Don't Play The All or Nothing Game
A few nights ago, while surfing the late-night television
offerings, I found myself entranced by a rather astute looking,
young man giving all he had as he delivered an incredibly
passionate speech. The topic of his speech was civil rights, and
it was being televised by C-SPAN.
In the bottom, right-hand corner of the television, the name of
the speaker was displayed as "Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rep.
Illinois." I quickly realized I was listening to the 36 year-old
son of civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson. It caught
my attention because I didn't even know Rev. Jackson had a son,
let alone that his son was a U.S. Congressman for the state of
The young Congressman Jackson spoke eloquently, authoritatively
and passionately. With the television camera focused only on
him, I couldn't see his audience, but I imagined him to be
speaking to hundreds or maybe thousands of people.
He spoke without notes, and his words flowed smoothly. His
thoughts were clear, concise and respectful. He confidently
addressed questions from the press as passionately as he
delivered his speech.
As Congressman Jackson completed his remarks, and the host
thanked him for his time, the C-SPAN camera began to "pan out"
and take in a wider view of the room in which Mr. Jackson gave
Within seconds, the camera showed the entire room. As it turned
out, the audience I imagined to number in the hundreds or
thousands was actually about 4 people, as well as about a half
dozen members of the press.
A total of only 10 people sat before Congressman Jackson as he
passionately poured out his heart and soul to them!
At first, I was amazed that Congressman Jackson could get
himself so "in the zone" for such a small audience. It made me
think how discouraged I might feel if I were to give a speech
and only 10 people showed up to hear me.
Then it hit me . . .
I was guilty . . .
Caught red-handed . . .
I caught myself playing the "all or nothing" game. Maybe you
know this game. It's when I tell myself there are only certain
times I can put myself "out there" completely, passionately and
Usually, it's only when the stakes are high and the game is big.
Or I can only be totally who I am in certain situations or with
certain people. I'm a master at the game. I know exactly where,
when and with whom I can totally be who I really am and speak my
truth with the same passion, authority and eloquence as did
I know the game well.
I also know - and too often forget - the "all or nothing" game
is one big illusion. The reality is as author Richard Bach
"Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to
yourself. Being true to anyone else or anything else is not only
impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah."
Further, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson suggest:
"No matter what your work, let it be your own. No matter what
your occupation, let what you are doing be organic. Let it be in
your bones. In this way you will open the door by which the
affluence of heaven and earth shall stream into you."
To me, the message is clear. Be myself. Completely. Always.
Speak my truth. Passionately. Authoritatively.
We get to the "big game" only by giving our all in the "little
games." If we don't play "all out" when the stakes are low, can
we really believe we will when the stakes are high?
General Electric CEO Jack Welch was recently asked by a
Fairfield University Business School student what advice he
could give regarding a successful business career in today's
world. His reply, which he repeated 3 times, was simply: "be
Do you play? The "all or nothing" game - do you ever play it?
Take a good, hard look at your life.
If so, these words - again from Richard Bach - are cause for
"Every person, all the events of your life, are there because
you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up
See, what I believe is that each moment presents us with an
opportunity. It's the opportunity to authentically and
passionately express the totality of all that's within us. All
that we've been created to be.
The Creator yearns for it. Begs for it. Waits for us to be all
(s)he's created us to be. That's the real game. The biggest
game. Those are the highest stakes. That's when we're most
fulfilled. Most complete. Most abundant.
The world waits for it. Just as the world waited for other great
leaders. Leaders like Jesus Christ, The Buddha, Gandhi, Martin
Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa and Winston Churchill to name a
The world is waiting for YOU. So, don't play the "all or
nothing" game. Be yourself. Always. Speak your truth.
Give all of who you are. In each moment.
It's Your Life! Make it Great.