The Logical (But Stupid) Reason Most People Miss Out On Life

Stephen Hussey

(Photo: Gonzalo Saenz)

There’s a quote from Hugh Laurie, the star of House, that really captures the tragedy of not going for the opportunities in front of us:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

I have to constantly fight the temptation to wait until I’m ready. I’m liable to be the kind of person who thinks they just need another week on that project, or a few more practice runs before I’m ready to expose myself to the world.

The only way I’ve been able to achieve anything is when I had people around me who didn’t play by those rules.

Here are few examples of times in my life I wasn’t ready:

1. Playing guitar in front of an audience

Despite years of casual picking and strumming, I am still a woefully novice guitarist.

I started playing in my teenage years, having begged my dad for an electric guitar. I would thrash my way through power chords and Blink-182 songs, usually hidden away from everyone else, and thought maybe in a few years at best I would be able play at an open-mic for fun.

Then a friend who was way better at guitar than me suggested that we should put together a little band, and as soon as I tentatively agreed, he declared with excitement in his voice: “And we should definitely play a gig at my end of year party in September as well!”

Now this scared me for two reasons: (1) I had never played in front of anyone (for good reason: I was, and am still not a good guitarist), and (2) This guy threw HUGE parties, which meant everyone from school would be there.

This guy was the social hub. He was responsible for those enormous end-of-school parties that happen once all the exams are over. His house was that place where everyone you knew would be invited (think Steve Stiffler in American Pie).

And now I knew that day was fast-approaching, I wasn’t allowed to wait any longer.

I practiced every day at my friend’s house, learning chords and endlessly practicing riffs, mostly because I was terrified of humiliating myself in front of my entire school year.

When the gig finally came, I got my first taste of singing with a microphone whilst trying to play guitar (it’s hard). I also had to deal with the technical side of keeping time with other instruments (even harder). I also had the horror of having one of my guitar strings snap in the middle of playing and had to swap guitars halfway through the song.

By professional standards, the gig wasn’t going to attract any record labels.

But it wasn’t terrible either. It was scrappy. It was loose and under-rehearsed. We nailed a couple of songs, and even though I was never going to be in a real band of any success, it was exhilarating to belt out a few chords and muddle through a few of my favourite songs with my friends (I was held up fortunately by genuinely talented musicians). For an evening I felt like an actual performer.

The crowd cheered. People enjoyed the set. It wasn’t The Beatles’ farewell on a London rooftop, and we were in no way ready to perform, but because I was forced, I got to learn a thousand lessons about performing on stage that I would have never learnt otherwise.

2. Rowing

During my university years I decided to jump on a popular bandwagon and get into the sport of rowing.

At first, I was totally unfit to be any sports team. I had strength, but my aerobic fitness was nowhere near the level it needed to be to seriously compete.

I considered leaving it and waiting until the following year.

When I squeezed through the trials, I knew I had gotten a lucky break (I’m 6ft 1 and have a lot of natural strength). I thought maybe I would just enjoy the training, but didn’t hold serious hope of being picked for the final eight who would row in the summer competition.

I thought I could hide away, just train, and maybe think about seriously competing in a race next year.

But then our coach sprung a surprise on us: “Our first competition is in six weeks. I want you all to be race fit and ready to compete by then”.

I was stunned.

If you’ve ever tried rowing, you’ll know that it takes weeks or even months just to be able to row in a boat that’s balanced and stable, let alone being ready to compete and face off against other crews in an aggressive head-to-head race.

And yet somehow that’s exactly what we did. I trained every day. I got fitter than I’d got in my entire life. After six weeks, we competed in our first competition and reached the quarter finals. Then, after another six months of grueling early mornings and intense team workouts, I was asked to compete in the biggest race of the university summer calendar.

Bear in mind I was still not a great rower. I was fitter and stronger than I’d ever been (the exquisite joy of finding abs on your stomach!), but was I really ready to compete in big races? Not really. I still had sloppy technical problems. I screwed up and took some dodgy strokes in races.

But suddenly, waiting to get ready was no longer an option. We were booked to compete so we showed up, ready or not.

Over that year we won way more races than we lost, and were hailed as one of the strongest teams on the river. I’m looking up at my award (an enormous rowing oar with our crew’s names painted on it) right now as I write this.

It’s funny now to think I was so close to bailing out from one of the best sporting experiences of my life because I didn’t feel ready.

3. Meeting Girls and Having Relationships

In my early adolescence, I spent a lot of years watching other guys have all the fun with girls because I couldn’t bear to put myself on the line.

