The Scurrilous Lie of the “Reasonable”


I spent the last 10 days doing absurdly awesome things with absurdly awesome people. In two weeks, I’ll spend another 20 days doing arguably even more absurdly awesome things with equally absurdly awesome people. A small representative sample of the activities I’m talking about:

  • Swimming in a jungle river miles from civilization
  • Teaching my youngest son how to say and when to use the Litany Against Fear
  • Watching muay thai matches in Bangkok
  • Running up a jungle river to visit orangutans
  • Playing D&D at a table with three native languages
  • Absolutely not peeing a little when a scorpion the size of a small car appeared a meter from my feet
  • Riding elephants on a safari in Nepal

When I share some of these things, or even more pedestrian parts of my life like writing for a living or spending a year abroad, a lot of people say the same thing:

“Wow. I wish I could do that!”

This is an attitude I fundamentally don’t understand. If you want something, there’s a simple process that starts with identifying a goal and ends with celebrating how you accomplished that goal right in its face. “I wish I could do that” has no place in this process.

“But Jason,” some folks are already whining, “be reasonable. I can’t do that thing I desperately want to do because of mumble mumble whine excuse pule sadness.”

“Be reasonable” is a terrible thing to say to yourself. It’s a limiter, a shoulder devil, a scurrilous lie you tell yourself that does nothing but prevent you from moving forward towards the things that would make you happiest.

In my martial arts classes, I used to tell students that although there’s a technical difference between a reason and an excuse, the results are identical:

  • Fail to be there to help your friend because you forgot? Lame excuse.
  • Fail to be there to help your friend because a 16-car pileup prevented you from getting there on time? Viable reason.

But in both cases you failed to be there to help your friend. The better plan is to set your life up so that those valid reasons are surmountable because you have systems and resources in place to deal with obstacles known and unanticipated.

You can apply the same concept to your dreams and goals:

  • Not living the life you want because Call of Duty takes up too many hours of your day? Lame excuse.
  • Not living the life you want because you have a family and responsibilities? Viable reason.

But at the end of the day, you’re still not living the life you want. Yes, a reasonable person will look at the limiting factors in her life and see to responsibilities first, dreams second. No, that’s not a reason to not live every dream you ever dreamt of dreaming.

Let me lay down a phrasebook of reasonableness that has served me well over the years.

  • “I don’t have time” means I do other things with my time I value more than this other thing
  • “I don’t have enough money” means I spend my money on things I value more than this other thing
  • “I don’t know how” means I don’t know how YouTube works 
  • “I wish I could” means I’m not comfortable taking chances

These are the lies of reasonableness that we trap ourselves with every day. If you can turn them on their ears you can re-translate them like that Google Translate game where you basically play telephone with the same phrase to see how mangled it comes back.

“I don’t have time” –> I spend my time on things I value more than this other thing –> “What low-value time sink can I eliminate so I can get what I want?”


“I don’t know how” –> I don’t know how YouTube works     –> Which YouTube tutorial will teach me all I need to know about this?”


My challenge to you for today is to stop being reasonable. Set sights on something you’ve always wanted. Make unreasonable efforts to get there. Ask unreasonable things of yourself. Dig in your heels and be unreasonably stubborn about getting what you need to make it happen.

Don’t take reasonable for an answer.


One thought on “The Scurrilous Lie of the “Reasonable”

  1. Well, to be reasonable, what you say is likely true. But in life there are hurdles to jump daily and unanticipated events that do take priority, not because we want them to be a higher priority, but because we have honor and respect and consideration for things we discover while walking that delightful path we call life.

    My grandson is visiting me today. There are high priority things that I must take a reasonable approach to, and/or procrastinate doing because there is an even higher priority …so I can’t stay here typing much longer …but I get your point.

    It’s not always about doing what we love to do …it’s more about having a list and understanding what priorities mean that teaches us what reasonable has to mean. It is not a merely selection process among the mundane.

    Now, I hafta go …my grandson is getting dressed …we’re having breakfast in a coupla minutes …

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