Give It a Shot

When I visit schools to share my children’s books, the students always ask, “How do you know anyone will like them?”

I say, “I don’t. But if I don’t write and publish them, I’ll never know.”

When I write fiction for adults, the adults who read it always ask, “How do you know anyone will like it?”

I say, “I don’t. But if I don’t write and publish it, I’ll never know.”

When I tell people I’m taking a podcasting workshop because I want to do a podcast of my own, the people I tell always ask, “How do you know anyone will like it?”

I say, “I don’t. But if I don’t do it, record it, and share it, I’ll never know.”

I always try to think of another response. But I can never come up with one better.


I don’t think we’re quitters. I think we don’t try.

We human folk have just two fundamental motivators: hope and fear. We hope to do things. But we fear failure. We say we want to do things, but we don’t realize saying, “I want to do something,” is quite different from saying, “I will do something.”

And as indications of how weird we are, consider: First, most people fear change. The devil you know beats the devil you don’t know in every race. And one of the most perverse aspects of human psychology is preferring the known to the unknown, even if the known is miserable.

Second, most people fear being exposed. They think they’re getting away with something or just getting by. Change the status quo, and the new light might show a chink in the armor or a lack in performance. Result? We’ll stay right here and keep doing what we’ve always been doing the way we’ve always been doing it.

Third, most people fear being bettered. If what we do is the only thing we do and the only way we do it, we resist the idea that we might be able to do it better — or do something else. We put up the shields, retract into the shell, and hope no one does anything better than — or different from — what we do.

First we make our habits, then our habits make us. (Charles C. Noble)

Until we break our habits — or do something different — how do we know what will happen? Why do we think we can or should know? Why are we so sure it won’t be positive? Why don’t we imagine it’ll exceed our craziest expectations, rather than assuming it’ll crash and burn?

It’s not about certainty, it’s about hope and giving it a shot, whatever it is.

A seat in the proverbial comfort zone is never worth the opportunity cost.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark, I could completely relate to your essay and the delightful video, too! I seemed to be giving a couple of things a Go right now-and while I have moments of trepidation, for certain, I continue taking the next love-inspired actions, as best I can, for my new dreams. Thank you for this timely essay which felt like the booster shot of inspiration I needed today. Very grateful.
    With love and kind regards,

    • Madelaine, one of my favorite philosophers is Mike Tyson. He said fear is an energy. The trick is to make it work for you. Or as Walt Kelly wrote in a famous Pogo strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

      To me, the fear of regret at having not tried is always greater than the fear of trying and failing.

      As the expression goes, you got this.