We Americans need to channel Chumbawamba, the 90s one-hit wonder responsible for the tune “Tubthumping,” and get up again when we get knocked down. But that’s all we should channel from that band – they fancied themselves as some sort of commie/anarchist collective and, aside from one catchy tune, they suck. Here’s the thing – we are becoming a nation of risk-averse losers afraid to test ourselves against the harsh realities of the world. We are a bubble-wrapped society so committed to “safety” that millions of us are willing to give up our freedoms and dignity for the illusion of it. Time to reinvigorate ourselves by taking rational risks.
Let’s look at those crazy kids today. Some call them Zoomers, I call them dorks. Look at this poll of 12th graders and despair. In my senior year (1983), 85% had dated, 75% had jobs, 85% had tried alcohol, and 85% had a driver’s license – I was at the DMV when it opened at 8:00 a.m. on December 24, 1980, baby, ready to roll in that dull orange Datsun B210! Now check out the most recent stats from 2015: 58% have dated, 56% have jobs, 63% have tried alcohol, and 72% have a driver’s license. And you know it’s all gotten worse in the wake of COVID and the rise of helicopter mommies – and not cool helicopters, like Apache gunships.
The point is not that I think high schoolers should be covertly sneaking shots of dad’s Pappy Van Winkle. The point is that these activities all represent independence and risk, and kids are just not willing to embrace that today. But risk is everything – was there ever an entrepreneur who did not take risks? Or any kind of winner at all?
Sadly, risk aversion is now so pervasive and so complete within our garbage establishment that it has trickled-down and threatens to change our whole society into something soft and weak and European – and not the cool Ancient Roman kind of European. At the macro level, the whole COVID idiocy was about risk aversion gone wild, with the idiots we let run out institutions massively overreacting to a virus that was unlikely to pose a significant risk to the vast majority of people. Between destroying our economy, gutting our basic civil liberties, and sickening untold numbers of people with a vaccine that does not actually vaccinate you (a problem they addressed by redefining what a “vaccine” is), this did damage to our civilization that will take a generation to fully appreciate. And other “risks” now justify other terminations of our sacred rights – the climate hoax, guns, “misinformation.” All of these are just cover for taking our rights because all of these things are “dangerous.” Of course, the real danger is that we normals have power and freedom.
But this also happens at the individual level. Look at how kids today are tortured by the potential that they might not make it into the “right” college. This is great for the colleges, who now do not actually have to perform against any metric except the subjective prestige the institution generates among Chardonnay moms who will stroke-out if Kaden only gets into Cornell. The kids themselves are taught to conform, to say and think the things that will please admissions counselors, to do nothing but study, to play it safe so as not to threaten their chances. They simply cannot get a “B.” Otherwise, their lives are over at 18.
Failure is not an option, they say, but that’s wrong. Failure is a gift, in the words of Dan Bongino. His new book “The Gift of Failure ( And I’ll Rethink the Title If This Book Fails!),” which I read at one sitting, uses his own life as a template for the reality that you are as defined by what you failed to achieve as much as what you actually achieved. Dan was a normal guy in Queens with no connections and nothing but drive. Now he’s got a top podcast, a national radio gig, and a chunk of equity in Rumble. But you read his book, and it’s not about the things he did but the things he failed to do for reasons both within and without his control. Yet these failures led to his success.
I look at my life and everything that I saw as a setback at the time set me up for a later success. People ask if I have regrets, and besides not learning how to play guitar in college it’s hard to think of any. That’s because I understand the butterfly effect, where if you change the past even slightly it has massive effects on the future. If I had not experienced those failures, I would not be right here, right now, writing this column.
Now, embracing failure does not mean chasing it. It only means risking it, because sometimes when you roll the dice they come up snake eyes. Yes, failure – failure via random events, like where the Army assigns you to do instead of what you thought you wanted to do – is obnoxious and annoying, but it is a part of life. Any attempt to prevent any risk of failure is going to end up being 100 times worse than just sucking it up and driving on.
America has got to stop with this insane fear of failure, because a world without failure is necessarily a world without success. But some people seem to want that. They want the smothering safety of a nanny watching over them. They are satisfied living lives of dull mediocrity if that means all the sharp edges of existence are sanded off. Think of the Europeans of today, tired, their societies exhausted, caring about nothing but their pensions and their Eurovision Song Contest. They are “safe,” but it is the safety of the tomb. You’ll never see a modern European country put a man on the moon.
Americans need to reject the nannyism that prioritizes false security over the potential for glory. You cannot be great if you take defeat off the table. And if our society cowers, that does not mean we need to cower too. Live like a free man. Freedom is scary and hard. If it were not, everyone would choose it.