Nancy Roman

Not Going First

Here’s a story:

When my nephew was a little boy, he had a friend that he often played with.

Every time they played a game, his small friend always started the game by saying, “I’ll go first!”

I remember wanting my nephew to SAY something about this – to stand up for himself and say, “You went first last time. This is MY turn to be first.”

And I wanted to step in and say that myself. But I don’t like to interfere in children’s dynamics – if it works for them, it works for them, fair or not. So I bit my tongue and never said what I was so tempted to say.

My nephew was a good-natured kid. Still is. So he always let that little girl go first. Always.


Here’s another story:

When we vacationed in Jamaica three years ago, we went zip-lining. This is not my usual occupation. This is not my crazy vacation self. My crazy vacation self is to have a pina colada on the beach as I read my book.

I was pretty frightened. And my husband was scared shitless. Not only for himself, since his vacation past-times include martinis and naps. But also for me. He checked my safety harness over and over again. Which is why I wasn’t scared shitless but only pretty frightened. I knew I would not plunge to my death. Only perhaps smack face first into a large tree.

Several people went off before we did. They stepped off the platform and they flew through the air. It was breathtaking. But I didn’t think I could do it – take that first step.

The person who went just before me was a young boy of maybe eleven. His mother was very nervous, but he was happy and laughing and he jumped off as soon as he got the go-ahead. You could hear him screaming, “YYAAAAYYY!!”  all the way across.

That boy made me brave. I stepped off the ledge. I soared.


And another story:

Years ago, I was working as a financial executive in a male-dominated industry. On business trips, I was often the only woman.

On one occasion, several business associates and I went out to eat at a very nice seafood restaurant. There were five men and me. Since I was the only woman, when the waiter came to take our orders, he naturally turned to me first and asked what I wanted.

Well, we had all been talking about business and sports and the usual small talk, and no one had discussed the menu. So I took a quick glance and said, “I will have the filet of sole.”

And then around the table. Each man put in his order.

“I’ll have the double lobster.”
“I’ll have the double lobster.”
“I’ll have the double lobster.”
“I’ll have the double lobster.”
“I’ll have the double lobster.”

This was not good. I was about to sit around the table with my measly paper-thin slice of flavorless fish – surrounded by TEN lobsters.

“Excuse me,” I said politely to the waiter. “I need to change my order.”

And they brought twelve lobsters to the table.


So there is a moral here.

It is not always so bad letting someone else go first.

For my little nephew, he had a friendly happy playmate, and he always got his turn eventually. He never seemed to mind.

In Jamaica, seeing how much fun other people were having, especially that little boy… well, it reassured me, and gave me the courage to experience a delight I may never have otherwise known.

And during that business dinner… Well, I did go first. It didn’t serve me well. It was not an advantage. Better to see what everyone else is having.

I’m not saying you should always be last.

But there are often definite advantages to not being first.

I had a boss once who was rather forbidding and often moody. I learned to hold back in a meeting until a few other people spoke first – to get the lay of the land, so to speak. There was no use making a suggestion or proposal if the boss was not in a receptive mood. I let my coworkers step into the quicksand first. Not brave, I admit. But practical. And survivable.

When cross-country skiing, it is so nice not to have to push my way through heavy, virgin snow. I love skiing in someone else’s smooth, clear path.

My husband was involved for years with drag racing. Watching a few other cars go down the track was extremely beneficial in tuning his own vehicle.

You learn from watching others. And you can’t watch if you’re up first.

Of course, there are occasions when you really need to be first. First off the blocks in the 100-yard dash. First to hit the buzzer in Jeopardy. First in line to get the best seats in the house.

But most of Life is not a competition.

You win just by getting to play.

Like my nephew happy to go last.

Like a dozen lobsters.

Like swinging through trees.








  1. I often prefer NOT to go first unless it’s in a food line. Then I like to go before everyone sneezes on the goods! Good post!


    • Ha! You’ve got a point. I certainly don’t eat the cake at a child’s birthday party!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I prefer to hesitate, wait and see what others are doing before I take the plunge.


    • Me too. Maybe it’s lack of bravery, but I tend to think it is an excess of wisdom.


      • I agree ‘excess of wisdom’ and for me learned from past experiences


  3. It depends on the situation as to whether I want to go first and some people want to always go first because they think if they go second they will somehow miss out


    • So true. I find that when I am jumping into a conversation right away, it is mainly because I want to be recognized.


  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. There’s a lot of benefits to watching others go before you. It’s definitely a good way to learn how to do certain things.


    • In some ways, I am competitive. But I also love to wait and watch and learn.


  5. What a delightful post.


  6. How simply yet amazingly put. Your posts are always such a breath of fresh air.


  7. I hadn’t really thought about it before reading this but, I seldom go first. Remember that game we played as a child, Follow the Leader? I think I got stuck in that. 😉


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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: