Deciding against taking the safe route

“If you choose to listen to the skeptics in your path, or let your natural self-doubts consume you, you’ll take the safe route every time. In doing so, you’ll pass up the chance to realize your potential.” I pulled that quote from a book I’m reading and wrote it on a piece of paper so I would remember it rather than underline the words on the page, which personalizes the copy and makes it difficult for others to enjoy the read.

The authors, Bert and John Jacobs, are the founders of the Life is Good Company, which makes T-shirts and hats that feature a stick figure with a big grin paired with the slogan “Life is Good.” The stick figure is usually involved in a sport or adventure, thus riding a bicycle or trekking through the forest.

The statement was made in reference to their business success, which was a long-time coming. In the beginning they sold T-shirts from a van, traveling along the East Coast on extended road trips stopping at colleges to pitch their product dorm-to-dorm. Later they worked from an apartment, using the kitchen as a warehouse.

The quote is perfect for those times when encouraging speeches are required, such as high school and college graduations. Most can relate. I think of all those times I voiced a desire to compete in the Amazing Race, the TV reality show where teams race around the world trying to book the best flights, interpret clues correctly, navigate foreign cities and ace various physical and mental challenges. In each leg of the race the last to arrive is usually eliminated from the competition. I haven’t yet made any effort to compete and if I were truthful it is because I do not want to be one of those people on film frustrated and crying because I can’t figure out a competition and therefore arrive last and get cut.

Yet there are other times when I did not take the safe route in spite of self-doubt. Try breathing through a scuba regulator under water without a facemask … one of the skills I had to learn to become a certified diver. Refusing to drop speech class at Ponderosa High School in spite of the anxiety attacks that struck each time I stood at the podium. Or most recently, signing up for a Photoshop class through the Adult Ed program at Westwood Unified even though my mastery of the computer is limited.

The quote is one that prompts introspection. Will we take a chance to learn, to overcome negative attitudes like fear and doubt, in order to discover our opportunities? That was the point the authors were making in their book. But skepticism and self-doubt aren’t the only things that stop us in our tracks and cause us to go a different direction, the one that is the safe route. There is ridicule, conflict, peer pressure, shaming and intimidation as well, all of which are common tactics used to silence people of opposing points of view. “Courage” was the title of the chapter in which Bert and John tucked the quote I wrote in the beginning of this column.

I choose to live according to Scripture as a follower of Jesus Christ. That means my views do not always align with the ways of the world. However, as a Christian, the love of God has been poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit. That love is the Greek word agape, which results in treating people with respect and dignity.

In our current culture, Christianity is often maligned and Christians mocked. Comments on television and elsewhere create caricatures of Christians I do not recognize in Scripture or real life. It is one of those times when the safe route is inviting. Lessons from history demonstrate that such hostile attitudes put followers of Jesus Christ in jeopardy.

But courage is required not only to reach goals in life but to stand for our convictions. Both shape our character which results in reaching our potential. Both require veering from the safe route.