I have to admit it… it’s been a tough week or so. I have had dogs as a child, but I have never been as emotionally invested as I was with our beautiful Mr Big. I honestly had no idea how hard it would be making the decision to end his life, even though it was the best thing for him, and then to deal with the grief that comes with losing someone close. The last 10 days since he passed has been littered with tears, with regrets, with heartbreak and with unsettling thoughts as to whether, if we’d done things differently, maybe he would still be with us. What I do know, amongst all the pain, the heartache and the tears, is that the overwhelming feelings, both Laura and I have, are love and joy. An intense love for this little dog and joy that he was with us for 16 years.

I feel so grateful for all our many friends who have sent their love and condolences to us through, phone calls, emails and messages. If that includes you, thank you, it means more than you can possibly imagine. I was actually talking to one of these people during the week and we were discussing our pets and that inevitable time, for all of them, when they will go to pet heaven. We talked about how connected we get to our pet, how much a part of the family they become and how hard it is when they’re gone. I was saying, it’s so hard, because you only get 15-20 years with them, enough to fall deeply in love, and then they’re gone.

I then said something that came out of my mouth because of how I was feeling. I was suffering, my heart was aching, and I said, ‘It makes me stop and wonder if it’s even worth having a pet knowing that, more than once depending on how many I have, I will have to experience this pain and heart-break.’ She then said to me, ‘I understand how you feel, but if you don’t get a pet then you will miss out on all the amazing love, joy and memories that come with being a doting pet owner.’ She went on to say, ‘Yes, they will pass away, and yes, there will be pain when it happens, but in any area of life you need to risk loss to experience intense joy.’

Do you know, logically I knew she was right, as I actually talk about this very same thing often in other areas. At that particular time, however, it was hard to see the forest for the trees. As I sit here writing this blog, just over a week after Mr Big has gone, I am still in incredible pain, but I would never give that up for not having had the time I was able to spend with him, be his adopted father and get to know this beautiful little man. I know the pain will lessen over time, and, what I also know is that the photos we have and the memories that are etched into our hearts will live on and be with us for the rest of our lives. So, my message to you in this week’s blog, through bittersweet tears, is don’t stop risking loss, failure and rejection, or, you’ll miss some of the greatest joys in life.

There is risk… do it anyway!

We are at a time of the year when we are reflecting on the year gone by and thinking about the new year coming… well, I know I am. As you think about your year, I want to encourage you to assess it, not by the things you achieved, but more by the things you risked, whether you achieved the result or not. To round out the conversation about Mr Big, I am grateful I loved him with all my heart, right to the very end. The fact that he is gone will never dampen my love, nor the joy I got from spending time with him. So, don’t beat yourself because of things you haven’t achieved this year, be proud of the fact that you had the courage, took the chance and risked failure, rejection or loss.

Mother Teresa said this;

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

To achieve anything great there is risk. To achieve great love, there is a risk it will not be returned. To achieve great business success, there is a risk you will fail. To become a great author, there is a risk you will be rejected by publishers and critics. To make the sporting team, there is a risk you will not be selected and, if you are, there’s a risk you may get injured. To achieve any dream, there is a risk of failure, judgement, rejection and/or loss.

The reason I can look back with pride and pleasure at playing seven years of professional football has nothing to do with talent, but everything to do with overcoming the risks associated with the achievement. In my first senior-level game of football I risked my health and safety and was knocked unconscious, carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital. That event gave me the confidence to know I can get back up. After my first senior game, I then had to risk and endure twenty months of rejection and missing selection until I finally played my second game. It was during that time I became the person and player I needed to become to succeed. Without risking my health and my ego, I would never be able to tell you this story with gratitude and satisfaction.

There is so much to be done in our lives. People and animals to love, mountains to conquer, children to raise, lives to impact and dreams to achieve. None of the most significant and important things can ever be realised without a risk of some type. As you reflect on the year gone by and start planning the new year coming, remember… you need to risk loss to experience great joy.