Life Is a Contact Sport

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There’s only so much you can learn about yourself by thinking.

 

Am I good enough?

Are my ideas good enough?

Am I ready to go public, speak, launch, write?

Who’s really going to listen to me?

What if I fail?

What if I succeed?

What if my assumptions are massively wrong, or right?

You can spin these questions in your head ad nauseum. Most people do.

But, you know what’s happening while you’re lost in the process of arguing both sides of every conversation ever had in your head?

Life.

Life is happening.

But not yours.

Your life is on hold. Being kept from happening by the merciless cacophony of conversation that spirals and splinters through your brain, leaving you incapable of action. Paralyzed.

Among my close friends, colleagues and those I’ve been blessed to work with, I’ve gotten a bit of a reputation for being, how do I say this…kind, but blunt. I try to be gentle, but I don’t sugarcoat. One of the things I’ve ended up saying over and over is…

Get out of your head and into the world.

A bit of introspection, contemplation and internally-birthed wisdom is good. But all too often, we try to find answers in the world inside us that exist only through engaging with the world around us. We choose guessing over testing, because we’re terrified of failing, or being wrong and then being judged.

Here’s the deal.

You will be wrong.

You will be judged.

You will be awful as often as you are awesome.

People will know when you mess up.

Will that hurt?

Depends.

If your ego and your metric for success are tied to being right, then yes. It’ll suck.

If your ego and your metric for success are tied to action and learning, then the suck-factor becomes overpowered by the fact that, in moving an idea from that cerebral pit of despair known as your mind, and putting it into the world to generate information, data, knowledge, you’ve already won. And the data that comes from your “test,” whether it validates or obliterates your assumptions, lays the foundation for growth.

Only when you get out of your head do you create the opportunity to know, not guess, if you are good enough, if “it” is good enough. If you are, how wonderful. And, if you’re not, how wonderful that you now know, and you can stop frittering away your life with merciless self-talk…and DO something about it.

Simple fact…

Life is a contact sport.

It’s about engaging with, rather than hiding from the world.

You can’t avoid the contact, without also avoiding the life.

Does that mean you run recklessly into it?

Some people do. It’s the running with scissors or running with the bulls approach. Too much machismo and risk for me. And likely for you.

I tend to take a more “artisanal” approach to engaging my ideas with life. I start in my head, let the concepts gestate, but not for too long. Then I choose a palate or channel or medium or outlet to begin to test elements of my ideas and my own personal capabilities.

Example? I test concepts for books and articles, for media and art, for future merchandise and shows on social media all the time. I do calls or impromptu meetings, gatherings or workshops to both offer value, but simultaneously test snippets.

Standup comedians are legendary for this. They’ll workshop an act for months or even years to get a single set nailed down. Seinfeld is famous for working a single line for years to refine it. And I’ve no doubt, his joke graveyard exponentially outsizes his list of epic snort-laughs.

We’re like those comics, doesn’t matter how funny the line is in your head, if the audience hates it, it’s gotta go. All the contemplation and introspection in the world will not tell you how it’s going to land. Only one way to get your answer.

Get out of your head and into the world.

So, here’s my invitation…

You know that thing you’ve been arguing both sides of in your head?

C’mon. You know. If you don’t, I can virtually guarantee your lying to yourself.

Stop.

Now.

Ask yourself…

What single action can I take today that will replace my assumptions with information?

Then take that action.

Engage.

Contact.

Live.

+++

Test your ideas in a safe place – One of the most powerful ways to get out of your head into the world is to do it in a “safe” environment, with a group of people who are all-in, committed to shared vulnerability, accelerated growth and elevation. If you have that group, awesome. If not, come play with me and your hand-picked family of world-changers in this year’s Good Life Project Immersion.

 

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25 responses

25 responses to “Life Is a Contact Sport”

  1. What an articulate kick in the a… this morning, Jonathan! Super-motivating and, as you say, “Kind, but blunt.” That’s good coaching and I appreciate it. I will be taking one step forward on the book project that’s been festering for ‘way too long in that inner place of paralysis.

  2. Robert says:

    Jonathan,
    Thanks for this. Very well said. I have been thinking about this lately, how even failure gives you information. Thinking about things and not doing them does not. And information helps you grow, helps define you, etc. But you articulated it better than I could.
    Feeling inspired,
    Robert

  3. Jonathan,

    Perfectly stated – I’m ready to take action.

    Gail

    “Ask yourself…

    What single action can I take today that will replace my assumptions with information?

    Then take that action.

    Engage.

    Contact.

    Live.”

  4. Great take! I facilitate clowning workshops which are often all about making contact first with oneself, then others and the world. I much more easily said than done or put into practice. Three cheers to all who dare to make contact and then wait and see what happens…. Reality is pretty much never whatever the head thought it might be!

  5. DonO says:

    Thank You!

  6. Amber says:

    Great article! Thank you!

  7. I just messaged my mastermind group yesterday with the question, “how do you handle self-doubt and the grains in your head?”
    They all had good advice – but this is awesome, and timely!
    Thanks!

