In the 1982 film, “An Officer and a Gentleman”, Richard Gere plays Zach Mayo, a Navy brat with a dysfunctional past. Zach tries to make something of his life by enlisting in the grueling, 13-week Navy Aviation Officer Training School. It is his best shot to prove other people wrong and live his own dream.
But a brutal drill sergeant, played brilliantly by Louis Gossett, Jr., tries everything in his power to get Zach to quit the program. After enduring weeks of punishment and mental anguish, Zach nearly breaks under the drill sergeant’s relentless attacks.
In the ultimate climactic scene, Zach finally admits to himself and his drill sergeant, his true motivation for persevering through incredible adversity:
“I got nowhere else to go!”
Zach was out of options in his life. He wouldn’t quit because this was his last shot at redemption. And that provided him with all the resilience he needed to succeed.
The good news for all of us is that we have LOTS of options. We can become anything we want in life.
But there can be a downside to having so many options. Do these options cause us to give up sooner than we should?
When there are so many forks in the road, are we too quick to abandon one path at the first sign of adversity?
We Can’t Jump Ship Too Soon
If we are selling, the obstacles to success can be overwhelming. Cold calls. Rejection. Long, complex sales cycles. Humiliation. Sometimes, it can be difficult to maintain perspective.
Perhaps we have chosen the wrong path? Perhaps this is not the right situation? With so many options for sales positions, it can be tempting to pull the plug and start fresh at a new place.
But how do we know until we truly test our limits? With a little more perseverance and grit, perhaps we could break through the initial failure. Perhaps this was the right situation. Perhaps success was just a few more calls away.
What if we decide to jump ship just before our ship comes in?
Too Many Options Can Stifle Our Resilience
The same is true with starting our own company. It takes a lot of sweat equity and capital to launch a business. But we always have the option to go back to our day jobs. We always have a safety net. The first few years can be brutal. With so many options, sometimes we are in danger of jettisoning our dreams before they can become reality.
In teaching, we can give up on our students and move on to another institution if we are not connecting. In coaching, we can change teams or hang up the whistle if we are losing. In athletics, we can always try another sport or quit if do not experience initial success. In school, we can always transfer if we feel the odds are stacked against us.
There are plenty of options to succeed elsewhere.
But are we giving up too easily?
And what about our personal lives? If we disagree with our partner or spouse, we can always look elsewhere for companionship. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, right?
But what if we hung in there a little bit longer? What if we took the long view in our success? What if we exhausted all options before changing gears?
We Must Have Skin in the Game
Options are inherently a good thing. We are blessed to have them.
We should never feel trapped in life.
Sometimes, a change in scenery is best for everyone.
Our jobs can debilitating and cause damaging stress. Our relationships can be toxic and best served by breaking apart. We should not be gluttons for punishment.
But how do we know when to persevere and when to move on to greener pastures?
But whatever our pursuit, we have to have skin in the game.
We can’t give up without a fight. We can’t consider other options until we have truly exhausted our current options. We have to power through that initial wall of failure and see what is on the other side.
Live Life as if You “Got Nowhere Else to Go”!
Having options is a great luxury. We should never take them for granted.
But sometimes, they can dull our will to succeed. Sometimes, too many options can dampen our resilience. Who needs to bounce back from a failure when we can simply move on without consequence?
But imagine if we lived our lives as if we had nowhere else to go!
Imagine if there were no other jobs available! Imagine if there were no other fish in the sea! Imagine if you could not transfer schools! Imagine if you could not switch teams! Imagine if you didn’t have any other options!
How much more effort would you give?
Sometimes, the most motivated and resilient people are the ones with the fewest options.
And running out of options may be the best option of all!
Until next week, keep smiling!