Tag Archives: losing

“Are You Going To Do It Like That?”

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My favourite moment in Shakespeare In Love is when the players are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, and one of them says a line in a silly, melodramatic voice.  Ben Affleck’s character Ned stops acting, turns to his colleague and asks “Are you going to do it like that?” in a voice dripping with disbelief and disdain.  Thinking about that moment always makes me laugh, except when it occurs to me just before I’m about to do something stupid.  At that point it makes me laugh, but also rethink my actions.

It would be wonderful to go through life doing everything graciously and well, but unfortunately we are humans and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain that sort of thing indefinitely.  The best we can aim for is being gracious and grown-up when it matters most, and even though I’m not sure how many of these I manage to do myself, here are a few key moments when I think Ben Affleck’s disdain might come in handy to prevent disaster.

  • Breaking up with someone: hard to do, but important to get right.  Breaking up with someone is about being respectful and considerate, not patronising or vindictive.
  • Being broken up with: equally difficult, and still about respect.  In this case, self-respect.  Your job as the broken-up-with party in a relationship is to occupy yourself with being a brilliant human being, not reducing yourself to a rejected mess.
  • Pursuing your passion: go for what you want in life, but do it well.  Work hard, don’t be bitter about other people’s success, and accept that you probably won’t be an overnight success story.
  • Losing: don’t be grumpy.
  • Winning: don’t be smug.
  • Talking about your parents: in most cases, our parents did the best job they knew how to do.  Even if they didn’t quite succeed, there’s no point dwelling on it.  You’re a grown-up now, and you can make yourself happy.
  • Watching television: don’t talk over the dialogue, don’t commandeer the remote and for heaven’s sake don’t force anyone to watch a reality television show.

Like I said, I’m not sure how many of these I actually manage to do myself.  The other thing about being gracious is that it’s a habit we have to learn over time, and hopefully knowing where to start – with life’s key moments – will help us to get there.  In the meantime, I’m going to put the kettle on.  Does anyone want a tea or coffee?

Chance is a Pretty Fine Thing

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Good morning, reader!  How are you feeling?  Ready for your weekend, I’ll bet.

Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess (i.e. a very good friend of mine) who had just come out of a horrible relationship.  Her ex-boyfriend had lied to her, stolen money from her and shown her no respect.  Out of shame and sadness, the princess had hidden most of this behaviour from the world, including the nasty boyfriend’s best friend.  The princess had always been good friends with the ex’s best friend, who was horrified when he discovered how badly his friend had been treating the princess.  In a fit of chivalry, he ditched the nasty friend, rushed to the princess’ side and vowed to support her – just as friends, you understand – with anything that she needed.  They rapidly became very good friends.

After several months of this very sweet friendship being strictly platonic and respectful, some courtiers (i.e. me and the girl’s parents) clocked that a pretty serious mutual crush was afoot.  Through subtle prodding and gentle encouragement – which mainly took the form of blatant chivvying – we got the girl to admit how she felt, and eventually she told him, too.  I believe his exact response to her declaration was “Thank God”.

I like that story for two major reasons: firstly, the girl in question is very important to me, and she really, really deserves that fairy tale ending.  Secondly, it was excruciatingly obvious to the rest of us that those two were nuts about each other, but in their respectively awkward situations they didn’t believe that the other person would or could feel the same.  The only way to find out conclusively was to take a chance.

Here is the thing about chances: we take them all the time without realising.  You cross a road because you expect to get to the other side (unless you are one of those mavericks who doesn’t wait for the green man, in which case you’ve really taken your life into your own hands).  We make suggestions in meetings at work, we pipe up with answers in lessons and we make jokes in the pub.  Nine times out of ten nothing terrible comes from these situations, but very occasionally your suggestion might be off-piste, your answer wrong and your joke unfunny.  We take the risk because we’ve calculated that the chance of a negative outcome is pretty small.  That’s brilliant, but we only got there by doing the research: the school kid gets cleverer by being brave enough to put their hand up and give answers every day.  The funny person discovers that they can make people laugh by making those quips or comments whenever they come to mind, and getting a good response.  We reduce risks all the way through life by playing to win from an early age, and learning from the situation when we lose.

As we get older, the chances that we take are much bigger: job applications, going travelling, proposing to someone, getting a mortgage.  Sometimes these are terrifying, but the principal of confidence still applies: we go for these things because we know, deep down, that we can do this.  There is always the possibility of defeat, but we are also very sure that success is obtainable, if not certain.  We take a chance because the chance is there to take.

It’s important to jump at opportunities because it builds up your confidence to tackle those same risks over and over, and build up your odds of winning: it’s the same as raising your hand in a classroom.  Doing it over and over again will make you wiser and more capable of dealing with wrong answers.  (As someone who is friends with a lot of teachers, I realise that it might also drive your educators mad, but you need to learn as much as possible.  Also, this is mainly a metaphor.)

Take a chance on something this weekend. It doesn’t matter how small or large it is: see that film you’re not too sure about or declare your love to someone; book a plane ticket to a faraway place or read a different newspaper.  It’s up to you.  But your weekend is so much more likely to be awesome (or at least memorable) if you use it to do something new.

Enjoy your Friday!