I wanted the perfect scenario, and it never came. For years I told myself I would meet girls in a few years, when I was more successful, older, and confident.

I said I would do it when I knew what I was doing. I said I would approach women when I felt ready and in the right mood. I said I would take chances with girls once I had got a six-pack in the gym after working out for 6-8 months.

I used to think of all kinds of reasons why I just couldn’t take that initial step. Why the circumstances just weren’t right for me to meet any girls whenever I went out.

As I got older and developed my abilities, I became much more confident. I had friends (and a brother) around me who pushed me and wouldn’t let me off the hook.

But with that came new excuses.

Now I had no problem meeting and attracting members of the opposite sex, but I would make excuses about why I wasn’t ready for a relationship. Because I didn’t have my life together. Because I didn’t have a cool apartment to bring girls back to. Because I didn’t have the time and was busy working on my studies and career.

The irony of all these situations is that I had it the wrong way around the whole time. I had told myself that once I was ready, I would be able to commit to serious action.

The opposite was true: Once I was forced to take serious action, I began to get myself ready. And it always led me to extraordinary experiences.

Saying yes to playing a gig put me in front of an audience and taught me how to hold the attention of a crowd.

Saying yes to a rowing competition got me to learn how to row and helped me achieve success at a high level.

Saying yes to meeting women and having relationships gave me access to a whole range of colorful experiences I can’t go into here.

Every stage of my life I now know to look for that feeling of not really being ready.

Anything I feel too prepared for, or that doesn’t involve even a tiny sense of danger, is usually something I’ve already outgrown, or something that isn’t going to give me a new experience.

Most people get too comfortable in life just being an expert in one comfortable area.

My challenge to you is to find ONE area you can be a complete novice at, or at least one area you are putting off taking chances in today because you don’t feel ready.

Write down below how you’re going to force your hand so that you take some action towards it this week. Make it something that gives you that tiny knot of fear in your stomach when you realise you’re going to have to do it.

Then chase that feeling.

*One more thing*

Six months ago I remember being in a restaurant with my friends and getting a phone call from Matt. “Can you go outside?” he said.

He was excited to tell me about his brilliant new idea – to have me write regular articles under my own name for his website. But while he was enthusiastic and fired up about it, I felt that old immediate sensation of discomfort and nerves flood my body. I had my usual feelings of hesitation, even as Matt reeled off all the reasons why it would be a great idea. I could sense his vexation and concern when he heard in my voice that I was on-the-fence about the whole thing.

“Just think about it this way” Matt said “it means that your stuff is going to be read every week by thousands of people. Pretty cool right?”

I told him I’d think about it. I wasn’t sure if I was ready.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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65 Replies to “The Logical (But Stupid) Reason Most People Miss Out On Life”

  • Hey Steve thanks for taking the courage to write these awesome articles.From my perspective you are intelligent, confident and have a great way of applying theoretical concepts to real life (and so does Matt). You give us the tools to be independent, strong people, who have confidence in our abilities because if your words. I know I am grateful. Rach

  • Very insightful Stephen. For what it is worth, I am glad that you took the leap to writing the weekly Get the Guy articles. Mine “I am not ready” moment was travelling by myself. This year I decided to face it head on. So back in March I did my first solo trip. I remember my stomach being in knots the night before flying out, and I was having doubts about my decision. At the end it was totally worth it. I attend a seminar and I did many tours where I met some amazing people. I had one of the best adventures of my life even when things didn’t go right.

    It’s amazing that there are people in our lives that just know how to push us to a new level that we didn’t think was possible to reach.

    Thank you Stephen!

    1. Thanks Mandy, really kind of you to say. Travelling alone should be my next big one. Thanks for the idea!

      Steve x

      1. Your welcome Stephen. If need a place to travel to, Canada is beautiful in the summer. Especially the mountains in Alberta.

  • Thanks for the article, Stephen. It reminded my again why I should stick with my “commitments” and challenges:)

    A couple of weeks ago I set myself a chalenge to talk to random people/people at work who I know little about; compliment them (genuinely); just get out of my head and give people more of my genuine attention.

    I went to the Attraction formula seminar a week ago and at the end, I was about to leave the event and normally, my old self would have left silently, buuut I remembered my commitment and I went up to your dad thanked him for such a great event and said that I hoped to meet him on the Retreat in October. And it felt great:)

  • Hi Steve,

    A great article, as always. I had several occasions of the type you describe. The most monumental was when I have declared that I wanted to emigrate from my country of birth. That has immediately put me at odds with the authorities, and there was no way back no matter how much I was fearing the journey. That decision turned out to be the most important decision in my life.

