Several years ago, a stray donkey showed up on our driveway. Yes, a donkey. After a ridiculous rescue scene (and by rescue, I mean Tom pushing, pulling, bribing, cajoling, and otherwise forcing the donkey into our pasture), we tried to find his owners. Nobody claimed him. We felt sorry for the abandoned animal, plus we sort of fell in love with the guy, and so we ended up keeping him. He wasn’t much to look at. His short, stubby legs were scratched, and his head and neck had deep gashed from barbed wire. Though scared and timid at first, he eventually warmed to our attention and became a member of the family. We named him Flash.
Flash spent his days hanging out with some fat cows who lived just over the fence, chewing their cuds and watching the world go by. One afternoon, a neighbor’s three thoroughbred horses got loose and wound up on our property. While we waited for their owner to arrive, we put them into the pasture with Flash. The gorgeous stallions danced and pranced in the golden sun set. At first Flash didn’t notice them, but then he opened his eyes wide and shook his head as if to get the cobwebs out.
“This oughta be interesting!” I said as we watched the scene unfold. Flash suddenly had a choice to make: he could stay with the cows, who were familiar but unexciting, or he could join the band of thoroughbreds, who looked as if they were the stars of a horse ballet. Flash, with his short legs, long ears, shaggy coat, and oversized head, was completely outclassed by these horses, with their long legs, graceful necks, and flowing manes. He hesitated for just a moment and then ran over to join them.
What a sight! My dusty little donkey with the three stunning horses! He circled, spun, bucked, and danced with them. It was as if Flash said to himself, “Why not?” and decided to leave the company of the safe cows for the adventure of running with horses.
That day, Flash discovered greatness within him. He found that there was more to life than just watching it pass by. He took a chance, and it changed him forever.
Maybe that’s a simple story, but it struck me so deeply at the time that I made profound changes in my own life. It inspired me to stop wishing for my big chance and to go out and actually take one. So often, we find ourselves stuck in situations like Flash did: perfectly safe, just fine, so easy. We see others out there doing something great, and we wish we could get out there too. We think how wonderful it must be to be born with such talent, to be given opportunities, to be able to do big things. If only I’d been so lucky, we say.
But here’s the thing:
Each day we are given opportunities to do great things.
No matter how small or seemingly insignificant those things are, we can do them with excellence. Why not? And each day we are given the chance to be the best we can be. Why not? We can step out and find something new, something that we feel outclassed and outshone in, and simply do it anyway. Why not?
You see, I’ve found that asking why is counterproductive. I can think of a million reasons why I will fail. There are a bazillion ways my ideas lack merit. But when I rephrase it as “Why not?” it shines a whole new light on things.
“Why not?” sounds like possibility knocking. It sounds like taking a deep breath and plunging in. it sounds like a pencil on paper as you figure out ways to make something happen. It sounds like a jet engine taking flight for an adventure.
“Why not?” unlocks the door to purpose.