“I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”
– Henry David Thoreau (from Travel in Concord)
In preceding essays, I have been encouraging you to “Dare to Fail.” By now you might be asking yourself, “Why put myself through all of this in the first place?” It really comes down to your goals in life. As Thoreau wrote, do you wish “to go before the mast and on the deck of the world?” Or, do you wish to play it safe and “go below”? Before you choose, consider these words by someone who had every excuse to just play it safe:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
– Helen Keller (Deaf and blind from the age of nineteen months)
So, what is the advantage of taking a position on the deck of the world, being exposed to wind, rain, and other unknown assaults? How about developing the ability to handle a tough situation? Or, acquiring the wherewithal to get back on your feet after getting smacked to the ground? How about possessing the poise to carry yourself with dignity and pride when others are cowering around you? If you desire these qualities, then I suggest you follow Ms. Keller’s advice, and make your life a daring adventure!
“I do not ask to walk smooth paths, nor bear an easy load. I pray for strength and fortitude to climb the rock strewn road. Give me courage so I can scale the hardest peaks alone. And transform every stumbling block into a stepping stone.”
– Gail Brook Bricket
Recall the spirit of the great American pioneers – the ordinary people who did extraordinary things. The people who risked everything they had in their possession to travel westward across this country – to seek something better – to get to something on the other side of my proverbial rope bridge (See Dare To Fail … Terrifically). Think about the stumbling blocks they faced everyday on the trail … the adversity they had to overcome to create their own stepping stones.
I wonder what the pioneers would think about modern man’s view of adversity. Today, many people think of adversity as having the Cable TV out of order, having to wait in a line at the supermarket, or being stuck in a traffic jam. Is it possible that our adventurous ancestors would be disgusted with our tolerance for travail? I’m certain they could have handled the poverty known in the Great Depression or the rations and blackouts of World War II – but us, could we? Adversity to the pioneers was having a sick child, and no doctor within hundreds of miles; having to get a Conestoga wagon across a river; having to leave a deceased loved one behind on the trail – because the number one rule was to “keep moving.” They knew and understood the definition of a failure, the condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short. They also knew how to pick themselves up off the ground and carry on. Do you ever pine for the courage and strength of these people – ancestors to many of us? I know I do.
When my children were small, they watched an animated show on PBS called The Magic School Bus. Kids were guided by a teacher (Ms. Frizzle) on wondrous adventures aboard a magical bus. They traveled inside a human body. They flew into outer space and visited planets. They dove into a pile of rotting garbage to learn about decomposition. Ms. Frizzle’s adventuresome spirit was inspiring to all the students in the show. Her favorite saying was, “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, and Get Messy!” Throughout the years, I have encouraged my children to make this one of their most trusted mantras. It symbolizes everything I have written about in the “Dare to Fail” essays. If you are willing to try new things, endure some failure, and overcome adversity – then you truly can succeed at anything. If not – if you become hampered by a fear of failure – then it becomes difficult to change paths. Please learn how to embrace failure as a means to an eventual success. If you can do that, it will never be too late to make a change; in education, work, relationships – anything in your life.
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Next Time: Tasting the Canvas (My Medical Travails)