Stop Rationalizing and Make Hard Decisions: Learning from Dr. King


Greetings from London.

I thought I’d share the below quote, which was sent to me (Thanks, Thao!) when I was considering whether or not to put up the controversial FISA post. I knew beforehand that it would lose me some readers.

The few words below cut through hours of meaningless deliberation and made the decision simple…

There are a lot of hard choices and big decisions in life. Dealing with most of them requires facing daunting — but transient — discomfort.

I encourage you to read the following, which helped me to eliminate the rationalization we so often use to avoid doing what is important.

“I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the sermon “But, If Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967.

Posted on: September 4, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

155 comments on “Stop Rationalizing and Make Hard Decisions: Learning from Dr. King

  1. I’ve never read that before and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s more obscure than his “I Have a Dream” speech, or if we just never got around to it in high school or college.

    Either way, I’m glad you shared it.

    My friend Dan John has a saying about making touch decisions:

    “If you’re given a plate of frogs to eat, eat the biggest, ugliest one first. The rest will go down easy after that.”

    Not quite as eloquent as Dr. King, but good advice either way!



  2. Hey Tim,
    It’s clear to me why we still quote Dr. King from so many years ago. Real passion and conviction withstands the tests of time. I’m enjoying how this blog is becoming so inclusive of critical areas of my life. Without passion where are we? Thanks for challenging me to think and become more.

    Jet Set Life


  3. I’ve been in Ebenezer.. With my fellow Georgia Voices That Count trainees.. Back in 2004.. Took my self-advocacy from anonymouse to a very identifiable “me” the very next Net interaction after..

    There’s no describing the “how-to” on this one.. For me, it was.. looking Death straight in the eye..

    For others, it will be and has been extreme loss of that, whatever that is, which they value most.. It’s not always quite to the extreme mine was, but you can tell it, you can feel it when you meet someone else who is “There”..

    Things in our collective Worlds are spiraling out of control.. Desperately out of control.. Each moment just that much faster..

    Just a few hours ago, stumbled upon Yoani Sanchez’s endeavor for the first time.. For some seeking inspiration from another in action this moment, not a bad place to start..

    Oh, and FISA..? Check this out.. On the Fourth of July, I responded to a thread, a very, very, *very* long thread that revolved solely around FISA..

    Have never before on the Net been censored..

    That day, this Fourth of July just past, I was..

    These Fingertips found that particular wholly undeserved action by unknown others, *especially* under those particular circumstances, to be..


    Ad infinitum and beyond.

    Cyber hugs from North Georgia, USA.. :wink:


  4. This is one of the values we taught our children. Now in our 60’s we never regretted our advice and example to our children and grand children to “stand for something greater than yourselves”. We are blessed that our children and their children are carrying forward these ideals. Values give life meaning.


  5. George Carlin said it well (paraphrased) – live a little, have some danger and excitement in your life, what are you going to do for the rest of your life…read people magazine and eat at wendy’s?


  6. This day is again a time when we are called upon to stand… just like the Founder’s of this great country stood – knowing full well their revolution, if a failure, would require their very lives.

    In 1777 John Adams, our 2nd President wrote to his wife Abigail, “posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make a good use of it…”

    Thank you Tim for having the courage to speak up. Not only did I listen but I called all my congressmen! I appreciate all the “eyes and ears” out there alerting me to every erosion of Liberty!


  7. Hi Tim,
    Are you still trying to find a good lunch under $20 in London? I feel sure I can help you achieve this. It may need you to define what you count as lunch – 3 courses with wine might be difficult.
    Best regards,


  8. Great post, words we all should try to live by. If you don’t have something truly useful to do you might as well not get out of bed! If more people felt that way we could turn the collective consciousness in the world.
    Thank you!!


  9. Great post Tim,

    I have never heard that before, Powerful stuff.

    When I train fitness clients, I make them draw up a committment sheet. On that sheet I have them write down 3 emotional reasons why it’s important to improve their fitness and Health. They read them out loud every day. I get everyone to realize that improving their health is always a life or death situation.

    For some clients it is a physical (blood pressure, diabetes) and for others it is a mental or emotional life or death situation. Because if someone is feeling old and tired at 40 years old, if they continue on with their lifestyle, they feel like their better days are behind them.

    That is an emotional death. And it does not have to be that way.

    Anyhow, thanks for the great reminder of an important message!


  10. Tim – People may not agree with your political viewpoint but they should respect your right to your opinion. I hate it when someone refuses to have an open discussion because you don’t believe as they do. In fact, it is often the people who proclaim they are free thinkers that are the most closed minded!

    Keep up the good work!