risk and fear

I was chatting with a friend tonight about how difficult it is to pursue your dreams.

Sometimes, it is the hardest thing in the world to really go after what you most desire. Even when you know, deep down, that it is your most cherished wish and it will bring you the most joy, if not the greatest material benefit.

It’s because the stakes are so high.

Why risk failure, humiliation, and the destruction of your dreams, when you can stay in the comfort-zone and nurse your ambitions privately? Why commit fully to something when you can paddle in the shallows and tell onlookers that the water’s a bit choppy right now, but you’ll be moving further out once it calms down–even though the forecast predicts prolonged capricious weather?

Because nothing would hurt so much as to discover–if you dared wade out until your feet are swept off the bottom by the waves–that you really do suck, that you have no talent, and it has been a ridiculous, childish dream you’ve indulged all these years. That the voices in your head are right. The ones that repeat every cutting remark, every casual dismissal that someone–be it a teacher, sibling, parent or friend–slung in your direction, often unaware of its effect upon you.

Dreams are easy. To realise them is hard.

And then you see people, who you think have less talent than you, and they are weathering the storms, and winning the medals, and you wonder why it is they can forge ahead when, you, who are so naturally better equipped, flounder in the shallows.

Yeats said:

The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Or to put it simply: the best are cowardly, while the worst don’t allow their fear of failure to stop them. They’ve got guts, instead of talent. Bravery, determination and hard work can make up for lack of ability. In fact, if you’ve got those three traits you do deserve the honours.

Talent is not enough. You’ve got to have balls.

You’ve got to stick your neck out, you’ve got to announce your ambition, and you’ve got to go after it with everything in your heart and soul.

Otherwise, get out of the pool.

What’s the worst that can happen? You fail, you suck, everyone shakes their head at your foolish caper, but you tried (and most people will admire your courage). You can strike it off your list, and do something else.

Life is full of chances. Nothing is permanent. We can all change, and start anew.

Well, that’s what I tell myself when I’m out at sea, with no shore in sight, and no friendly lighthouse to direct me.

But, fuck it, it’s not even that simple. Because life is complicated, and sometimes we can’t be brave, or circumstances thwart us.

There are no Hallmark answers, or pat clich?s that will make it easier to follow your heart and your passion.

There is only the realisation that life is too short to spend it doing shit you don’t like. It may take five months, three years, or a decade or two to achieve your dreams but at least you’ve got the chutzpah to make them a reality.

So, wade, splash, dive-bomb, swim, or just dip your toe in.

The water’s fine.

(Actually, it may not be fine. It may contain sharks, jellyfish, or strange aquatic monsters. But you won’t find out until you get in. You never know, you might befriend those gilled beasties and get them to herd the jellyfish while you prod the sharks out of the way.

Never depend on dolphins.)