    “No way back” is a very effective approach, and sometimes I intentionally place myself into circumstances where I don’t have a choice but to proceed. Most recently, I volunteered to give a presentation on the topic I have created myself, Behavioral Economics of Dating (BED). After my name has appeared on the agenda, I HAD to do it.

    My slides were not great, but during the presentation I got inspired by the audience’s questions and was responding to them with various anecdotes. It went better than I expected and I volunteered to give this presentation at a similar event in July.


  • Hi Steve,

    So I’m pushing myself now to actually leave a comment in public ;) I’d rather send a comment to you by email if I could.

    Thanks for your article. I’ve been going through a pretty difficult phase of my life in the past months and happen to find myself in exactly the “This is too big, I’m not ready for it” stage. Tough luck… yesterday I got thrown into the deep end and I’ve got 3 weeks now to pull it off.

    I read your article this afternoon with exactly the described feeling of fear in my stomach which can sometimes almost be paralysing – distracting yourself until you can’t find any distraction anymore and you have to get started.

    Funny enough I had to realise that other people have the confidence in us to succeed in the tasks that scare us so much. Speaking about myself, I’m afraid to embarass myself – I’m afraid to fail. I presume that you had similar reasons: afraid of screwing up the gig, letting your team down in an important rowing race or making the first move while your friends watch you getting turned down. Why are we so afraid of failure, why don’t we have the confidence that others have in us?

    I’m happy they do :) Gives us the energy to actually attempt these daunting tasks. And your article has certainly given me the push of an unknown to confide in myself to actually pull this off and do the best I possibly can. So thanks v much!

    By the way, I really enjoy your personality shining through your articles which I find are getting more personal each time. I highly appreciate the courage and the risk you are taking in placing your personal stories, experiences and thoughts out there for us to comment. Hats off! (I presume the piña coladas did help though ;)

    Have a great weekend

  • mindreading, you are, Stephen;)
    I guess now I’ll have to do something about it.

    Thanks for voicing a solution for this:)

    PS Farewell, my lovely comfort zone…

  • So agree! I have the mindset of “when im more confident in myself I will go there or do this”. More and more im realizing that when im old ill have more regrets of not doing than what I actually do. Reading your articles and watching Matts videos is really helping so many women including myself. Thanks for what you and Matt and the whole Get The Guy team do!

    Hugs, Lauren

  • Today is March 17th 2015 and it’s my 30th Birthday today.

    This is the best article I could have read today Stephen.

    Last night I was reflecting on my last day of being 29 years old and I had this overwhelming sense of panic over everything I’ve not yet achieved and how I’m not where I’m supposed to be in my life.

    I went for a late night walk and had a few questions buzzing around my head…

    • What sums up my twenties?
    • How did I spend them?
    • Could I have done more?
    • Did I take enough risks?
    • What’s my story?
    • Have I made excuses my story?

    I’ve always wanted to be part of a professional theatre company, I’ve trained and studied to do it.

    Yet I constantly don’t put myself forward for auditions because…

    “I’m not ready yet”

    “I don’t feel ready yet”

    “I’ve only got once chance, I cannot wreck it, I have to be ready.”

    I can’t tell if I’m scared I’ll fail or I’m scared I’ll actually get what I want.

    Because logically I know that whilst I’m busy ‘getting ready’…people are out there DOING IT!

    They are just getting on with it.

    They’re getting experience, they’re making mistakes, they’re learning.

    What is it about this that makes me so scared to put myself out there?

    I’ve pushed myself to do lots of things I’ve been petrified of in the past…

    • I went to America by myself and even though I knew it was scary going alone, I got to travel from New York to Los Angeles along the Southern States with a group of people I’d never met before – and had an amazing time! If I hadn’t of gone, I wouldn’t have gotten to camp beside the Grand Canyon

    • I’m petrified of heights – yet forced myself to skydive out of a plane. In fact, I was having so much fun that the man I skydived with asked me out on a date and took me on a tour of Las Vegas. Something I never would have experienced if I’d put it off.

    • In my early twenties I was scared to leave home, yet forced myself to study elsewhere. I moved from Scotland to live in Hereford and then Birmingham in England. I met SO many new people who I still call my friends today! 

