This is something I cut out of the Los Angeles Times years and years ago. I don't even remember the name of the short-lived column it came from, let alone the author's name (if you do, will you let me know so I can give proper credit?). But I loved it, and still love it, and revisit it whenever I'm beginning to get too caught up in myself. Puts me right back down on the planet. I hope you like it, too.
Consider this. We humans eat till we flap, smoke, use ATMs at night, drive--fast and angry--with bald tires, bad brakes and a busted headlight, exercise nothing but our clicker thumbs, drink till it's up to strangers whether we get home, and far and away the biggest concern among readers is:
How can I not get hurt?
Most of us treat our bodies like rental cars, and yet we coddle our precious little feelings, the one part of us that won't break, die, run out or get cancer. (The way we treat others' feelings is a different story.) If we can run on five hours' sleep and a Ho-Ho, we can certainly handle "I'm sorry, I don't like you that way." Or, "You're not a strong candidate for this job." Or, "Your face could scald milk." Or, "There's a thin envelope here from Yale."
But no, we retreat into our ruts like they're trenches. I'll give you an example. I'll bet everybody knows at least one smart kid who doesn't study, who pretends he doesn't need to. If he dogs it and fails, he's a lazy cool smart guy; if he tries and fails, he's suddenly not so smart. Beat failure! Don't learn!
Here's the reason to test our resilience every chance we get: The alternative is living passively, never actually deciding anything, wondering why we're irritable, average, bored, boring and a deep shade of yellow.
So don't reach down, reach up--for the bright and groovy guy, for the promotion, for the moon. Try to get that driveling essay published. Audition for everything. Apply to a hot college. Wipe out, look stupid, try again. A decade ago, my cousin-in-law decided to be a comedian, moved to New York and fed himself be doing every unbearable job out there. This year: Letterman and a Major Motion Picture. 1. Wow. 2. Why not? You can be told you're not smart, not attractive, not cool, not interesting, not good enough for the job, and then, sure, you can quit--but if instead you dismiss it, or learn from it, or move on to something else, pretty soon you'll start to walk like you can take it. Those confident, charismatic people everyone privately resents? Know what they are? Fearless. But you won't have any idea what that means unless you scrape the couch from your backside. The worst that can happen is "No." So what.