Jim Carrey made a film a few years back called “Yes Man,” wherein his character made a point of saying “yes” to everything (except presumably, committing felonies). This opened him up to a plethora of new experiences as well as true love. While the film did have its funny moments I think its true appeal was that it served to illustrate just how much we deprive ourselves of with negativity, or saying “no.” Who hasn’t stubbornly refused a flyer or voucher handed out by someone on the street, or declined an invitation to try something like skydiving, or even deleted an email for discount Cialis without reading it?
It would be preachy and cliche to spout banalities such as “at the end of your life you will regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did,” but I can not help but think of all the human potential that is squandered for lack of utilization. By simply trying something you would not ordinarily be inclined to try you may surprise yourself by finding a new proficiency or passion. Ironically, in our efficient and purposeful existence, where we steer clear of any obstruction hindering movement from point A to point B, I would hazard a guess that wasted human potential is the most abundant resource on the planet.
What to do about this predicament? Well, I am reminded of the words of Guy Debord in his 1958 treatise, “Theory of the Derive,” where he proposes that individuals,
“during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.”
The segment in bold is important because I feel it encapsulates the essence of the problem of wasted human potential: we are accustomed to the usual. In such a state as we live in, it is exceedingly difficult for responsible adults to do things on a whim without incurring the ire or, at the very least, the derision of others depending on you to keep doing what you have been doing thus far. Saying “yes” to any new experience or opportunity that comes along is anathema to structure and security. Don’t get me wrong, people will laud you for being bold and embracing life but only up until the point where your free-spiritedness conflicts with their ordered existence.
For example, my family is generally supportive of my
endeavours adventures, but I can see in the not-too-distant future one of my siblings having children. At that point, their support for my devil-may-care existence will be tempered with their earnest and understandable desire to see their offspring get ahead in this world. I will cease to be the adventurous brother and become the bum uncle who will serve as a cautionary tale to the offspring for why they should do their homework, eat their vegetables or use prophylactics: “IF YOU DON’T USE A GOOD SPERMICIDAL LUBRICANT YOU’RE GOING TO END UP A BUM JUST LIKE YOUR UNCLE.” But I digress.
Still, at the risk of advising you on a course of action which could result in a downward life spiral and self-ruin, we should not let the expectations of others and the omni-present threat of becoming a cautionary tale ground our inklings to the point where we view them simply as distractions. It is in those inklings and urges, so often put on a backburner due to prohibitive cost (time or money), fatigue and/or children, where our true passions reside. Now don’t go selling your house, wife & kids to chase your pipe dream of becoming a millionaire seducer of women/space marine; if you fall short of the mark it will sour you on new experiences. If you really want to rectify the situation in a manageable way, the next time someone invites you to something, man up and say “yes.”