Safety Is Not the Goal

My grandmother passed yesterday.  She was 104.  I was privileged to give a speech at her funeral in which I talked about the things she taught me. 

I didn’t have time to include everything I learned from her in that short address.  In these confusing times, one of the more important lessons is especially relevant and I want to share it in this blog.  Safety is not the goal. 

It’s not that we shouldn’t be safe, or shouldn’t want to be safe. If you’re in danger, safety is the goal.  But living a life dedicated to being safe is not living. 

In the movie Moana, the main character lives with her tribe on a paradise of an island that no one ever leaves.  One day she discovers that her people used to be explorers and that they sailed fleets of ships across the ocean.  That scene used to make me cry. 

Because I felt like I was focusing my whole life on being safe when, in fact, I was capable of being in places where I wasn’t as safe.  I was capable of exploring, capable of having adventures.  I started to move in that direction. 

I started to recognize that safety isn’t the goal I wanted for my life, being able to deal with danger was.  That’s a different thing.  As the Indigo Girls sing in one of my favorite lines from a song, “I sailed my ship of safety ’til I sank it.” 

My grandmother used to say, “Everything is under control.”  That meant that there were problems, but you had them in sight and they weren’t overwhelming you.  There will always be problems, and to try to create a life without problems is a waste of time and energy. 

It’s also impossible.  You can solve all your personal problems, make a hundred million dollars, and live in a fortress.  Then the market could crash and eliminate your wealth, or you could get a disease, or someone you love could leave you. 

If your goal is to be safe, you will always be a failure. If your goal is to be able to deal with being unsafe, you have a much better chance of being continuously successful.  It’s a better way to think about living. 

Our ancestors from 50,000 years ago used to run around all day long looking for food and a place to rest.  That was their life.  Is it better to have agriculture, technology, permanent shelter? 

Of course!  But it’s just an improvement, not a diametric opposite.  Safety is a tool to improve our life, not the goal. 

Closer to the end of her life, my grandmother would ask me how I am.  “Everything is under control,” I’d say.  “That’s good,” she’d say.

News From Adam Cole, A Jazz Musician Who Writes Books

In a couple of weeks I will be releasing the second of my collections of Unwashed Demos, my songs that never got the full studio treatment. For 2 weeks it will be on Soundcloud where you can hear the album for free!  Only friends with the link can access the album:

Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To get a free book on marketing tips for passing out fliers, getting on your own radio show, and writing a blog people will read, please go to and subscribe.

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