“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
This quote, widely attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an 18th & early 19th century German author, was attached to my first computer via sticky note, for many, many years. It compelled and inspired me to write, dream, and put myself through graduate school in New York City in my mid-twenties.
I thought about it today, as I was talking with a friend, when I said, ‘put it out there,’ in reference to her dreams. What I meant was, if you have a dream, a vision, a goal, put it out there to the Universe. Don’t poo-poo it. Don’t discard it. Don’t just think about it alone, or when you run or bike, but then tell no one. Instead, tell a trusted and supportive friend about your dream(s). Meditate on it. Ruminate on it. Visualize what it looks like. And just for fun, visualize that you already have it as you go to bed. What does it feel like? How would your day be structured?
Sounds crazy, but Why not?!
I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit about Goethe tonight, while looking up information about his life and this quote. I found that some translators of Faust, his famous play where the main character makes a deal with the devil, varied a bit. For instance, one person translated it as:
“Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Another translation I found was:
“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed.”
Why, you may ask, am I bringing all this up? I know what it’s like to lose a dream. I know what it’s like to push a dream aside in order to support someone else’s dreams, and then later to support children. I know how reality can settle in and dreams can be procrastinated or pushed aside. Single parents working long hours and taking care of children solo, especially, know how easy it is to push aside dreams. Disappointments, distractions, work—all can make long, lost dreams seem impractical or silly. And if you ever had a family member or unsupportive spouse or friend chastise you for having a particular dream, I don’t need to tell you about how those voices in your head can really do a number on you.
But here’s the thing. There’s nothing silly about dreams. There are the stuff life is made of. They are what we are here for. They are why our earliest childhood friends, who we might have laid underneath stars with, while drinking bad beer and talking, are so special. Remember that time in your life when you spoke of your dreams and talked about how each of you would achieve them? That time is so special because of the excitement and potential crackling in the air.
Sure, we may be weathered now. Wiser too. But many of us are also anchored down with a bit of cynicism and fear.
Maybe I’m immature at heart, but I don’t think boldness has an expiration date.
I wish I could remember the name of the head of the English department at NC State years ago. I remember him telling me about a book he started writing 20 some years earlier and how pain-stakeningly he visited every city and even oil drilling towns in order to create a believable novel. He didn’t finish it and lost many pages. When I told him to go back and start again, I’ll never forget his reply.
“It’s too late. The moment is lost. If I tried to resurrect it now, it wouldn’t have the same essence.”
I didn’t say anything to the wiser, older, professor and writer. Who was I, but a young, student getting a master’s degree? But deep inside, I didn’t believe him. Maybe it wouldn’t be the same novel, but he might discover another one. He might have a great time. He might create an even better one. Think about it.
According to some historians, Goethe wrote the first draft of his play Faust, known then as the Urfaust, between 1772 and 1775. Goethe finally finished writing Faust Part Two in 1831.
I know, not all of you are striving to be playwrights or novelists, but you get the idea.
Maybe you can’t achieve your dreams over night. But who’s to say you can’t take one step toward them each day? Maybe you need to start looking into schools or training courses? Maybe you need to just let go of some added-on responsibilities in order to carve out 30 minutes a day for some needed dream-time? Think about what you may need to do to inch towards a goal. I know there’s a lot I need to do in order to push aside procrastination or fear to move forward.
Boldness may take action—even the smallest amount—but luckily, there’s no time-limit on movement … except the one you place on yourself.