The feedback was clear: start small. Too many options is too overwhelming.

The instance in question was a volunteer post with my kids’ school’s PTA – I am the enrichment chair, and in our earnest effort to create lunchtime enrichment clubs for middle-schoolers, we apparently created too many options in a flier that went home to parents.

Two parents said they didn’t respond because it was too overwhelming. Ok fine. I’ll simplify, pare down. But really? You can’t even send an email back saying, “I’d like to participate but I’m just not sure where to start!” Or ask for direction?

I’m finding that people today all over the place just can’t handle too many options. And they’re in a place and a mindset that doesn’t even inspire them to ask a question or clarify. So we have to make it easy.

I made that mistake once in my work. I sent a potential client who was eager to work with me a detailed proposal offering several different ways we could work together. To be fair, the potential client was someone I had known from my childhood and I wanted to be mindful of his interests and his budget.

Apparently, I was too compassionate. The two-page proposal was too much for him. On a phone call he admitted, “I was overwhelmed when I received it.” And he never worked with me.

I’m not saying the overwhelming feeling was my fault or that he would have been a client otherwise. Probably not! But it’s good feedback in any case.

And yet, I have to wonder – is it really too much to take to look at a one-page flier that has options for our children and have a response that is basically to back away because it’s too scary to dip a toe in the water? We’re just talking about volunteering, after all, and it said pretty clearly that we invite parents at any level of commitment.

I guess that got lost in the communication.

And maybe the problem is our forms of communication anyway. Had the information been presented face to face, voice to voice, over a table at packet pick-up day, or during curriculum night, when human beings could have shared information and clarified on the spot, perhaps we would have gotten immediate sign-ups.

Except people have a problem committing anyway. Right? They aren’t committing to themselves or to the things they say are important in their lives.

I see it in work, I see it in school, I see it in my religious community. Only the smallest portion of the population actually shows up. And I am not just talking about attending events.

I’m talking about showing up for yourself. When you say something is important, why do you hesitate to sign up? Invest the money – in yourself? Attend something that could change everything you do for the better? Go out on a limb to meet a new person whose relationship could make all the difference?

Because it’s easy to cling to the familiar.

I prefer to take chances. I get on planes and travel to places far and away and just jump. I know I won’t crash. I know where there is interest and excitement and an open mind, good things happen.

I know that if I take a chance, I risk actually succeeding. I know that the familiar is wimping out. I know that growth only comes from stepping outside of my comfort zone and into the cold. Bring a coat.

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