This I Believe

Donald - Jericho, New York
Entered on September 20, 2006


The “Right to Fail” is fundamental to the greatness of our country. Put another way, the “Right to Fail” is the “Opportunity to Succeed,” a concept so precious to so many people around the world that over the centuries they have given up their countries, languages and customs to come here to take the risks and harvest the potential rewards.

But within the right to fail and the opportunity to succeed is a third option: the “Right to Play it Safe”. This poses a great danger to our nation. In a free society, careers and lifestyles are often chosen – understandably – in order to achieve security. But choosing the secure path, the safe path, denies the individual the chance to fulfill his or her potential. It is a very bad choice.

Taking risks implies making choices without any guarantee of results. But even when failure occurs, we learn more from it than from success.

Perhaps we have to reckon with fear. Too often we realize that we are not at the place our talents and dreams could have brought us.

Our rationalizations often mask an unwillingness to make changes. And, of course, the temptation to opt for the secure is understandable.

But what concerns me is that too many are choosing careers that will bankrupt them emotionally and establish examples that will, in turn, be detrimental influences on their children and grandchildren. It has been said that we regret more sins of omission than the sins of commission. In this case, the omission is not taking calculated risks to “go for it.” That syndrome could weaken our country’s future.

The way forward is unclear and attainment uncertain. Vision, planning and determination are required to formulate and achieve goals. The creation of a plan requires constant self-challenge and change if we are to achieve our goals. It is a fight to uphold this “Right to Fail,” a struggle to maintain the finest characteristics inculcated in us.

There is another way to look at this: our freedom to choose is a freedom not granted in much of the world. The curious and impressive fact is that this freedom is available throughout our lives, not just in our earlier years. There are innumerable cases of men and women “switching” to other pursuits in their 30s, and people choosing to travel new roads in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. It takes more courage as one gets older, but the rewards can be richer, the prizes sweeter and more meaningful.

In the end, each of us must determine his or her future. It is my fervent hope that we will not play it safe, but rather that we will recognize our opportunities, seize them, then move forward with confidence and faith.