    • My personal trainer said that he wanted me to enter a bikini bodybuilding competition. I kept saying no. Walking around on the beach in a bikini is scary enough let alone on a stage!! Was he freakin’ crazy?! – This was my knee jerk reaction. But then I decided if I was going to pass up an opportunity, it’d be best to find out exactly what it I was passing up. I did my research and spoke to people who’d already done it. They said that training for a competition was extremely hard but immensely rewarding. 4 months later I was on stage and I had the time of my life!

    • I was scared to fill in the application form for The Retreat at The “Get the Guy” event at the O2 in London because I knew it meant that if my application was successful, I’d actually need to commit to helping myself get over a fear of failure/success in my Theatre career. No excuses now. Forced myself to fill it in.

    • When you called me on my mobile Stephen to talk about my application, I was scared to answer the phone because would you believe, I was scared you’d actually say yes to me?! If I was accepted onto the retreat, there’d be no excuse big enough to pass up an opportunity like that. I’d kick myself forever!

    • When I was accepted onto the Retreat for San Diego 2015 and I told you that I could afford it with no problem, I’m really sorry, but I told you a bit of a fib! I couldn’t afford it. I was shit-scared, because I HAD to go yet the money was nowhere in sight. But I knew that I could if I worked my ass off. Sure enough, since that phone call I’ve been doing a tonne of overtime on top of my 40 hours a week nightshift call centre job and worked my ass off to get myself a bonus this year. Which I’ve now got! The retreat isn’t extortionate at all, it’s great value for money, I just didn’t have the money.

    BUT you’re blog has helped me realise I’ve kind of been going about this the wrong way.

    I’ve been waiting for the Retreat. I’ve been telling myself…

    “Well, after the Retreat I’ll have all of the answers”
    “After the retreat, I’ll be ready.”

    Well, that’s months away!
    What am I gonna do…twiddle my thumbs until then?!


    So in the space of a few hours I’ve managed to get myself a Career Coach with a professional director and acting coach!


    Thanks Stephen. My most productive birthday yet!

    Ps. We’re all reaping the benefits to saying yes to your brother!

    1. Wow. Sounds like you’ve had some amazing experiences because you pushed through. Good for you and good for you for not waiting until the retreat and starting it now. I’d wish you the best of luck, but it doesn’t sound like you are going to need it. It sounds like you’ve got this under control. :)

  • I’m glad that you took him up on his offer as you are an amazing writter. You have a way of putting into words those issues that people have which are so hard for them to acknowledge let alone express. It gets people engaged, either because they love it or they hate it. I haven’t seen too many people in between. I think that’s a good thing so keep it up.

