Journal entry 080411: Prepared

 “Are you more afraid of missing out or messing up?” was my question on Twitter. How would you answer? The question came from something I read by Mark Batterson, that there are “two types of regret: regrets of actions and regrets of inaction.”

As for me, I’ve spent most of my life being afraid of messing up, making the big mistake, falling on my face, looking foolish, like an amateur, silly and insignificant. I didn’t want to regret my actions.

Now in my mid-fifties, I am much more afraid of the regrets of inaction. I’m becoming less afraid of messing up and more afraid of missing out. I don’t want to end up old and dried up wishing I had been brave enough to try stuff but didn’t because I was afraid of failing.

I like what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:1, “… please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.” I don’t want to squander.

I’ve wondered if my change of attitude is some sort of mid-life crises, where I worry about unaccomplished goals more than I worry about public failure. Or maybe it’s because the longer I live the lengthier is my list of mistakes survived, and the greater my confidence for future recovery and survival.

Or maybe it’s because I see the window of opportunity slowly closing and I know I have to make my move now to have time to get it done?

However, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the futility of waiting until I am prepared and ready before moving forward. I now know that I’ll never be prepared enough, or ready enough, for anything.

So my new plan is to sign up for the race sooner, commit to the adventure right away, agree to help Cyndi now not later, and stop wasting so much time worrying about my preparations. Too often I’ve used my need for preparation as an excuse to never get started.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not becoming the sort of guy who dives into things without planning ahead. I was spontaneous once back in the 1990s and that has been plenty. I doubt I’ll become more spontaneous as I get older - I’ll still live by checklists and spreadsheets and still research my options before undertaking a new adventure. I’ll still put a lot of energy into preparation.

That’s easy to write, but hard to live out. I suppose you could say I’ve been preparing 50 years to be prepared enough to move forward without 100% preparation. And in spite of my dependence on preparation, our actual life history shows a pattern of hit-and-miss.

When Cyndi and I got married I’m sure I was not ready (since I had no idea what “ready” meant) but I spent a lot of time preparing. I probably thought I was ready.

And then when we had our first child, Byron, we were neither prepared nor ready. God blessed us with a sweet baby boy before we had a clue, and we had to learn on-the-fly. Had we waited until we were ready it’s possible we’d still be waiting.

For my first marathon attempt, I thought I was prepared and ready, but the race showed me I wasn’t. I came back a year later with essentially the same training and fitness but with a greater respect for the distance and demands, and I was successful.

When I made my first solo backpacking trip into the Guadalupes I was neither prepared nor ready. I had inadequate gear and scant knowledge, but I went anyway because I was tired of my own excuses.

As a writer, it took me way too long to finally publish my first book. I never thought I was ready. Now, working on my third, I realize I will never be fully prepared, and I’ll have to keep learning what I need to know through the writing process itself.

Dean Karnazes wrote about his first attempt at the Western States 100 and the run up the summit of Emigrant Pass and the peak of Granit Chief, at 9050’ elevation. As he neared the top he found himself in a short line of runners waiting to get water at the aid station. He was in the classic runner’s position, bent over at the waist with hands on knees gasping for breath. One of the aid workers filled Dean’s water bottles and then said, “You’re not going to be able to catch your breath standing here, no matter how long you stay. We’re too high up in the sky. Your only hope is to keep moving.”

It’s important to know that sometimes we will never catch our breath, never catch up, never settle down, and our heart will always be racing. We will never be prepared enough for the next part of the journey. Our best option is to keep moving forward. Keep our legs moving.

The reason I am writing about this is because it’s bigger than mountain climbing or marathon running. How many ministry opportunities have we squandered because we didn’t think we were ready? How many people failed to get the help they needed because we weren’t finished preparing? How many times have we failed to follow God’s will claiming the sorry excuse that we aren’t ready yet?

Seth Godin asked the question: “I wonder if there’s also a moral obligation to start?” He continued, “I believe that if you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then this goes beyond “should” and reaches the level of must. You must make a difference or you squander the opportunity. Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us. To do less is to steal from them.”

Moving forward while feeling unready and Ill-prepared can be scary, I know. But we should be more afraid of lifelong regrets that temporary uncertainty. A life without fear is a life without accomplishment. Cyndi likes to remind, “Do something brave every day.” That usually means being scared and not being ready. If we have the means and ability and passion, we are stealing if we don’t act.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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