December 29, 2019

Counting to Three, Part 1

2:17 AM

I’ve been told that I’m pretty good at taking the initiative. While I will accept the compliment and awkwardly respond to it in thanks (like any other), this one is the one which I find rather strange to think about. Being intentional or forward is what I’m pretty sure is known as a “soft skill”. It’s not like piano, or typing speed, or Python, and the other things you would find under the “Skills” section of my high school resume. Rather, it is more abstract: able to be applied to many different situations and contexts, like resourcefulness, or communication, or “conflict resolution”, which I’m pretty sure is the most made-up of them all. To be honest, I don’t think these are even skills. Passives, maybe, or character attributes would be more accurate.

And yes, it’s true that some of those traits are hard to come by. But I don’t believe that initiating is something you can really be good or bad at. Initiating is literally just doing. Doing what, you ask? Anything! The core of the concept lies not in the specifics of whatever action you choose to do but simply the act itself. Example: Tennis is a skill with a spectrum of ability levels, but the act of playing tennis has only two states: playing and not playing. While I can be good or bad at tennis, I cannot be good or bad at playing tennis, as I either play or I don’t play. No skill involved, only a choice. In the same way, in any situation where you are initiating, there is no way to be good or bad. Maybe I’m initiating a social event and I’m good at social events. That’s valid, but it doesn’t make me “good” at initiating, just as being bad at tennis does not make me “bad” at choosing whether or not to play tennis at all. *

Let’s put this into context a bit, since it may not make any sense without it. When I say taking the initiative, more often than not it will boil down to one of two scenarios: 1. Social event (e.g. I ask someone to hang out or suggest a group activity) 2. Skill-related (e.g. I try to learning something new or I start a creative project). And actually, now that I think about it, almost 95% of the time it’s #1, so I’m just going to skim over #2 really quick before moving on. Actually no. Talking about skills and progression will take forever as I have a lot to say on that subject, so I’ll leave that to a part 2 or something.

So social events. What’s wrong with being the one to initiate? Well, to be honest, I don’t really know. For some reason we think it feels better to have someone invite us out rather than the other way around, but the end result is literally the same. (There are extreme cases though so we’re just going to assume that both people are friends/acquaintances that have a working knowledge of normal boundaries). And I’ll admit that even I am prone to this from time to time, going on little streaks of inactivity to see if anyone will reach out to me first. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. The problem is that I use that as a measure of my expendability when it is not only circumstantial but very explainable. It should be normal for everyone to go about their day to day business without having to do anything with anyone else, so in the case that something does happen, it is already good that one of the two parties went out of their way to make it happen.

But that’s a little irrelevant to what I was getting at. One of my personal fears relating to being initiative is that it’ll lead to an acceptance of an invite that is purely obligational (because somehow it’s rude to turn someone down for lunch or a drink), leading to a event that is, unbeknownst to the event creator, mainly one-sided, which is honestly just a waste of time for both parties involved. The only true way to know that the other person actually wants to spend time with you is to have them invite you out without any interference or suggestion on your part.

Which, I suppose, leads to the argument in favor of not taking the initiative. You get the upper hand, I guess. You get to know that people thought of you first and went out of their way to let you know that. Congratulations?

And while I do think like that from time to time, I don’t think that’s what friendship is about. To be honest, I have spent more than enough time just worrying about the thoughts of my friends or potential people I would like to get to know better, when in reality I should just be doing things that lead to things I want. To act outside of one’s desires is ungenuine, even if it does present lower risk scenarios. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that taking risks is good, because this is an adventure, and the core of the adventure is the unknown. It’s scary, but sometimes you really just have to stop thinking and count to three. It seems dumb on paper, but it does pay off.

So rather than having to worry about other people’s intentions and desires, I just want to focus on my own: one of which includes spending lots of time with my friends and people that I care about. And the way to maximize that amount of time is to suggest things to do all the time, because that’s what I want to do. The things I do should reflect who I am, otherwise there’s no point in even having desires or a personality altogether.

So that’s why I like to take the initiative. Phew. We finally got here after a bunch of tangents and long winded explanations. Moral of the story is take some risks. Count to three and jump.

Second moral of the story is to not talk about social stuff as much because it leads to strange, all-over-the-place wacko posts like these. I think it’ll be a while before there’s a part 2 or anything about friends or social events or things like that because honestly I’m still figuring it out too. Human relationships are not as easily calculated or analyzed as the rest of the subject areas in this world. I’m tired. Next time we talk about goals and skills or something regularly scheduled.

- Sam

* I know that being indecisive, which is technically “bad at making choices”, is a thing but that’s usually not what people are referring to. If that was the case, then being bad at initiating would suggest that you cannot make a choice whether to do or not do, which would put you into a quantum superposition as it is not possible to do neither. More common is that “bad at initiating” means that you choose to not do anything a lot, which isn’t really being bad at anything. It’s just not doing something, which is actually technically doing something else. This explanation is becoming way too convoluted so I will stop here but I will be happy to clarify further if you are still confused.