Biting off more than you can chew


I went fishing the other day and spotted these fish. When I posted the photo, you can imagine the comments.


“I’ve never seen that before.”

“Looks like he bit off more than he could chew.”

Et cetera, et cetera….

I agreed. I knew large-mouth bass were aggressive. But to see one that had tried to eat something so big that it choked to death was a first.

You can learn a lot from a fish. Who hasn’t been to a restaurant’s buffet line, only to find their eyes were bigger than their stomach? It had looked so very, very good.

Everyone remembers that kid in school with an irresistible, romantic longing for someone way too popular, way too smart, and way too attractive. Love is blind – but does it have to be painful, too?

And then there’s the seductive allure of those too-easy credit card purchases. It’s rather gratifying to buy something, with nothing more than the currency of your signature. But the consequences. Oh, the consequences…

Then, I thought of a few exceptions. (There are always exceptions.)

In the business world, everyone’s heard of Michael Dell. Before he became a computer zillionaire, he sold computers from the trunk of his car. And then, he became, well, a computer zillionaire.

In the field of entertainment, did you know that the first time Jerry Seinfeld performed, he froze, forgot his jokes, and was booed off the stage? Next came, a career in stand-up comedy, a TV show, and the proverbial fame and fortune.

And in history, Julius Caesar is the standard by which most others are measured. When he was just starting out as a soldier for the Roman Empire, he got captured and held for ransom. When the kidnappers were paid, they kicked him out on the North African coast. Being Julius Caesar, though, he marched along the African coast, where a number of Roman soldiers had retired. With nothing but the force of his personality, he recruited enough men to commandeer a ship, track down his kidnappers, and drag them back to Italy for a little Roman justice. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, what did I learn from those dead fish?

I realized that prudence, common sense, and a measured approach are worthy attributes. Look before you leap. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And you get what you pay for. Who would argue with those nuggets of wisdom? Not me.

But I also know that no stellar achievement is seized by half measures. Was Betty Crocker timid? Were the Wright Brothers? Or Neil Armstrong? Outlandish accomplishments, sometimes, call for outlandish attempts. Greatness is not the byproduct of faint-heartedness.

Spirited endeavors have their good sides and bad sides. No doubt about it. But we wouldn’t be where we are, as a civilization or as a country, were it not for crazy ideas and wild tries and more crazy ideas. They can be expensive and profitable, at the same time.

So, the next time you see some skateboarder zipping down the street, while clutching a pickup’s tailgate, relax. Take comfort knowing that you’re too smart for such a foolhardy stunt. But remember that that nut on a skateboard might have bitten off more than anyone could chew…or he/she might be the next Michael Dell, Jerry Seinfeld, or Julius Caesar.


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