Proceed With Confidence

By Ron Ciancutti

I have a friend who buried a parent recently, and after some time had passed I noticed my friend didn’t appear to be doing much better. I approached him in a careful—but light—manner and, indeed, he was still struggling with the loss. He had been divorced for many years, and didn’t really have a close circle of family or friends to share his grief. I asked if he was affiliated with any church or religious group. Sometimes people just need to talk.

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / lzf

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / lzf

He looked at me as if I had two heads.

“Please,” he waved. “When I was about 10 years old, my mom and I went into a church to ask about joining, and the clergyman in the chapel was so rude that we decided right there and then to never come back to a church for anything!”

Now it was my turn to stare at him. “Really?”

“Forty-some years ago, one grumpy man got short with you and your mom, and you based your whole religious devotion and decision on that mortal idiot?”

He paused. “Well, I admit it might sound different now, but at the time … .” And he then told me the real reason that that moment had been galvanized in his mind since that day.

Missed Opportunities
Not so incredible, really. But it set my mind in motion about all the missed moments in life that “might have been” if not for a particular hurdle, setback, or self-imposed limitation:

· The girl who said she was too busy to go on a date and was truly busy, but would have been glad to go out if you had asked her another time. Maybe you shouldn’t have given up so quickly. Maybe you should have been more confident.

· The promotion you planned to ask for and felt you deserved, except one of your peers discouraged you. One errant word and you thought it better not to say anything, and then regretted it for the rest of your career. Was there really any harm in trying?

· What about that restaurant that went out of business but was in a perfect location? You just knew it would have been a success if it had been a pizza shop instead of a Chinese place. What stopped you from securing a loan? Could it have been your father who worked at the auto plant for 40 years and thought the shop was too risky? After all, he secured you a nice steady job on the line, right? “Dreams are too dangerous, son.”

To Heck With Regret
The last time I checked, our time on earth is limited. The likelihood of time running out before we can do all the things we want is practically guaranteed. This isn’t about the old rallying cry to seize the day; it’s about recognizing the barriers we set up that whisper sounds of regret in our head all day.

· I should have called her back.

· I should have tried to run my own business.

· I shouldn’t have listened to people who didn’t really know what I felt or wanted.

· I should have followed my heart instead of letting my head deflate my dreams.

Seize The Moment
With the advent of social media, some people have found a way to spy on former flames and crushes to determine if they are divorced, unhappy, lonely, or needy in any way so then and only then can the spies reach out with an animated confession of adoring their victim from afar. It’s so safe and so cowardly. Without the risk of rejection, the plea is so empty, so gutless. Wouldn’t they rather make a bold statement about who they are? Why are they so timid about their vulnerabilities?

· “Bob, I saw your website. Congrats on the new business. I’d like to meet with you sometime to share some ideas. Please give me a call.”

· “Karen, I saw your bio on social media the other day. I now live in the Bay area too. I’d love to meet you for lunch someday. I’ll include my cell number and hope to hear from you. Man, your photo is beautiful! You haven’t aged a day!”

· “Joel, I saw a show on fishing the Great Lakes last night, and it reminded me of our many excursions when we were younger. I’d love to get together and reminisce sometime. Been way too long. My number is included below. Please find a night when you and Donna are free, and we’ll meet for dinner. Jenny sends her best as well.”

I’m sure you’ve recognized the elephant in the room by now. It’s that old friend: confidence. Elusive as the quality may be, it is so critical to navigating a successful life. Not just a life that others see as successful, but a life that fulfills us and propels us onto the next challenge without self-doubt. Good habits develop a discriminating, respected, and admired human being. No clergyman, friend, parent, sibling, spouse, or associate of any kind should have more impact on our decisions than we do. So above all, my friends—know thyself.

Ron Ciancutti worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He is now retired. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at