I was frustrated about hitting more powerful ground strokes, so a friend showed me his grip: the butt of his racket ends in his palm. My hand was an inch closer to the racket head. So I moved my hand away from the racket head, and my strokes improved enormously. IT WAS A MIRACLE!!! This slight change puts the racket farther away, and the ball hits the sweet spot more often…the racket has more whip. It works for my serve as well. FANTASTIC!!!

Of course my mind is never satisfied to stop there…it immediately wonders if life operates the same way…just make a tiny change in some small part of actions or decision-making, and things will be a million times better? Where are these little inflection points that are so major, so determinative in our lives?

Choosing to proceed with a marriage, when your fiance has just revealed a huge character flaw or three is one place. Going into business or taking a job with a person who has just demonstrated immorality or deceitfulness is another. A third fork in your life road might be deciding to go away to college, rather than staying home with the familiarity and coziness of your high school friends.

But what about older folks like me, way past college, spouse and career choices. Our lives are far from perfect at any stage. Many of my friends are still striving to make more money for current bills, college tuitions or retirement nest eggs. Yet they struggle horrendously with risking their savings in unfamiliar investments. Big topic of discussion. What to say to children who appear to be screwing up, but want to be independent? Choosing the right expensive products, like cars or houses, are areas ripe for mistakes.

These are not everyday decisions. And poor choices can lead to much grief as a consequence. Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was make one little change, like altering your grip by an inch, and everything would be better and easier?

I like to think it can be that simple…once you are shown or learn the different way to behave or decide. But I can see that we are all locked in by our past experiences, fears, lack of confidence, and various levels of comfort with risk. I have made the same investment decision in hours that a friend came to after 18 months. I was intuitive almost instantly, while he was rational and conducted intense research and due diligence. And he not only has more money than I do–so the loss would be less damaging to him–but the project was much much farther along, by the time his mind said “Yes.”

Relocating to another town, state or country is a tough one, even if you have dreamt for years of living out of New York City or in Florida year round. Yet when I moved out of the Big Apple, some friends thought I was crazy. And a few ended our relationships as a result. I was basically rejecting their choice of how to live a life, and that was too negative for them to stay in touch. “Where will you eat? What will you do out there?” they confronted me. A number did say that it sounded idyllic, and they had often fantasized about doing the same thing, but they were “city people,” so couldn’t really move to the country. I laughed the other day, when I went into our newly renovated, 3-D theater in our neighboring town of 35,000 and watched a first-run movie without a line and with plenty of seat choices…and then heard three days later about a city friend who couldn’t see the same movie at night, because it was sold out since 3:00. Dinky, rural life isn’t so bad sometimes.

I know that risk-taking takes practice, just like serving a tennis ball. I know that decision-making and sizing up a person are other skills. You can’t succeed at them from the start. Some people are afraid of mistakes. Others use them as learning experiences. I had a consultant who was not impressed, when I told him that I had not failed at any of the projects I had carried out in my publishing company’s early years. “Then you aren’t taking enough risk,” was his response.

I never forgot it. Maybe that willingness to fail is like the inch on the racket handle. I will keep looking for those slight, small places, where your whole life can be affected.