March 1, 2006

On Being Scared

i got an email from my friend bonnie (last name with an 'a', not with an 'e') yesterday. among other things, it talked about the fact that she's looking to quit her job (with no next job in sight) and travel somewhere (anywhere). my honest assessment? great. she said:
"i want to find a job or situation that scares the shit out of me. i guess that's different than being challenged, because my job has its challenges too, but it doesn't scare me at all... it's a slightly masochistic side that i think some people need in order to feel like they're thriving"
in a way, i think her sudden inspiration is really connected to what malcolm gladwell had to say today in his e-mail back-and-forth interview with bill simmons on
"It's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience.... The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder."
regardless of what your opinions may be on phil mickelson and tiger woods, you have to agree that this comment has tremendous merit. everyone has friends who failed through school and cited an inability to keep their red cups filled on their beer pong tables. or perhaps they pretended to not care about studying. or, in the case of stanford, maybe they all CONSTANTLY talked about how they never studied. it is the mantra of our generation: cool is not caring. i think, at the end of the day, that's what bonnie's 'being scared shitless' really means: finding something that she cares about deeply enough to have a tremendous desire to succeed at it. after all, i don't think she really wants to find a job in which she's being chased around by wild coyotes or where she's constantly jousting on horseback against medieval knights (though the second one sounds more fun than scary). i think she's looking for something that is different and contains the possibility of catastrophic, life-altering failure. you know, a job where she could care so much and fail, bringing her not only a lifetime of embarrassment and ridicule, but also ostracism from her friends and society as a whole. ... (ellipses denoting that you should re-read that) do we as young people realize how fucking ridiculous that is? just think about how crazy that sounds. i don't think there are many things short of drug addiction that she could do to elicit that response, and even drug addicts have interventions. maybe that's what we all need: the promise of an intervention by friends if we start getting too crazy. i'll start this one: the "bonnie chan, you've gone too far" intervention, scheduled for 2010. until then, bonnie, scare yourself shitless.

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At 3/02/2006 09:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wait. what do you mean exactly by "a lifetime of embarrassment and ridicule"?

At 3/03/2006 12:22:00 AM, Blogger Chris L said...

On that note... check out "Have Bat; Will Travel" blog ( It's a Stanford alum who is dropping his i-banking job and going to Europe in an attempt to play professional baseball.

At 3/03/2006 11:50:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

So can you be scared shitless of a relationship because you want so badly for it to work that you're afraid of what would happen if it doesn't?


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