  8. nicholas says:

    “cerebral pit of despair” sounds terrible for a place we spend so much time in, but I couldn’t call it by any other name…

    thanks JF

  9. Gordon Goldschleger says:

    I have been a fan for sometime – this is a hugely insightful and valuable post. It takes the “ready fire aim!” approach to getting out of your head to the next level. The framing of learning and growth versus “being right” is a great way to approach life. In Business, government and the charitable sector, its hard to get people to embrace this lens – shareholders, stakeholders don’t have that long term lens that “even though we did’t get it all right, we learned and will be better next time.” They want that immediate result – quarterly share increase, the exact social outcome, etc.

  10. S says:

    Excellent post! Thx, Jonathan.

    Right between the eyes this morning, but in a good way.

    A good reminder too, to lighten up when things DO go side-ways. Personally, I take failures too much to heart and tend to give up too soon. So viewing it as an experiment, something I can modify along the way, is helpful.
    🙂

  11. Sean Novak says:

    THANK YOU! This goes in the, “read again weekly” pile.

    Cheers.

  12. If you wait until everything is perfect to launch, you will never leave the launching pad.

    Will keep this in mind as I continue to build my blog and my business.

    Cheers!

  13. Jonathan, this is exactly where I’ve been teetering, and this post is pushing me to action. Good affirmation. GREAT post. One nudge…as a “run recklessly into it” veteran (seeking to retire), there is much more to why this approach happens than just machismo. It’s rarely, if ever, a correct approach, but I feel that adjective paints too a narrow picture. I did perceive that this is how it lands on you. And your sharing it did nudge me constructively for what it is for me.

    Peace ~ MJ

  14. I love this advice and want to be a cheerleader for seasoning it with its flip side, too. If ruminating on an idea forever is the middle ground of wasted potential, it seems like running with an idea without asking the tough questions of identity and purpose (Who am I? Who do I really want to be? Where am I being driven by fear, rather than love or trust or purpose?), could be a way of sidestepping our true potential as well – a way of staying really busy and really productive, without having to listen to the potentially MORE challenging voice of our inner wise self that’s asking us to change directions or pursue something we haven’t had courage to do before now.

    I know you’re not advocating running willy nilly, Jonathan – totally heard you there. Just wanting to give voice to the reality that it’s possible to avoid our true work not ONLY when we’re mulling things to death, but also when we’re avoiding, in the name of being active and productive, taking the time to ask ourselves the tough questions.

    I’ve been learning this the hard way, and discovering so much joy and freedom and inspiration bubbling up after a decade of trying so hard to put ideas that weren’t rooted in my honest answers to the tough questions into action.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Totally agree. You’ve gotta ask the tough questions. And action can sometimes be an avoidance mechanism. At the same time, a blend of stillness that allows the answers to rise out of the calm, bundled with deliberate, progressive action-taking and experimentation is the best way I know to answer those questions that deepen your sense of self-discover and knowledge.

  15. Lauren says:

    Here’s the deal.

    You will be wrong.

    You will be judged.

    You will be awful as often as you are awesome.

    People will know when you mess up.

    I really, really love this! I am practicing falling into my fears and the ‘worst case scenario’ with my own growth and truly once you go to that place it’s not as bad as what you imagine. You just move forward and keep getting on with it. Thanks again for a wonderful article.

  16. I’m currently participating in a group writing project and yesterday, wrote this sentence.

    “I find myself mulling all of this over much of the time, waiting for a sign that tell me how to exit this road and merge smoothly onto another, but I have yet to recognize one if it has appeared already.”

    This post is that sign: I’ve been waiting for a paved exit when I suspect the easiest way is to just head cross-country.

    Thanks, Jonathan! Great read, as always.

  17. Jonathan – Great read! It’s that space in the middle between the idea and the “test” – that’s where ego + the desire for perfection take hold and derail so many great projects.

    Thanks for the blunt and timely wisdom. Much appreciation.

  18. Mehak says:

    “What if I fail?” is a question I have been struggling with for a very long time. I am very inspired by this article – it is clear, straightforward and to put it bluntly, a compassionate kick in the butt! One of my favorite documentaries that has resonated with me and that I have watched multiple times is “I’m Fine, Thanks.” I have been inspired by all the individual stories, including yours. I have been sculpting my mind (and still am) to not be afraid to take action on what I believe in, while realizing that is it okay if I sometimes fail. I got to agree that it has been challenging at times since I tend to lean more on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to being machismo. But I am having fun in the process of facing fears and am actually starting to look forward to some failures since it helps me grow. Thank you!

  19. Satish Iyer says:

    Very well articulated Jonathan with an apt title! The right motivation that I need this morning.

  20. […] Get out of your head and into the world and make that shit. […]

  21. Darren says:

    Well said!
    Changing ‘can’t do’ to ‘can do’ and “daring to try” are things I try to do each day and are things I encourage others to do as well – seeing obstacles as challenges, as puzzles to be solved, not road blocks or show stoppers.
    And of course there will be failure. I expect that now, in fact I look forward to it in a funny way as it means that I am learning, am making progress.
    And it is making progress, I have come to realise, that makes me happy.

  22. P says:

    Does this work for relationships?