Sunday, 28 February 2010

Two in the bush

Many people procrastinate.

I do.


Normally, at this stage, I would crack the obvious joke, but on this occasion - being 3.10am - even I am going to avoid both a predilection to corny jokes and, ironically, to the topic of this post and will get to the point.

Many will consider that procrastination is simply the inability to make a decision and in many cases, this definition is probably adequate, but as I've just realised, not always.

Sometimes, there is more to it than that. Sometimes, it seems, you CAN make a decision, you just don't want to. Making a decision commits you to something, to a course of action. It closes doors, reduces or removes possibility, crystallises reality.

Whilst this means you can achieve success, it also means you run an enhanced risk of failure. It's a classic risk-reward calculation. If you don't try, you can't succeed, but you cannot fail either.

There is a joke about the man, in dire financial straits, who prays every week for G-d to let him win the lottery. Every week, he doesn't win and his prayers become more fervent, making promises of good deeds and charity, if G-d lets him win. Finally a voice comes from on high, exhorting the man to "at least meet me half a TICKET!".

I buy a ticket - religiously - every week. However, I don't check it immediately. Days, sometimes even weeks will go by before I will check it. Why? Isn't winning important to me? Of course it is, but I am a realist (which is what an optimist calls a pessimist) and do not expect to win.

As long as I don't check my ticket, my chances of winning are better. Intellectually, I know that as soon as the draw has taken place, I have either won or I have not. There is a mathematical certainty of this. Yet I would rather have the hope, the potential of winning, than have the certainty of losing. For as long as I don't actually check, I somehow still have the potential of winning. I derive a warmth, a sense of hope carrying that ticket around with me. Once I have checked, that has gone. I may actually BE that millionaire that the adverts promise, but I am willing to sacrifice that small chance, at least temporarily, for the feeling of hope derived from carrying a ticket around with me, unchecked.

Yes, I know this is stupid.

I now recognise this in myself in many other ways. Somehow, the potential of something gives me a sense of security, of possibility and hope that the actualisation does not. So much of my life has passed in a haze of procrastination, so much opportunity missed, purely because, not as it may seem I have not wanted - or been scared - to make a decision, but rather because I simply didn't want to. Because it feels nicer to not make one and still have the possibility of success.

I sit here tonight with an opportunity. Not a great one perhaps, but an opportunity nonetheless. I have had an idea, a dream, for years. I need to act on it, commit myself to the action for once, but if I do, and I fail, then my cupboard of dreams may be left bare. Is not not better to have something there, a small investment of possibility, than to take my meagre capital and risk losing it all on a gamble?

Risk-reward. Is the risk of failure, worth the rewards of succeeding?

This is a rhetorical question.

I know what I should do. I know I should "but myself no buts".

But I'm scared.