My last blog post on audacity got a great response. I particularly enjoyed conversations with Documentally and Beth Granville, both of whom are models of mine for more audacious living.
My call with Documentally was interesting because, as someone often audacious, he was anxious that his audacity could be draining the world of generosity.
What if his asking meant other, more needy people would miss out? And what if everyone went around acting audacious and asking for free cups of tea? What would happen then? Wouldn’t all the tea sellers go bankrupt and leave us bereft of warming beverages?
Documentally also said that he always feels an obligation to reply his debt of gratitude to the people who help him. He’d been expecting me to share the location of the beachside kiosk where I got my free tea last week.
It didn’t even cross my mind. Why not? I have no good answer to that question, and now feel like an ungrateful little swine. 🙂
In my defence, the thesis of my writing was not about the kiosk – or even about generosity. Generosity is the flip side to audacity, and a story for another day.
I also never imagined that you lovely readers would ever be interested in visiting that particular kiosk, so why would I share its address?
But why ever not? Embedded in my somewhat solipsistic writing was an endorsement of a generous hearted kiosk operator. Why wouldn’t other people want to visit this kindly young man and exploit – sorry, reward his generosity? Especially as I know at least 7 people who visit Bournemouth on the regular.
So, without further analysis, if you ever find yourself in Bournemouth, then the kiosk you absolutely must visit is attached to the Versuvio restaurant on the seafront at Alum Chine. If you’re looking for What3Words, it’s still.slave.status, which is heartbreaking.
The karmic torpedo
We could enjoy an hour or two addressing Documentally’s other concerns, throwing around arguments for and against the karmic repercussions of audacity. But a story Beth told me pretty much torpedoes the whole argument.
You see, something similar happened to Beth the other day – except she really had forgotten her wallet, and really was gasping for a tea.
She was out with a friend, walking the dog, so went into the park cafe and asked if she could have a free cup of tea. The woman behind the counter said yes.
So, while she was there, Beth asked if her friend could have a tea as well – oh and these wafers look good – and how about a doggy treat for Jilly?
Think that’s taking the piss? I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Firstly because Beth offered to come back and pay – and actually did. But secondly, and I think more importantly, because of this story’s torpedo effect on Documentally’s karmic concerns.
What is normal? This is normal
Everyone has a totally different take on what defines normal behaviour. Did Beth think her ask was audacious? Maybe a little, but clearly not to the extent that I did when, knees a-knocking, I asked for my free cuppa.
For Beth this behaviour was, although not an everyday occurrence, at least within the boundaries of normal. And why ever not? She wasn’t coercing the cafe server. She didn’t act entitled (although it has been said that no one is more ready to be famous), she asked.
As long as you stay on the right side of audacity, you should have no worries over the karmic repercussions of asking.
Indeed, I’d go much, much further. I think it is vitally important – for all of us, people and planet – that you act with audacity.
Would the world be a better place if everyone were so audacious? Yes, without question, it would.
Why we need an audacious world
Audacity puts an end to all regrets (and crimes) of omission. It wouldn’t put an end to regret itself – it’s perfectly possible to do something audacious that you later regret. But we regret the things we do far less and far less frequently than we regret the things we never did.
In an audacious world, there would be zero elderly men, nodding by the fire, dreaming what might have been if only they’d asked Mary to the ball in 1953 – zero!
There would be zero working women wondering what might have been if only they’d asked for a raise ten years earlier – zero!
And there would be zero activists wondering what might have been if they’d only done something more than sign a petition – zero!
Because, in an audacious world, they would have asked. It is in our acts of audacity that we improve our lives and the lives of others. In audacity, we don’t hold back; we leave it all out there; we do our best.
Anxiety is the opposite of audacity
I’m not saying that if you ask audaciously you will always receive bounty, of course not.
But the energy we channel into our anxiety over whether we’ll be rejected would be far better spent on dealing with the rejection (if and when it comes) and then asking someone else on a date, looking for a new job, or starting a more ambitious campaign.
The opposite of audacity is not, as you might think, conventional behaviour. The opposite of audacity is anxiety.
No one goes through life thinking purely conventional thoughts. No matter how straight-laced that man you see on his office commute every morning, you can bet your life that he’s fantasised about some pretty audacious behaviour in his time.
And you can bet your afterlife that he beats himself up about his conventional existence every single day. Instead of audacity, he feels anxiety.
Why practise audacity?
Breaking our habits of convention is not easy. We focus on the pain of failure far more often than we dare to imagine success.
Some people, like Beth, are pretty well practised at asking for what they want, but the rest of us can improve by taking on low-stakes audacity challenges where our future (not to mention our fragile pride) doesn’t depend on the outcome.
These training challenges will be different for each of us. For me, it might be taking a guitar out to the beach and playing for passers-by.
For you, it might be sitting down on a park bench and talking to a stranger (wait – that one’s for me too).
For someone else, it might be leaving work unfinished and goofing off for an hour to listen to birdsong (wait – that one’s also for me).
If nothing too bad happens, then screw your courage to the sticking place and try something even more audacious.
Audacity today; audacity tomorrow
Slowly, through this practice, we hope to learn that no matter how audacious, neither our future nor our foolish pride will ever depend on the outcome of one act.
Yes, our actions today will go some way to moulding our tomorrow, but tomorrow will be as ripe for audacity as today ever was. Even if you totally mess up, you have the chance to choose again, and right your course.
So meet tomorrow’s audacious opportunities tomorrow, without looking past those coming ripe today.
The risk is that the alternative to audacity – anxiety – will keep us frozen in place. Do you want to keep on making the same mistakes tomorrow as you did today? That’s one definition of hell.
Far better to take an audacious step – in any direction – than to fall where you stand. Which reminds me of this maxim from psychiatrist Viktor Frankl:
Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.
Documentally made some excellent points, and it’s always helpful to stress-test any theory against the pangs of your conscience. But, in truth, we have no worthwhile alternative to audacity.
Before you ask: the cafe Beth audaciously plundered was in Grovelands Park in Winchmore Hill, Enfield. W3W: universally.wisely.woven.