As a classical pianist, I learned how to put everything on the line. It was an extremely valuable experience.
Back then, my identity was wrapped up in performing, so going up on that stage felt like risking everything. It was terrifying. Which is why I can look back on those experiences with so much exhilaration. I learned how to face my greatest fears and bare my soul in public.
But I’ve been realizing lately that there is a time for a risk and a time for caution.
I would say that I’m a generally cautious person. I don’t like to order unknown menu items. I usually don’t share my opinions until they’re fully formed. I am hesitant about doing new things with new people.
Sometimes I’ve been told that I just need to stop being so careful and try something new.
There are times when that is solid, needed advice. When you are moving to a new city, yes, you should go out, explore, and meet new people. When you are over-thinking a new recipe, sure, throw caution to the wind.
But other times, what you should be doing is protecting what you have with all that you can.
Sometimes, in trying something new, you would be sacrificing something precious that you already have. Sometimes, in letting down your guard, you would be allowing in a distraction that could derail you from the very good path you are already on.
If I had stopped practicing piano every time a new opportunity arose, I would never have made it to the stage. I had to fight to protect that time.
Achieving great things requires focus. That means cutting out other things. The same goes for relationships. If you want to build intimacy with someone, you have to prioritize that relationship.
It can be hard to see the value of what you already have, because familiarity breeds contempt, and because while you’re in the middle of the process, you don’t have any results to show anyone, including yourself. But chances are, there are relationships and habits you have right now that are worth protecting. So guard those things. Don’t forget how great they are.
And when you do go all out and risk everything, make sure it’s for something you really love, for something really beautiful, something you can look back on with exhilaration.