I spent the last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, doing some research on how people are recovering psychologically and spiritually after the flood. On Sunday, we had the day off from collecting data, so I decided to take a quick trip to New Orleans and see the Saints play the Raiders on opening day.
It was an exciting game. With only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Saints were up by seven points, but the Raiders were driving the ball down the field. The Saints defense stinks, so the Raiders were able to march right down the field and score a touchdown, with less than a minute left in the game.
If you didn’t grow up watching football, a touchdown is worth six points. After you score a touchdown, you have the option to kick an extra point (which is worth one point) or try to score from the two-yard line (which is worth two points). Most teams kick the extra point, because it is a safer bet.
At this point in the game, the stakes were high. If the Raiders kicked the extra point, they would tie the game and send the game into overtime. But if they went for two, they would either win the game (if they got it) or lose the game (if they didn’t). Most teams in this situation would take the safe route, kick the extra point, and send the game into overtime.
Most of the time in my life, I kick the extra point. I take the safe option. Whether it is at my job, in my relationships, or in my stock portfolio, I tend not to want to take on too much risk. I get anxious and scared. I would rather tie it up, send the game into overtime, and see what happens.
But playing it safe isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes I miss out on opportunities because I am risk-averse. Sometimes I look back on my life and regret not taking a chance on something. Because I don’t push myself, sometimes I don’t give myself an opportunity to learn and grow from my experiences.
The Raiders went for two and they got it. Boom. They took a chance and it paid off with a huge opening day road win. It was exciting, and I was proud of them for going for it.
I know myself, though, and at least in my head, there’s always this little voice saying, Yikes! What if they went for two and they didn’t get it? Wouldn’t it be better to just play it safe and kick the extra point?
It’s hard to answer that question. I do know that going for two is a more exciting way to live. It causes me to rise to the occasion in a way that playing it safe never does. It stretches me. Even if I fail, I learn and grow from my experience, which makes me stronger and better able to tackle the next risk. And I have a better story to tell.
Discussion: What do you think about taking risks and ‘going for two’ in your own life? What things hold you back and make you want to play it safe?