The Brass Ring

In Family, Inspiration and Motivation, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm

There is an old saying that goes…“reach for the moon… even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” The purpose of this message is to inspire people to strive to be their absolute best.  It makes sense, but the message falls a bit short for me because it lacks a tangible goal.  For motivational purposes, I find the idea of reaching for “the brass ring” to be much more meaningful because there is a specific, desired outcome.  The challenge is to be able to grasp the brass ring amidst the slew of iron rings (which offer no reward).

Many people are hesitant to reach for the brass ring because they don’t like to take risks that may result in failure.  Those that do take risks do so because of the potential for great rewards.  This is not to say that risk-takers have no fear of failure, because they absolutely do.  The only difference is that risk-takers are willing to deal with the consequences of failure in their pursuit of the brass ring.

Just ten days ago (in the Super Bowl), Sean Payton (the head coach of the New Orleans Saints), saw an opportunity to grab the brass ring by starting the second half off with an extremely unconventional on-side kick.  It was, however, NOT a hasty decision.  Payton saw something on game films that gave him confidence that the move would be successful.  He could have very easily played it safe and stuck with conventional wisdom.  If his team ended up losing the game, it would have been attributed to a number of factors, not the least of which being that the Saints were underdogs who weren’t supposed to win anyway.  However, if the on-side kick failed, and his team lost the game, the blame would have been placed squarely on his shoulders.

Payton saw the reward of a game-changing moment to be well worth the risk of being second-guessed by the masses for his bold decision.  In the end, his calculated risk turned out to be the impetus that propelled the underdog Saints to victory.  This is how legends are born!

In a recent episode of the television show “House,” the hospital administrator was negotiating with an insurance company to receive a deal that was on par with the deals that larger hospitals were receiving.  While the show is fictional, the situation is not unlike what happens in real-life negotiations.  At some point, when negotiations have stalled, one party may issue a “take-it-or-leave-it” ultimatum.  This virtual game of “chicken” is not without risk for the party giving the ultimatum, because they must be willing to live with the repercussions of their actions.

The hospital administrator (in this case) was looking for a 12% increase across the board for payouts from the insurance company which 80% of the patients used.  The insurance company was offering 4%.  As the hospital administrator remained steadfast, the insurance company continued to gradually increase their offer.  She could have backed down, taken a lesser offer and still have been looked at as a hero by the board of directors, but she didn’t.  She held out for the full 12% and got it, largely because she believed that the insurance company needed the deal to get done as much as the hospital did.  If the insurance company didn’t give in, the hospital administrator would most likely have been fired.

In each these situations (both real-life and fictional), the person reaching for the brass ring took a risk.  From an outsider’s perspective, it may have looked like a foolish risk, but that is because outsiders form their opinions with limited knowledge, while risk-takers do extensive research before making their decision to reach for the brass ring.

There is a difference between reaching for the brass ring, and taking risks that are nothing more than uneducated hunches (also known as gambling).  Gamblers tend to look at the “what if” after the risk has already been taken, whereas those reaching for the brass ring look at the “what if” before making a decision to proceed.

In my own life, there have been times when my intention was to reach for the brass ring, but in retrospect, I was really just gambling.  However, I have learned valuable lessons from each failure, which has lead me to where I am today.  It is my nature to keep reaching for the brass ring, and while some may call me a “dreamer” or accuse me of having “pie-in-the-sky” expectations, it is fine by me.  It helps to fuel my motivational fire, and inspires me to succeed.

Nearly twenty five years ago, the caption underneath my high school yearbook photo read…“Dream on, dream until your dreams come true!” I’ve never forgotten it.  In fact, I recently shared it with my son when the song where I got the quote from came on the radio.  I wanted him to know that, while I’ve had my share of failures, I have not stopped trying to make my dreams come true.  I also wanted him to know that he should never let others stand in the way of his dreams…or for that matter, his shot at the brass ring!

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