Being Too Chicken To Try New Things

by Sandy L on July 16, 2012

Babci’s chickens finally moved into their new 4×8 shed that I spent the last 2 months building. I still have to put up some trim around the doors and windows but it is fully functional.  I’ve dubbed it the “Taj Ma Fowl” as it’s a huge upgrade from the rabbit cage that the chickens were stuffed into.  In fact, they were getting so big, that they barely all fit in the cage at night and had to huddle up together to be able to fit in it.  Last weekend, the day finally came when we took our chooks out of their portable pen and into the new one and it was not at all what I expected. We put the cage into the coop and opened it up and I thought they would be just tickled pink to have more room to roost at night.  Instead of clucking for joy, those dumb birds just sat there in their cage too scared to get out.  I was a bit disappointed since I spent every weekend working on this thing and it’s corresponding enclosure for the last couple of months.  I decided no way, so I pulled the chickens out of their cage one by one and then shut them out of their cage for the night.  I call my mom the next day to see how they did and she was like “they were causing such a racket because they were shut out of their cage that I had to open it back up again.”  So there they were in a gorgeous new coop and they preferred to stay huddled up together in a rabbit cage because it was what they knew best.  At that point, I realized where the term “what are you chicken?” came from. Luckily for me, they have gotten used to it and hang out in the coop a lot now,  even during the day.

What are you Chicken About?

One of my pet peeves has always been people who constantly complain about their lives but then don’t do anything about it.  My dad was famous for complaining about the things he didn’t have that others did while sitting on his ass all day, doing nothing.  I think that’s where my pet peeve originated from and it didn’t take me years of therapy to figure that out either.  Thankfully having such a role model made me realize that doing nothing when you’re unhappy is absolutely the worst thing to do for yourself.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a financial problem or relationship issue or work.  If you’re not happy, then the small steps you take, any steps are better than just sitting there stuffed in your coop of despair.  The worst part is when you start to think that it’s your calling in life to be unhappy because that’s how the cards played out in your case.  Babci often would say that she is “unlucky.”  I still have to remind her how her life is better than any of her siblings in this stage of the game.

I think the thing I’m most chicken about is starting my own business.  It’s partly because I am not a risk taker and partly because I haven’t found something that I’m passionate enough about to take the plunge for.  I keep talking myself out of the idea.  I say, “you’re doing it to have more flexibility in work/life balance, but you know you’ll probably have less because it’s your business and you’ll be working around the clock.”  That’s the kind of stuff I tell myself. I also say that my kids are small and it’s not something I can take on at this time.  That’s the practical side talking.  I think that’s why most people don’t make major changes in their lives until they are laid off.  It’s too comfortable being in that routine otherwise.  In the past, I would just curb this desire by changing jobs within the company every couple of years and that kept things interesting. Now, it’s more a balancing act of 2 careers, 2 kids and mom. Maybe now is not the best time..see I don’t even entertain the thought as much as I probably should.

Circus Lessons

Thankfully I’m not chicken about trying new things outside of work.  This weekend we went to see a one ring circus that came to town.  My husband was like, “It’s 95 degrees out and the idea being out in the sweltering heat under a smelly tent for 2 hours to see a crappy circus is not my idea of a good time.”  He almost had my son talked out of it too but then my son declared that he didn’t care if it was crappy, he still wanted to go. (That’s my boy). Part of his curiosity stemmed from seeing  Madagascar 3 which featured a circus and he really wanted to experience one live and in person, crappy or not.  After all, it’s not every day you get to see someone juggle ping pong balls in their mouth.  Raul the juggler was definitely the highlight of my experience but I think the kids liked seeing the animals the best.  My oldest son couldn’t wait to go home and tell his dad that the circus was not crappy at all, but really fun.

That’s the other thing people think is really weird about me.  I’ll do family stuff without my spouse on a regular basis.  Our company picnic was this weekend as well and he’s only been once with me.  Enough people point out his absence that I know they think it’s kind of weird.  But you know, if I dragged him to every carnival and half brained “adventure” I dreamed up, he’d be resentful and none of us would have a good time.   The times when we do things all together he’s ready to wrap up the experience long before the kids and I are.  We like to go go go til the point of exhaustion and that’s just not his idea of a good time. So, if we want to go out somewhere for an hour or so, he’s all in. However, if he opts out of the other stuff because we don’t want to be rushed and he doesn’t want to be held captive at a place for too long, it’s a win/win for everyone. In this case I’m glad that I ignore what’s considered the “norm” and just do things the way they work best for all of us.

Okay, those are my random thoughts of the day.  Curiosity wants to know.  Are you chicken about stuff?  What’s your version of the rabbit cage that you live in, despite potentially better things out there in the wild yonder.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy July 16, 2012 at 10:06 AM

I suppose we are all too chicken to do something. I guess mine would be to take time off work and go travelling. This is mainly because I don’t have the money to do either right now and don’t have any vacation time either.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:04 AM

Daisy – Yeah, that’s a great one. I would also love to take the summer off and just travel cross country with the kids or something, but I’m paranoid about not having as good a job to come back to. My job is actually rocking. I really like it most of the time, so I wouldn’t want to jeopardize it by taking a leave of absence.

