I like witty, one line rejoinders that define moments of truth. Whether it is Dr. House’s expletive, “Everyone lies” or historic greats proclaiming, “Give me liberty or give me death”, I am attracted to big ideas encapsulated in simple phrases.
Recently however, I heard a one liner that just didn’t resonate with me. “Go big or go home”.
I suspect that this term entered pop culture through movies like Crazy Stupid Love, as a transfer from some sporting event where “going big” means to catch air while dangerously plunging off a high edge of snow on a board, or cartwheeling the wheels of a bike/skateboard. Granted, I’m not sporty. I will occasionally banter with friends over why any Chicago athlete is better than their favorite hometown, pass throwing, star, but knowing the names of Chicago teams is the extent of my sporting knowledge.
So at first glance, “going big” isn’t my life. How could it be? I’m a history crazed/writing enthusiast/wife/mother of four/educational advocate for my daughter with special needs. I don’t go big in the sense that I jump off the edge of cliffs or leave all of my blood sweat and tears on a field. I spend a significant amount of my time at home, taking risks on a regular, if not so media blitzed basis.
I’m not alone. I know many working near, at, or from home Moms who “go big” daily in their living rooms teaching children to walk, talk, and read. Dads who make life improving decisions at the kitchen table where they consider if they have the fortitude to support a H.S. Freshmen through one or two college level A.P. classes. Parents who hesitantly decide the riskiest of all, is it safe to hand a set of car keys to a sixteen year old. Families know that in order for risks to be taken beyond the front door, they are first taken with thoughtful consideration and honest communication in a place where dreams are allowed to come alive.
If I were to create an age defining media slogan that made sense, I would write something that didn’t diminish risk takers to those who get attention only from cameras. After all, some of Americas most important risk entrepreneurs existed well before the televised madness of today. Those heroes wrote slogans for populist consumption and won battles for liberty, whilst simultaneously writing letters to family and friends longing to be home.
George Washington wrote continuously of his desire to leave public life and return to Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson pined for his children and the comfort they brought him, as he observed nations invent democratic governments based on the words he penned. John Adams and his wife spent ten years of their marriage separated by war and an ocean, while he was “going big” in Europe securing funds and international support for the biggest risk of his generation. All of these historic superstars desired to face life’s challenges from their beloved homes, instead of the national stage.
I think Susan B. Anthony said it rather well when she said:
"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones...The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these...”
I admit, exciting moments can act like magnets that pull us into a spotlight that feels warm and adoring for a moment, but going home isn’t the consolation prize this simple slogan would make it seem. I propose that home is where we learn that risk isn’t just what happens on a razors edge, in front of a camera, but rather, it is where we grow the grandest of dreams. History has taught that germinating a dream is the biggest risk of all, and nobody should go home, head hung in shame, they should race home for a chance to begin again. I might say it this way: Go big, go home and go again.