If you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
I’ve heard that cliche’ used more times than I can remember. Jack Nicholson even used it as The Joker in one of the Batman films. The general concept is that, sometimes if you want to create something truly worthwhile, something of value, something of quality, if you want to do it right, it is often necessary to make some kind of sacrifice. I don’t mean that you have to offer an unblemished lamb or goat or young maiden to the gods of art or music or writing or whatever your passion may be. What I mean is, occasionally you must overcome some obstacle, some hardship, or temporary setback. You must endure a trial by fire.
Yea verily, thou must get thy knees skinned and thy nose a little bloody.
Something happened to me recently that drove this point directly home, without passing GO, or stopping on Park Place or collecting $200. I won’t go into detail because quite frankly, it doesn’t matter, but I will say that I worked on something recently, and the end result taught me a valuable lesson.
I am a firm believer that experience is the best teacher, most of the time. Of course, I don’t need the experience of leaping out of a perfectly good airplane or tightrope walking across two skyscrapers with no safety net to know it’s not for me. Anyway, the result that I mentioned was that it was not my best effort, and it was pointed out to me. And not just by anyone, not just by a casual observer but by someone of which I think highly. Someone I consider a pro at what they do. And this friend took a look at my half-hearted effort, shook his bewildered head and said, in essence, “What is this? What are you doing? This is not you. This is mediocre. This is lackluster. This is amateurish. Come on. You’re better than this.”
Cue sound of eggs cracking.
And he was right.
It wasn’t my best effort. It wasn’t me. I was going through the motions. I was phoning it in, because I just wanted to get it done and move on.
My friend said to me, (paraphrasing) “Look, you’ve just got to push all your chips forward into the pot. There is no halfway. It’s either all, or nothing. If you want to do this right, you’ve gotta be all in.”
And again, he was right. It’s sink or swim. All or nothing.
We talked perhaps 45 minutes, and when I hung up the phone, I felt as if the fog had finally lifted. What he said to me made perfect sense. If I was going to do this, I had to do it right. I had to roll up my sleeves, bite my lip, and give her all she’s got.
In the original 1968 film version of True Grit, John Wayne had a rather colorful way of expressing this idea. After being insulted and called a “one-eyed fat man” by Lucky Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall), Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Wayne), sitting on his horse, furrows his brow, glares at Pepper with a look that should have melted his eyebrows, and bellows loudly in that distinctive gravelly voice, “Fill your hands, you blankety blank blank!” The Biblical term would be “gird your loins”. Cash in all your chips. Go for broke. This is it. This is Thunderdome, baby. One of us won’t be sitting around the campfire and eating beans and franks and gulping down stale coffee tonight. Of course, there was no Thunderdome in 1968, or during the 1800s when the movie is set, but that’s irrelevant. Rooster Cogburn charges like a mad bull across the plain, reins held tight between his clenched teeth, eyes squinted, Stetson flapping in the wind, pistol blazing in one hand, a rifle in the other, and peppers the outlaw with a good dose of hot lead.
Rooster Cogburn was all in.
I don’t recall exactly what my friend said that helped lift the fog from my eyes and allowed me to see the reality of the situation. More likely it was a combination of several things that did the trick. I just remember hanging up the phone and feeling like someone who had been staggering barefoot and blindfolded down a dark street at midnight on a coal-black moonless night, trying to navigate his way home, and suddenly he passes a friend who gives him flashlight, a map, a pair of boots, and a compass, and then removes the blindfold.
Of course, the friend on the dark street had to first help me realize that I was lost. He knew that because he himself wasn’t hindered in his own sight. This was not a case of the blind leading the blind. He was not lost. He could see. He knew where I was and he knew how I needed to find the way home. And he had to shatter my illusions in order to help me. He had to break some eggs.
Since that conversation, I’ve made some changes in the way I do certain things. I’ve acquired a few new tools, and I’ve dusted off some old ones that have been layin’ unused on the shelf for too long. I’ve also altered the way I think about things, or more accurately, I’ve made a decision to avoid mediocrity, to abhor complacency. I’ve decided that I will not make the same mistake again of settling for lackluster. I don’t want to be known for being someone who does things halfway. I’m better than that. I’m pushing all my chips forward into the pile. I’m charging on horseback across that plain with the reins in my teeth and both guns blazing. Fill your hands.
Gird your loins.
I’m all in. 78