A Brief Story for Those Who Would Rather Not Take Any Chances
June 10, 2006
A friend gave me a good piece of wisdom about the importance of making decisions. He said we sometimes put things off because the stakes are high and we fear making a mistake. But the longer we put off a decision, the bigger it looms in our mind until finally it becomes so big that we are scared to do anything. Our desire not to make a mistake keeps us frozen in the gray zone where we need to make a decision but we just can’t do it. It’s better, my friend said, to go ahead and make a decision even though you don’t know exactly how it will end up. If thing work out, great. If they don’t, then you can change directions later.
For most of us, making decisions is agonizing business. We squiggle and squirm, we think and we pray, we talk it out endlessly, we argue and debate, we discuss it with anyone willing to listen, we make lists, we do the pros and the cons, we hesitate and cogitate and agitate, all the while hoping to make a “perfect” decision. We piously call it “living by faith” when we ought to call it “stalling by faith.”
That reminded me of a man I met seventeen years ago. Though we only knew each other for a few months, he made an indelible impression on me. Jack and I struck up a friendship because he and I started to work on the same day. Jack was in the sales department and I worked in the church relations division of a parachurch ministry.
One day I asked him what made him leave his job as a junior high school teacher and football coach. He said he thought he could make more money this way–a fact which appeared to be true for a while. But wasn’t it risky to make a career change at the age of 37 when you have a wife and a little baby to consider? Yes, he said, it was risky but he did it anyway.
Then he told me something that his father had told him. “Son, I’m 62 now. I’ve been making decisions all my life. What per cent of those decisions do you suppose were good decisions?” Jack figured maybe 40-45% of his father’s decisions were good ones. “Son, that’s high. I’m lucky if even 33% turn out to be good decisions.”
“I’m old enough to stop making decisions and coast through life. A lot of people do that as they get older. They just stop making big decisions. I could do that my percentage would never change. It would stay at 33% until the day I die.”
“Son, you can stop making decisions right now if you want to. But if you do, you’ll never get above where you are right now. But if you keep on making decisions–even when you’re scared–you’ve got a chance to raise that average. And remember, you normally make better decisions as you get older because you have more experience in life.”
That story illustrates a great principle. “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). But if you never sow the seed, you never reap the harvest. In that case, you are like the man who hid his talent in the ground. Where there is no risk, there is no reward.
All of us go through life making decisions every day. You can take no chances and stay right where you are. Or you can take a few chances and maybe raise your average. The choice is up to you.