Do Dumb Things

What’s the worst that could happen? I double-dog dare you. You’re not chicken, are you?

The words that come before we do something stupid.

Ever been there? I think we all have. I know I’ve uttered those words or accepted the challenge given.

Harry and Llyod headed to Aspen (Dumb and Dumber)

Image via Creative Commons

And sometimes they ended with me doing something dumb.

One time I was challenged to swim out to a no-swim buoy in Lake Michigan. Big mistake.

It was dumb and I almost didn’t make it back to shore.

Then there was the time I turned down an assistant manager position. Only to wind up fired from my job.

When these things were happening, it seemed like I was doing dumb things. Not making wise choices.

The swimming incident most likely wasn’t the wisest choice I could have made. It almost cost me my life.

But it taught me something.

I found that when my strength seemed to be gone, I could keep going. I could paddle a little further. I could make it to shore.

It may have been by the skin of my teeth, but I survived.

The other lesson? There are times and places to test out dumb ideas. In Lake Michigan isn’t one of them.

I was also told I made a dumb decision when I didn’t accept the assistant manager position.

At the time, it seemed like those who were saying I was crazy were right.

What right did I have as a newly married man to not accept the position? Great husbands take jobs to support their families, right?

Well, I didn’t. And we suffered, for awhile.

The computer repair business I pursued floundered. I couldn’t get it off the ground. I thought we were sunk. I thought the decision was really dumb.

Then there was the turning point. The point where my dumb decision resulted in a fantastic pay raise, a great place to work, and more freedom than I would have had  if I had accepted the assistant manager position.

All this to say: We do dumb things. We falter in the choices we make. We discover we don’t know it all.

Yet if we continue to move forward, to put one leg in front of the other, we can learn from the dumb things we do.

We can make a bad situation better. We can move from an okay job to a fantastic one. We can survive.

Question: Have you done anything you would consider dumb? What did you learn from the situation? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • On_a_Mission

    I have observed that the fear of failure [being dumb] can be so paralyzing that sometimes nothing ever gets done. Failure is the best [and most humbling] teacher and without it, how will you grow? I have never been afraid to fail, but I do fear failing to learning [enough] from my stupidity to keep me from doing it again.

    • Exactly. Failure is a great teacher. What ways do you keep learning?

      • On_a_Mission

        The reason that failure is such a good teacher, for me, is because it really grabs your attention and is always both relevant and personal. Contrast that to reading or other learning methods, which don’t always do any or all of that.

        Thus, I fail a lot.

  • I could write a book (hey…I am!) on all the dumb things I did early on in life. Now I find that I am teaching others through all the mistakes I made…in other words…it increased my wisdom about life. I’m lucky to be alive too, Joseph! Like I said, I could write a book. Like the saying goes, we learn far more from our failures than from our successes (or something like that).

    • Linda, that’s great you’ve found a way to use your past mistakes to help others. It’s always good to know our past can be put to good use. Keep it up!

  • Joe – love the D&D reference and yes, I’ve done plenty of dumb things. Most notably, financially. Back in my real estate hay day, I purchased ‘investment’ real estate. Clearly, I wasn’t a big Dave Ramsey proponent then. When some of the deals went south it was very painful. However, those bad decisions were forced to be made right. I had to get it done and somehow, I did. I’m now down to only 1 more property and it is on the market. I can see the light at the end of the debt free tunnel.

    • Ouch! Those real estate investments can be brutal. I’m glad you’ve learned from them Matt.

  • rcsinclair952

    Dumb is my middle name. I could write a whole book on my mistakes. However, it is not dumb if you learn from your mistakes. I learned my best lessons from experimentation and being dumb.

  • I love your point about there being a right time and place to trying things out – context is so important.

    When I think of dumb things I did, it involved hitting the top speed limiter at night on an empty road in the countryside. Thankfully, no lessons were learned the hard way, in this case.

    • Sounds like that dumb decision could have ended badly. What did you learn from topping out on speed that you apply to your life today?

      • Could have ended VERY badly. What I learned was this – just because you do something dangerous and survive, does not mean that it was a good thing or something to be repeated. I’ve never driven anywhere near that fast since.

  • Great post Joe. I have done a lot of dumb things. Most involve me rushing things. I have learned many lessons which to your point have shaped me in amazing ways. Biggest mistake is expanding my business to quickly. I am on the other side now but very scary for a while. Adding locations changes how they can be managed and reveals weaknesses.

    • That sure sounds like a learning experience Zech. What got you into the pizza business?

      • Born and raised in it Joe. Started washing dishes in the back of my dad’s stores when I was 5. I continue to be in it for the same reason why I write and preach. One of the definitions of restaurant is to restore the sole. I consider that my life’s work to restore!

        • Whoa, I didn’t know that about the definition of restaurant. That’s amazing.

  • Just out of college, I leased a Ford Explorer Limited. I got in way over my head partially due to unmet promises of my employer and mainly because I was dumb. I ended up putting a ton of miles on the vehicle traveling across Pennsylvania every couple of weeks to visit my girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife). This wasn’t the dumb part. But I should have made better financial decisions with my vehicle selection.

    • Yowza! Driving cross country in an Explorer had to have sucked the gas as well. I’m glad you’re making wiser financial decisions today.

  • Those who knew me 40 years ago would never, in their wildest imagination, believe I would be where I am today. I grew up in life on the wrong side of the tracks and the odds were truly stacked against me.

    I often reflect upon those times and as bad as they were, had I not lived them, I would probably not be where I am today. I must say, I am truly blessed: married 33 years, two wonderful daughters, a great job and some really awesome friends.

    • Bill, congrats on turning your life around and making better decisions! What made you stop living on the wrong side of the tracks?

      • Something deep inside (self-talk, I guess) kept saying, “this is not you…you can be someone…you can be better than this…” It’s really hard to explain, Joe.

        • I’m glad you were able to have that self-talk that encouraged you to better yourself. Looks like you were able to course correct and do some good.

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  • Joe,

    Remember back in August when I started the Cyber Network Defense Course? On day one i felt overwhelmed and realized this could be one of the single greatest opportunities I in my career. Like you said it is those moments when we think we can no longer push forward that help us understand our real capabilities. I pushed forward through the “pain” and graduated in the top three.

    Thanks to people like yourself, Bob Sinclair, Dan Black, and Alan Allard I was able to remain strong! Thanks Battle Buddy.

    • TJ, I’m glad you were able to make it through the course. It sounds like it was difficult but you pushed through and made it. Congrats!

  • Jeff

    From doing a dumb thing, I learned that life is more than my usual routines and that there are better ways to approach those same routines – which I generally keep.

    • It can be a struggle to get out of the habits and routines that keep us locked out of a better life. Keep trying to break them.