    On a more personal note my push to do what I wasn’t ready for didn’t come from others telling me here’s a date be ready, but it was still an outside source that gave me a nudge to push myself to do it now.
    I had been holding off on getting my lawn service started because it wasn’t the right time. Between the techology not being availble to have the type of battery and solar powered equipment I wanted, my ex thought it was pointless and a bad investment and convinced me I’d never go anywhere with it. Then I pushed past that and said I’m doing it anyway I have to at least try and then I had my head injury before I could get it going and I had my daughter and the doctors wouldn’t release me to drive or work so I wasn’t able to do it. On a positive note I wouln’t have had my daughter if I didn’t have my head injury and I wouldn’t have got to spend the first 3 years of her life taking care of her and teaching her. She would have had someone taking care of her while I worked.
    I finally got my Dr’s release to work and drive again so at the begining of this year I started my dream business with the name I wanted, but that was the easy part for me. The hard part was commiting to getting equipment that I know I am going to be upgrading by the end of the year. I already had gas powered lawn equipment and even though I want to provide lawn service that is battery, human and solar powered over gas I didn’t want to buy a cheap peice of equipment that I could use for small, less complex lawns, because I wasn’t ready and fear. I would say I should just wait until I can buy the real equipment I want and just use the gas equipment I have now because I was afraid. What if people didn’t like it, what if they thought less of me as a professional even though I had worked with my father’s lawn service for 6+ years. Then I realized I am a professional and I’m offering eco-friendly lawn care whenever possible and if I don’t get it than I’m not I’m not doing whenever possible. I bought my new reel mower for my smaller lawn accounts yesterday. Plus side is I won’t have to haul out the huge equipment even when I switch over from my commercial gas to commercial battery mowers so I can save the batteries for the larger & more complex accounts.
    I also had fear about starting my donation programs now and kept thinking I should wait until I’m more established. I should just focus on getting the business going so I can make it national in 5 years like I am aiming for and then start the programs. No one is going to take me seriously if I start them now and even if they do no one knows me. It’s not like I’m a household name yet so how am I going to get the word out about them and raise money for them and how well are they really going to do when no one knows about them. Last week I saw a post on my facebook newsfeed by a friend about her father’s cancer treatments taking their toll and one by my cousin who’s not doing well after her heart surgery and I realized I shouldn’t wait to start my programs. I should do them now. So last week I bought my web domain and built my website, which I was going to wait to buy my domain until next year when I was ready to take on such a task with the orginizing and the selling and the fundraising, and designing, and ordering, and, and, and, and AAAHHHHHHHH! My website went live 2 days ago. I got on the phone with the county, state, community gardens, professional gardeners & ahrborist and various others to get my Little Gardeners Program that’s aim is to get young children involved in the environment through gardening at no cost to the children, my Medical Assistance Lawn Care Program that helps those with medical conditions with lawn care for free or at reduced costs and my Heal America program that provides those who in need with clothing, food, blankets, toys, books, etc at no cost to them. So I now have a tax id # to sell shirts with and other products with my business logo on them so I can fund my programs, and accept donations. Plus side is now am allowed to have volunteers come in and teach the children, collect donation items and help me take care of my medical assistance lawns so the only costs are going to be that of materials, tools, plants, land, certificates, etc. and Now I don’t have to have to hire someone that I can’t afford to take care of medical accounts and have to limit myself to only taking on so many myself so that I can still do enough regular accounts to provide for my family. I may not be where I wanted to be before I started my programs and I’m a little overwhelmed trying to get all this going while being a single mom of 3 year old, but I’m glad I’m doing it now instead of waiting and believe it or not I feel really good about it. I’m excited I’m actually doing something I want that I feel is good, and scared that it won’t do well, and hopeful that people like it and respond well, and nervous because I don’t know how it’s going to do, all at once.
    Tomorrow I start designing flyers and mailers to let people know we are more than just a lawn service. Keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that we make a splash. :)

  • Another great read Stephen! At 32 years old, I found out my husband was cheating on my whilst my mom was dying of cancer. Within the same 8 months I lost my mom and was going through a divorce. Now 37, I still haven’t dated anyone seriously. I’m always making excuses and this article is just the kick in the butt I needed. And maybe I’ll start selling my photography. Thanks friend. :)

  • I’m not an English native speaker and in order to work in the UK I have to take IELTS. I was torn between going to UAE where my sister is working now and working in London which is a dream come true for me. For the first two weeks of January I was still hesitant to take IELTS but I finally decided to book the exam. I told myself it is now or never. I will never know until I try. As a first taker I did not apply to a review center. Before I went to work I read and practiced fast reading and listening. I was not able to follow the schedule I planned. I am so far behind. Now I feel unprepared and anxious. Well it is very evident because I am still awake at 1.45am now writing this. Readiness is not about knowing you can overcome whatever hurdles that you will encounter along your way because you can never be certain what will happen next. I think readiness in my personal context is having the confidence and courage that whatever life throws at you along the way, you won’t go empty handed because you will definitely gain something new and discover yourself more in the process. I almost forgot about this. I used to be bolder. Finally I can feel that my worries are starting to calm down and hypnos is already knocking on my door. I shall rest, regress to put this pressure away and pamper myself with lots of sleep and food. The battle will be on Friday and Saturday. Any words from you will really put me on hype to achieve something great… By the way I enjoyed VdayinmyPjs.. Happy hearts’ month to you and your lovely family. :)

  • Hi Stephen:
    I really enjoyed this piece, I always feel that way about everything too-that I am never ready. Even though logically I know that no one ever really is it those feelings should never let you be scared to go for it.

  • Thank you Stephen
    I have put things off because of not being “ready” for years!
    But since I started to take a few chances, opportunities have been presenting themselves It took me a long time to learn that things won’t happen to you unless you take chances (or maybe I did know it and just forgot about it for a while).
    I’m glad you decided that you were ready to write because otherwise we wouldn’t get to enjoy reading your articles

  • Well said!!!!! Putting myself on the line even when I know I could totally embarrass myself is the compass I am always using to find out what my next step could be! I love that you make yourself vulnerable in that way and that you grow so much more and over what you thought you could be and what you think you are!
    I am most proud of the moments where I embarrassed myself because like in dancing I have to risk falling first before I can dance with total freedome!!! I love that article thank you for the inspiration! Xxx Laura

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