What would the world look like if it was easier to keep trying than it was to give up? The question defies all aspects of logic as we know it because ‘trying’ requires real resources that ‘giving up’ does not require: money, time, energy, etc. Culturally, we as Americans find ourselves forever striving to balance potential cost against potential reward. If the reward is not high enough, if the ‘return on investment’ is not a net gain, then the solution is clear – stop trying. We are expected to know when to hold and when to fold, as one country music legend puts it. Even still, I can’t shake my curiosity for what life might look like, how it might feel, if giving up was harder than trying.
For starters, I imagine the world would have more emotional and community support. Idealistic inventors, artists and world travelers would be lauded for their creativity and ambition and constantly encouraged by friends, family and peers. Cities and neighborhoods would promote local small businesses at a rate that would give box stores and international conglomerate marketing teams a run for their money. Asking for help would not come with feelings of fear, shame, or embarrassment. Instead, encouragement and motivation would be in abundance and defeat and disappointment the rare birds.
If trying were easier than giving up, innovation would run rampant. Life hacks would make headlines and reality TV shows would showcase explorers, photographers, and entrepreneurs. 24-hour news channels would have innumerable stories to broadcast – from local high school students organizing community efforts to Philanthropists funding futuristic experimentation in start-up labs across the globe. People would share mistakes and failures openly, with a genuine interest in seeing someone else succeed rather than quit. Comments like, “I told you so,” and “what else did you expect,” would cease to exist in common dialogue.
If endeavor was a core principle for our society, only the best products and services would be available. Remote software updates would improve product quality instead of fix known bugs; vehicle recalls would be proactive and convenient rather than belabored and burdensome; insurance requirements to protect against negligence or malpractice would be unnecessary.
While I admit that this post paints a flawed and quasi-Utopian image, the exercise underscores to me the need to re-calibrate how we treat ambition and obstacles. Ambition, in and of itself, should be admired. It is not an end, but rather a commitment to a journey undertaken by too few. Similarly, obstacles we face must be challenged and considered with skepticism instead of certainty. Part smoke, part immovable object, any obstacle can be overcome with the right combination of energy, creativity, and confidence.
Me.Now. will forever side with the ambitious and crusade against the obstacles… will you join us?