The Perils of Hesitation

Not long ago I was watching an interview with Srinivas Rao, author of The Art of Being Unmistakable and host of the Unmistakable Creative blog & podcast.  After dropping out of his mainstream career track, Rao took up surfing; and discovered joy.  During this interview, he was describing the process of paddling out, waiting for the right moment, and catching a wave.  He described a moment known as the take-off.  This is the critical moment in which you have to fully commit.  If you hesitate, you wipe out.

Isn’t that a perfect description of so many of the key moments in our lives?  Hesitation kills.  Sometimes literally, but usually figuratively.  Lately I have taken to watching American Ninja Warrior with my family.  There’s an obstacle called the Ring of Fire.  It’s new this season, and a lot of the contestants have had problems with it.  Those who approach it cautiously go slowly and lose time on the course.  Those who fully commit sometimes get through it very fast; although full commitment has also led to some catastrophic wipeouts as well.   Those who begin with full commitment but question their decision in mid-stream inevitably fall into the drink and lose the race.

In other words; unhesitating commitment is high-risk/high-reward.  A cautious approach is low-risk, low-reward.  But a combination of the two – commitment, then hesitation at the wrong moment – almost always leads to complete failure.

Surfing and ninja warrior are both fast-paced, physical activities.  But doesn’t this same principle apply to other aspects of our lives? When we allow the thought of failure to get into our heads – especially at a critical moment – it destroys the momentum we need to launch along a trajectory of success.