Why Our Choices Matter

George Washington

George Washington (Screen shot from http://youtu.be/hvE9fb–Dig)

Risk taking doesn’t come easy for many of us. We rebel against the thought of forsaking our comforts because discomfort exposes us. It heightens our insecurities; it reveals who we really are.

Two men that come to my mind when I think about this concept are vastly different, but somewhat similar. The first guy’s name is George Washington. I knew that Washington led the American armies in battle, but what I did not know was how little faith he had in himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t think he was a good soldier. I’m sure he thought he was a fine soldier. But, the truth is, a “true” general would have had a hard time leading the American armies — that ragtag bunch of farmers and common men who were fighting for liberty. These weren’t the men with which one would ideally build an army.

And he wasn’t even a trained, “true” general. He didn’t think he was good enough for the job. In his fascinating book, 1776, David McCullough quotes Washington’s response to Congress when accepting the position of general, “But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gent[leme]n in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I [am] honored with.”

His quote basically says, Hey if I screw things up, just remember that I never thought myself good for the task anyways. In other words, he believed he was being sent on a fool’s errand. But such is the case when one steps out of his or her comfort zone and strives towards some cause — whatever that cause might be. For some that risk is trying to make a living as a writer, for others it is taking the first step towards getting a college education. When we take risks, we each have to do something that we aren’t quite sure we can do. In Washington’s case, he led the American army, and history was written.

But what if history had gone in a different direction? Washington, of course, wouldn’t have received the kind of praise that he now does. His face wouldn’t have ended up the dollar bill, and who knows where on the globe I would be? But his risk changed everything. Washington’s risk changed even Washington himself and the Washington of our history books.

I also think about Michael Corleone when I think about moving outside of one’s comfort zone. If you remember, Michael wasn’t part of the Corleone “family” in The Godfather. The mob life mostly fell into the realm of his father Vito and his three(ish) brothers — Sonny, Fredo, and Carl. Michael never wanted to get involved in that life, so he went to college, joined the military, opted for a civilian life.

But when his father was shot nearly dead, Michael felt he had to make a choice between his current life and the mob life he once forsook. He chooses to again take up life in the mob, and in the process, reveals his true character. That choice changes everything for the Corleone family, and for Michael himself. His family disintegrates, his relationship with his older brother vanishes, his father dies, his brother dies, and his wife leaves (or wants to leave him, until he decides to shun her). If that wasn’t enough, he feels constant anxiety over his coming death.

Why do I compare Michael Corleone’s risk with Washington’s? Both men made decisions in crisis, but their decisions yielded different results. One brought construction to a nation (albeit very imperfectly), while the other one brought the undoing of the family.

Choose wisely folks.

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Chris CruzChristopher Cruz (@_chris_cruz) is a staff writer for Little Utopia.

Previously from Christopher Cruz:
A Listicle You Can’t Refuse: The Five Best Movies I Saw This Year
Wait, When Did Playing Video Games Become a Sport?
“Interstellar” is Truly Out of this World
The Return of Dwyane Wade
Jimmy Kimmel Really Makes Fun of Us All

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