Presidential Election shows that “least-worst” is no longer safe

It's no longer safe in politics, and it's no longer safe personally

Many of the people I know who like to think a lot aren't going to be happy that Mr. Donald Trump is the apparent winner of the Presidential Election. Many of them will spend weeks or months stewing over it, wondering "how did I get here?"

I know exactly how we got here: Hillary was the "safe" candidate, and safe is no longer safe!

Both sides of the political spectrum operate mostly on fear these days. Fear is paralyzing. On average, fear doesn't incite people to act – it doesn't get them up off the couch to vote. It gets them to stay put and throw the defenses up.

By some crazy twist of fate, the Republicans didn't let that fear keep them from nominating an outsider candidate. There were plenty in that party who were shaking their heads, hand-wringing, and wondering: "what have we done!?"

That's what happens when you take a risk

You often wonder if it will pay off. You don't see a straight logical path to your objective. You follow your gut or your instinct. And sometimes (ok, often) that risk pays off!

Playing it safe is so passé

The world is tired of safe. Safe has gotten us to exactly where we are, which is quite stuck. Our schools aren't working right. Our environment is challenged on many fronts. Our systems are facing unprecedented challenges.

Once things get this "bad," there is no "safe" way to fix them. It's going to take someone to stir the pot, and that is never safe.

In case you're wondering right now, no, I didn't vote for him,

I didn't vote for Hillary either – in Idaho, it didn't matter anyway. Trump was going to win in that state. But even if I were in a swing state, I would have voted for one of the other candidates. I won't put up with all those fear-mongering Democrats or Republicans who claim that you have to vote out of fear that the "other guy" might win. I won't succumb to a plan that is clearly designed to put me into fear – by either side.

Safe is predictable and comfortable

The problem with "safe" is that is perceived as predictable and comfortable. As most thinking people know, there's often a major difference between perception and reality. While the perception is that you can take a "safe" (i.e. conservative) action and have the outcome be what you want, that is almost never the case.

I have seen far more careers of brilliant people go down the tubes because they were constantly playing safe — playing in their comfort zone — than of people who take risks regularly.

The Democrats chose safety, and it blew up in their faces

Hillary was the "safe" choice – i.e. she represented the establishment and the status quo. As much as I'd like to see a female president, it was ironic that the first woman who really may have had a shot at the White House, represented the same old same old to most people.

Bernie was not a "safe" choice – and the Democrats ultimately played their behind the scenes power games to make sure the safe choice was nominated. It blew up in their faces.

Is it blowing up in your face?

I see many people – but especially my liberal friends – playing a safe and scared game these days. They play that game politically and they play it in their careers.

Consider where that "seeking comfort" has gotten us. Now Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States. Playing "safe" led to the worst nightmare for many people.

The same happens in life

I've seen exactly that same thing play out so many times with scientists and entrepreneurs. They play it "safe" until it's too late, and it blows up. That's when a career – or a business – always goes down the tubes.

It's not that playing it the other way never blows up – sometimes it does. But in my experience, that's less common!

There is one benefit in playing it safe: you can justify failure

Unfortunately, people are often looking more towards "what will other people think of me" than they are towards "will I succeed or will I fail?" It's bassackwards.

If you play it safe and fail, it's easy to rationalize: "I did everything I was 'supposed' to do, and I still failed" (as if any human actually can predict the future!?).

The translation of this? "I did what I perceived was the most socially-acceptable by my peers, approval seeking thing to do, so how could it possibly backfire?"

The answer is: times have changed

We aren't living in the "safe and boring" 1950's anymore, yet by how paralyzed I see so many of my smart friends, you'd think we were. What worked back then – playing it "safe" and "fitting in" is exactly what no longer works in 2016 and beyond.

Seth Godin pointed this out clearly in his book "The Icarus Deception." He made essentially the same argument I'm making here: that the world no longer rewards "safe and comfortable". In other words, "safe" isn't actually safe anymore.

We just had proof of that on a grand scale!

There is always good in the "bad"

Every single time I've ever faced a rejection or a setback, there was something to learn.

Those who see themselves as Democrats have an opportunity to learn from this. They can step back for a few years, and decide what game they're going to play in the future.

If they are truly smart, they'll figure out that they need to stop playing it so scared and safe, and start playing the kind of game that the other side has learned to play. Hint: it's not a game of comfort and safety.

Take this to the bank for yourself (or don't)

Working with researchers and academics, I see a buttload of this "playing it safe" mentality every day. People want to please their colleagues, their chair, their dean, and avoid rejection at all costs.

Those are exactly the people who struggle the most. They publish the least papers, they get the least grants, and they face the most ultimatums about their jobs being at risk.

You will not win at your career or life by playing it safe and seeking comfort

That time is long gone.

What works now is:

  • To follow your inspiration, regardless of how scary
  • To shake up the status quo
  • To speak your personal truth
  • To stand up to archaic systems
  • To stop making yourself "wrong"
  • To stop worrying constantly

I wish you the best of luck with it. We've got at least four years in "Trumpland" to reflect upon it.

Be "safe" out there!

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