Think about it: on a day when you swing for the fences, you might swing and miss.
A miss means a complete miss, a whiff, an air-ball, and all the associated jeering (we think) from the peanut gallery. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing, and inefficient, to be completely wrong, to put a big idea out there that goes nowhere at all, one that’s just plain wrong? Wouldn’t it, objectively, be a waste of time to work on something all day long and have it amount to nothing?
We have no time to waste! Let’s tick through our To Do list, take the meetings that are on our calendars,, chip away at the projects that others have asked us to work on. We know, at least, that on a day like that we will never have accomplished nothing. This not only feels safer, it’s also what we were taught to do for a major portion of our lives. It’s where good grades come from and how we got good reviews at our first and second jobs.
On the other hand, hitting “send” or “publish” on an outlandish, important idea; digging in and doing the work that no one asked you to do; spending time with people who will push your thinking and take your work to the next level…none of that is linear at all. And so we are faced with our anticipation of the possibility being totally wrong, of our idea missing the mark, of being embarrassed, of discovering that, at least at this moment, we’re not that good at coming up with The Next Big Thing, and, staring that anticipation in the face, we decide to keep on playing small and safe for long enough that soon enough that’s the only thing we do.
The question becomes: which really is the wasted day? The one where you tried for something big and failed, or the one where you didn’t step to the plate, didn’t take the shot, didn’t put yourself on the line?
Never trying anything can’t be a strategy for getting from here to there. Nor can waiting until you’re “in charge,” because: 1. You shouldn’t be put in charge until you’ve shown that you can make new things happen; and 2. If you’re put in charge without having learned how to make important things happen, how will you suddenly know how to break away from the task orientation that had served you so well for so long?
Have you ever met with your boss or a peer and had them tell you: “you’re doing great work, but I’m giving you a terrible review because you played it too safe last year?” Have you ever told that to someone else?
What does it take to get us to start playing big?