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Interesting Search String of the Day – A Quote From Samuel Johnson

August 2012

For my interesting search string of the day, the odd search that led someone to my blog:  what does this mean?  “nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” -samuel johnson

What that searcher found was a re-blog of that quote, but I never went into greater detail than, “Truer words have never been spoken”…  Humorously enough, neither did the original post.

So I thought I’d take a minute and actually explain it as that search popped up more than once.  What that means is that if you have to figure everything out, all of the possible angles and outcomes of a situation and their difficulties, and try to work all of that out in your favor before attempting something, nothing will ever be attempted because it’s just too hard to anticipate everything that could go wrong.

There’s another more sinister meaning:  If the attempt of something requires that I sort out everyone’s possible objections to my desire to do something, nothing will be attempted because someone will always take umbrage.

For the first, let’s take something as simple as a long bike ride.  If I have to figure out and plan for every objectionable outcome that could possibly happen on a journey, and then make preparations to be prepared for each of those outcomes, I’ll never get out the front door – too many things could go wrong even though the chance of even one thing going wrong is somewhere between slim and none.  Many difficulties that can arise on a long bike ride can be handled relatively easily and take up little space – tire levers, a spare tube, a patch kit, a multi-tool, a CO2 pump and a wallet all fit in a saddle bag.  Most of the difficulties that can occur on a bike ride can be remedied with those items… But what if your frame cracks?  What if a wheel bearing wears out, what if your head tube wears out, what if ad infinitum…  If those possibilities must be sorted out prior to leaving the confines of the garage, you might as well kick the cat and sit back down on the recliner, because you can’t prepare for those.

For the second, let’s say I want to expand my company but doing so is a risky proposition.  Let’s say for argument’s sake that I have a nervous Nancy for a business partner.  When I explain my plans he lays out a bunch of objections…  “It’s too risky because I have kids to feed and a house to keep and cats and a lawn to mow…  And what happens if you fail?  We could lose everything that we’ve worked for.”  He then lays out a bunch of scenarios in which I could actually fail and lose everything…  If I have to plan out answers to all of the objections, I’ll never get started because the reality is he’s happy with where we’re at and no matter how many contingencies I plan for, he’ll be able to think of more.  If I have to overcome all objections first, I’ll never be able to get to the attempt.

In other words, sometimes you’ve just gotta shut the hell up and go for it.

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