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Linda July 16, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Great lessons/thoughts to discuss! Like you, I am too “chicken” to become self-employed. My brain always gets hung up on healthcare, though, not the time management aspects. How will I pay for healthcare? How could I manage the high cost of premiums? Having been turned down for Long Term Disability insurance TWICE last year due to my regular use of chiropractic care and talk therapy, I assume my premiums if self-insured will be crazy high. (Isn’t it awful how doing “maintenance” of oneself leads to being declined in insurance? I could skip the regular adjustments at the chiropractor due to all the sitting over a computer I do and just wait for a repetetive stress injury, I guess. There’s no winning with insurance companies!)

I like the regular paychecks and the benefits of being employed by others, but I’m not happy with the type of work I’m doing now and scared of looking around even inside the organization. Fear of the unknown when it comes to work is my “chicken” behavior.

People who keep chickens are well aware of their neophobia. You just have to allow them time to figure it out for themselves and adjust. They are quite curious, though, and like to explore new things. There’s always one in the flock that is a bit more curious and a risk-taker (and it isn’t always the hen at the top of the pecking order, either); the others will follow along when they see that the risk-taker is doing OK and/or enjoying the new food/experience.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:09 AM

Linda – Our chickens are hilarious. Love them. On the work front, it used to be very easy to change jobs and encouraged when we were owned by another parent company, so a decision to change never felt like a permanent one. You could just do something else after you got all the learning you could out of the one that wasn’t for you. The culture might be different at your place, but I always loved trying new roles. If nothing else, I was stretching myself and learning. My happiness quota at work has always been more tied to the people that work with me and not so much the work itself.

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June Pauline Zent July 16, 2012 at 11:28 AM

I have four chickens and have them in a mobile coop. Your observations are parallel too mine mine . I too see why people call others chicken. Looking forward to your post!

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:10 AM

June – thanks for commenting. Chickens are awesome.

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Adam Hathaway July 16, 2012 at 2:32 PM

I too recognize the error of my parents ways and continue to do so to this day. My dad just had to shut down his business but he was too stubborn to do anything anyone ever suggested. I tried to help as much as I could only to find he would listen to the losers that hung out at his shop all day more than he would listen to me. It was at that point my wife helped me determine that some people are not cut out to live the lives they want to live. Congrats on finishing the coop.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Adam – family stuff is always tough. I hear that story about parents not listening to their children a lot. I’ll have to remember that when my kids get older and try not to do it. At some point you have to acknowledge that your children have grown up and have their own life experiences to help with advice and knowledge about certain topics.

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CF July 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Screw the norm – you gotta do what’s best for you! It sounds like you and your husband have a good system – no reason why other people’s expectation should influence how you guys live your life.

On the chicken issue – I love hearing the chicken stories! I used to have a single pet chicken when I was young and absolutely adored her.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:14 AM

CF – Thanks for your support. Yeah, the norm can suck. I’m glad you’re not sick of my chicken stories. It seems like that’s all I write about lately.

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Jacq July 16, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Well, that’s the thing – I was self-employed for 5 years and made a decent / good living for 2 of those 5 years but the other ones weren’t so great. But I have grown so much since then so I don’t think I’d ever put myself through that again. I know now when to hold them and when to fold them. Don’t bother trying to fix it if it’s fundamentally broken.

I used to be one of those “jump and the net will appear” kind of people. That’s exactly how I got into self-employment years ago and it was not a fun time. Very stressful financially. Nowadays, I’m more of the “prove yourself… get into it on the side… see if it can actually make some money first…” types.

Nowadays I wouldn’t waste my time on something that wasn’t potentially lucrative right from the get-go. If I’m going to be wasting my time, let it be from truly volunteering in a cause I believe in. :-P

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Jacq – I always love your perspective. I think that’s basically it for me as well. I was poor for a long time and the thought of going back to a very limited income for any period of time always feels like I’m making backwards progress. Side business is probably what I’d do as well. I’m thinking starting a couple of small things that don’t take up a ton of time and work piecemeal to replace my income. Of course, this is retirement plan, so who knows when I will actually start the process.

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Joe @ Retire By 40 July 16, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Those dumb birds. :)
I quit my job! Yeah, it’s been a long time coming, but I finally did it.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 5:56 AM

Go Joe – yes, I did see that posting, but haven’t gone over to congratulate you yet. I guess you’ve hit your goal then! Hurray…another inspiration for us all.

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nicoleandmaggie July 17, 2012 at 4:59 AM

I like turning risks into calculated risks. If there’s something I want but we’re not ready for it, I figure out what we need to do to get ready for it and work towards that.

