good that you took the plunge because now we know how talented you are!! I find when I am on the spot to do things I am less likely to procrastinate which I can do very well. Like a good example I have my book here which I keep saying I need to read more so I can be ready when the show comes on so I can see if the book and the show are the same but I keep putting off reading a lot at a time I need to just kick myself and get reading and quite coming up with excuses!!
Yes, just give yourself a daily target – that’s what I do. No excuses, just follow the process every single day.
Thanks Beth x
I want to thank you for all your amazing articles. Up until now they have helped me change my ‘thoughts’ about things for the better. But this article
really has fired me up to actually going to change the ways I DO things!
This is my no. 1 excuse for all the things I really want to do or try out but don’t ‘feel’ ready yet because it’s just too scary. But reading this made me realize that if I don’t want to miss out on life I have to just DO it!
Your reply on Marlene’s comment: “you kind of have to commit BEFORE you can feel certain about every little detail”is just the advice I need right now.
So thank you Stephen, for helping me feel excited about my own life again!
Thrilled Linda! Really wanted to use this piece to give people an emotional shift, and it sounds like you had one. Really glad to hear it.
Let me know where it ends up taking you.
As grandpa used to say: Fear of the uncertain is nothing but a sign of humbleness, which in itself is the willingness to improve as a person, to learn something new or to overcome a challenge.
Great article and even greater job at not backing up after Matt’s call ;) Did you have that brother to brother moment when you say “you were right” yet? ;P (Big sister gene speaking here hahah :P)
Keep up the great work!
Haha Nooo I would never give Matt that satisfaction ;)
Great to hear from you as always Randa x
This article sums up my experience at the moment exactly. I just need to go for it and learn as I go or else I will be stuck on the “when I’m Older” or “in the future” sidelines. I am tired of seeing cinderella stories happen to people around me while I am still stuck in the same place. Sometimes grabbing the bull by the horns and doing the thing you fear most in pursuit of the dream is what is necessary for our character and personal growth.
Exactly – To help you push yourself, Find people who will make you accountable and who won’t let you off the hook.
Thanks Jenel x
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