Something you always think “What if…” about.
When I was a kid, I would spend copious amounts of birthday and Christmas money on comic books, comic book cards, and sports cards. My mom was nice enough to encourage my habit by taking me to card shows, usually held at hotel conference halls by the airport. At one of these shows, they were giving away one-of-a-kind original sketches by Jim Lee, a famous comic book artist. Original as in he was actually there creating the sketches and then giving them away to people who could answer comic book trivia. To get the chance to win, your raffle ticket had to be called first, and my number actually got called! I was kind of freaking out because it’s a lot of pressure to get any nerd-related trivia correct in front of a bunch of other nerds. That’s probably the worst thing that can happen to a nerd. They drew another number so that two of us would have a chance to answer. The first person to get the right answer would get the sketch. The emcee lined us up in front of everyone, and asked the question:
“In 1963, which Marvel superhero made his first appearance in “Amazing Fantasy #15”?
I had no idea. I really didn’t know that much about comic books, which made me feel like even more of a poser. I was just here to have fun and now I’m being put under this nerd microscope at some random hotel ballroom. The only thing that came into my head was “Spider-Man” because that’s really one of the only names I knew.
I should’ve just blurted out “Spider-Man!”, but I was too scared. To get it wrong and feel the scorn of all those of people at the same time? No way. Just say nothing, let the other guy get it wrong, and I can just get out of here and go about my day.
I was waiting for the other guy to answer when I realized he didn’t know the answer either (or was just as scared of getting it wrong as I did)! He eventually did answer and he got it wrong.
The emcee feigned pity on us as he said, “Aw, I’m sorry.” He turned to the crowd for the answer and I heard a chorus of “SPIDERRRR-MAAANNN!” echo through the ballroom. If I had just said my dumb guess I would’ve been right, but I was too afraid to speak up.
What if I had gotten it right? What if I actually said my dumb guess and gotten that original sketch and got to hang it in my room? It wouldn’t have been a defining moment in my life, but I’m sure it would’ve been a tiny step to building more confidence in myself at a time when I desperately needed it (i.e. adolescence) which could have butterfly-effected itself into some totally different life path. Who knows? I’ll never know.
Now when I am faced with a similar situation, I default to no-shame-answering because the worst you can be is wrong, and being wrong is when you usually learn the most.