It doesn’t sound like starting a business is a calculated risk or even that the cost-benefit analysis ignoring “fear” is working out for you in that direction. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 5:54 AM

1/2 Tenured – I have this sick habit of calculating revenues by store and figuring out how much product a company has to sell to replace my income, and it’s always like 8 bazillion. Every time we go out for ice cream or go bowling or whatnot, I’m like…they have to sell x many cones in a month just to break even.

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Mutant Supermodel July 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Confrontation. I hate it. HATE it.

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Sandy L July 18, 2012 at 5:55 AM

Mutant – me too. It’s one of those things I have worked on over the years and have gotten better at. If you stick to the facts and try to keep emotion out of it, it is a lot less stressful.

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Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter July 19, 2012 at 2:34 PM

I am so glad the chickens finally tried out your roost! I know how much work you put into it!

I am chicken of everything new but usually do it before anyone can notice me being scared, lol. I think only my husband knows what a truly whiny chicken I am…I want everyone else to just see the bouncy, peppy, realistic risk-taker. :-)

As for dragging your husband everywhere, I knocked that crap off a long time ago. Mr. BFS is just a wet blanket if he doesn’t want to be doing something, so he is only invited when he thinks it sounds like fun. It works for us too. :-)

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:02 AM

Crystal – I laughed at the entire comment. Awesome.

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Jacq July 19, 2012 at 11:18 PM

Here’s an interesting post on Psyblog on self doubt:
http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/07/how-to-fight-excessive-doubt.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PsychologyBlog+%28PsyBlog%29
I think it should show up for you?

What I think is that when the time is right and you feel totally secure, you’ll plan your net, plan your jump and it will all work out fine. I’m reminded that my most financially successful uncle didn’t build his piece d’ resistance until he was over 60 y.o. (a campground and waterslide – at the time the biggest waterslide park in North America – in a popular vacation area). Once he built it, they didn’t have a good season for about 3-4 years (rainy) but he was ok because he didn’t totally need the income from it. Other people would have (literally) drowned but he was ok. He E-R’d at about 40 y.o., dabbled in politics, was the president of a cattle association – and did loads of interesting things – but also did crossword puzzles for a few years as a semi “occupation.”

The right opportunity will come along at the right time. Maybe that time just isn’t right now when your time is taken up so much by your kids and your mom?

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:04 AM

Jacq – great story and you’re right, there isn’t an expiration date on when you can start really doing big things.

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Kevin Mzansi July 20, 2012 at 4:20 AM

“Taj Ma Fowl”? Hilarious!
Perfectionism is my problem – I don’t start/complete/show something until it is perfect. This is probably a form of being chicken, if you think about it!

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:05 AM

Kevin – I have lots of perfectionists in my life. It is hard when everything has to be great instead of good.

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Deidre @ TransFormX.com July 21, 2012 at 9:24 PM

Sandy… I love that you do your thing without appology! Too often people give in to what the ‘norm’ is and all are miserable at the end. You seem to have a huge family background that is independent and knows how to stand their ground :)

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:08 AM

Deidre – yes, well my dad never did anything for my mom or took her anywhere, so if she was to experience anything, she had to do it herself.

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Kellen July 23, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Sandy – plenty of people bring their kids and not their spouse to our company outing. Some of the men have brought the nanny instead of their wife!
I think it is ridiculous to expect you to drag your husband to that kind of thing if he doesn’t like it – personally, I think it’s ridiculous that I’M required to go to our company outing because I get tired of it way earlier than everyone else too…

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:11 AM

Kellen – wow..the nanny. Most people I work with don’t have nanny’s, so you’re in a while different league.

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Cynthia July 23, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Good for you on the chickens! We keep putting off refurbishing our chicken coop and making it bobcat-proof, so I’ll just live vicariously through you. Having a puppy is enough for now, and certainly more work. I’m chicken about leaving my comfort zone. There’s a lot to be said for comfort and it takes a long time for me to get bored with it. That said, it also took me a long time to build my current comfort zone to my liking, so maybe that has something to do with it. I was braver when I was more uncomfortable!

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:12 AM

Cynthia – good point. You know what you like and why mess with something that’s not broken. I’m the opposite. I get bored if something’s the same for too long.

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101 Centavos August 4, 2012 at 6:43 AM

Just a thought, but with your engineering background, starting a side business might not be all that risky or involved. Good reliable consulting engineers aren’t that easy to find.

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Sandy L August 9, 2012 at 6:17 AM

101 – I’m not a hard core engineer like you’d imagine. I’ve been business oriented for a long time, so if you want to know what it takes to launch a new product, I’m your gal, but don’t ask me to do physics calculations. I do know quite a few people who went that route and the travel is generally hellacious. I can see myself doing it when the kids are out of the house because I actually like to travel, but now is probably not the right time.

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Consolidebtllc August 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM

I have four chickens and have them in a mobile coop. Your observations are parallel too mine mine . I too see why people call others chicken. Looking forward to your post!

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