Taking Action Leads to Glory, Not Taking Action Leads to Regret

You’ve heard it a thousand times before: you must take action.  It’s the most important thing.  Which is so true.  I’m going to tell you two stories which, when juxtaposed together, make the point.

The first time I told story #1, to a real estate company of about 60 people, 23 years ago, I almost got booed off the stage, that’s how upset with me they were.  And I can’t say as I blame them, because my behavior in this story really was pitiful.  Alas, this is a sad story of not taking action.  Actually, it’s even much worse than that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was 14 years old and we had just moved to the north side of Chicago, West Rogers Park.  I’d transferred to Senn High School and nervously walked into my new science class.  I spotted her immediately, even before I took my seat, which was a couple of rows to her left.  She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever set eyes on.  A vision beyond compare.  There was just something about her beauty that captured me completely.  I fell in love on the spot and from that day on couldn’t keep my eyes off her.  I would sneak glances every 30 seconds or so.  It’s a wonder I even pulled a C in that class.  Her name was Barbara, which rang in my ears like a sweet melody.  I never so much as spoke to her, of course: she was part of the popular crowd, the in-crowd, the unattainable Venus, and I was just this new nobody.  I spent that entire semester just loving her from afar, imagining her in a thousand different wonderful ways.  When the semester ended, I was a lost soul who was inconsolable, daydreaming of the great love that would never be.  For the next two years, whenever I caught a glimpse of her, such as passing her in the hallway on my way to a class, my heart would skip a beat—her beauty and my love for her remained unchallenged.

Then, in my junior year, out of the blue, I marched into a study hall and there she was, in all her glory.  Needless to say, I didn’t get much studying done.  She was even more beautiful at 16 than she was at 14.  God’s perfect creation.  I fell more deeply in love than before; hooked—I was completely, totally hooked.  She dominated my every waking moment.  It was insane.  And then I started to think about asking her out, mature and wiser man that I was, which caused my palms to sweat like I was in a Turkish bath.  For weeks this went on, every thinking moment, my courage building slowly, a millimeter a day.  When the day finally came, D-day, D for date, I swallowed hard and, practically peeing in my pants, approached her and did it—I asked her out—and then held my breath as I waited for her to let me down, hopefully gently as she possible could.

But she didn’t let me down.  She smiled warmly and said, “I’d love to.”  And now we get to why they almost booed me off the stage, because from that moment of pure ecstasy on, it was all downhill.  You see, others had listened in and the word got out, and the unrelenting teasing began, especially from the people who didn’t like me; it was brutal, on top of my own building fears of what a disaster it would probably be—me with this Vision, this ultra-popular incomparable vision of a woman, and it got worse and worse, as Saturday got closer and closer, and now it just wasn’t my palms that were sweating, all of me was sweating, literally and figuratively, to the point I panicked and knew I just couldn’t go through with it…

*Deep sigh*

So I broke the date, gave some flimsy excuse, and shamefully walked away from my beautiful Barbara forever, full of self-loathing and relief in equal doses.  A cowardly act that has stayed with me for 52 years.  A pitiful example of taking action and reneging because of the Great Enemy, fear.  Far far worse than not taking any action at all.

*Rolls his eyes*

Okay, enough of the crummy stuff, on to story #2, the good stuff.

Nicki and I have always enjoyed cruising; it’s our favorite form of vacation.  I can’t even count how many we’ve taken during the past three-and-a-half decades.  But I do recall one in particular, approximately 30 years ago, where something remarkable took place aboard Royal Caribbean’s Nordic Prince, in a large open-space lounge, with a crowd of somewhere between 500 and a 1000 people.  The couple responsible for giving dance lessons—they were married—was putting on a dance contest—the men danced with the woman and the women danced with her husband; and yours truly was debating about getting up there in front of all those people and participating.

We’re back to sweating-palms territory, folks.  The same guy who fearlessly sold advertising to rock-hard, tough businesspeople was scared to death to get up there and strut his stuff in front of a large audience like that.  This despite the fact that I did the meanest jitterbug you’ve ever seen, and the husband-and-wife dance team was allowing anyone to pick whatever dance they wanted.  I figured I could really wow ‘em, y’know?  But all those people, my God, it was terrifying!  What if something went wrong?  What if I flopped miserably?  What if I didn’t win, ridiculous perfectionist that I was in my youth?

So I sat there and debated with myself as others kept standing up and heading out to the dance floor to give it a go.  Then I mentioned to Nicki how much I wanted to do it, but was scared out of my wits to pull the trigger; so naturally she started egging me on, which led to the small crowd around us to needle me about it, and now we’re talking about an internal battle worthy of Walter Mitty in his darkest moments, y’know?  Well…reason finally prevailed and like Paul Newman and Robert Redford jumping off that cliff in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, up I went, pits probably soaked through to go with the wet palms.

I want you to know, I danced the jitterbug of my life!  So much so that when it was over and the crowd was applauding, I overheard the husband, in admiration, say to his wife, “Caught a ringer, huh?”  Man, I was in all my glory, really full of myself.  When it was time to pick a winner, which was done by the sound of audience applause as the wife held a hand over our individual heads, I ran away with it, no contest, the cheering and stomping a dozen decibels beyond anyone else’s.  I was victorious and lovin’ every second of it!

The next night we’re in the same lounge, with about the same size crowd and they’re picking the queen and king of the ship.  I can’t recall the process, but they picked the queen first; it took about a half hour—silly but fun stuff.  Then it was time to pick the king, which, it turns out, was whomever the queen decided it was—her choice 100%.  All she had to do is head towards some guy, any guy, sitting on the perimeter of the room and point him out and bring him back to the dance-floor and dance with him—her husband, I figured.

I figured wrong.  No, she headed towards my area of the room, and as she got closer and closer I could see that she was heading straight for me, her eyes focused directly on me, no one else—I couldn’t believe it—and sure enough she comes right up to me and reaches out for my hand, takes it, and leads me back to the dance-floor to the cheering, applauding audience.

“Why me?” I asked her.

And this is what she said: “I saw you dance.”

And that is how I became king of the Nordic Price for the rest of the two-week cruise.  “Your majesty,” people greeted me; or “Your royal highness”; or can I buy you a drink, m’lord?”  Everyone on that ship knew who I was.  People walked by on the promenade deck and bowed.  It was hilarious, and, more importantly, I had the time of my life.  It was incredible!

And all because I stood up and went out on that dance-floor.  All because I acted.  All because I acted despite the fear.

So…the point is, the next time you’re in a dilemma like either of the two stories and you’re feeling the effects of the Great Enemy, fear, take the necessary action, anyway! Who knows, it may led you to royalty.

Or as my late father used to say, no guts, no glory.

Here’s to taking action, and to achieving a little, or a lot of, glory.