You Cannot Swim For New Horizons Until You Have Courage To Lose Sight Of The Shore
– William Faulkner
We have all been in situations when we know what should be done, what is the right thing to do, but we still don’t do it. Why? Because we are all risk averse by nature – we lack the courage to get away from the shore when swimming for new horizons.
Imagine if Christopher Columbus didn’t have the courage to lose sight of the Spanish shores in his search for a brave new world…
William Faulkner, the man behind this quote, was a true literary giant, although he stood only five feet, six inches tall. He was a very courageous man, never afraid to take great risks with his life and his career.
Faulkner is considered by many to be one of the greatest American writers of all time, in the same league as Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. He was someone who always followed his heart and had the courage of a lion.
Some of his great literary achievements such as The Sound and the Fury and Go Down, Moses were works of a great genius. Written at a time when Faulkner was struggling under the weight of desperate poverty.
Faulkner could have taken the easy way out like many talented writers of his generation, and written the sort of pop fiction or cheap and sensational dime novels that were the rage in those days, and made quick money. But he was an idealistic young man, a poor man, for sure, but never someone who sold himself short.
Faulkner wanted to achieve nothing less than greatness in his life,
and he did that with extraordinary works of literature such as As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! all written within a period of just ten years.
Faulkner was a brave man, a courageous man, who was certainly not risk-averse. But that’s not how most people are. Talk to people in their 50s and 60s, recently retired, or on the verge of retirement. There is sometimes a hint of regret in their voices.
What if I had the courage to ask out the beautiful girl I saw every day on the bus during my commute to work as a young man? Would my life be different?
What if I followed my heart and started a business when I had the chance? Maybe I’d have been a multimillionaire by now, instead of worrying about my pension?
What if I took a chance and said “yes” to the casting director who offered me a role in a TV show when in college? Maybe I’d be the next Meryl Streep…
Regrets, we all have them. Life is full of “what ifs”. But who is to blame for that? You cannot blame anyone but yourself for all missed opportunities.
It was not bad luck or misfortune, but it was your lack of courage, your aversion to taking a risk, to lose sight of the shores when reaching out for the stars that made you give up the one shot you had to have the life that you had always wanted.
Recklessness is never a wise thing
Yes, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be safe, with wanting to have some stability in life. Recklessness is never a wise thing – we all know what reckless and thoughtless behaviour can lead to. That is certainly not what I mean when I talk about being risk averse.
What you should be doing is to take calculated risks in life. Never be afraid to go for gold when it makes sense to do so. Take risks, but don’t gamble – if you understand what I mean.
Warren Buffett is certainly not someone you would call a gambler. Buffett is the world’s greatest investor, someone who has the reputation for being smart enough to make money without taking risks.
But that’s not really true. Buffett takes risks all the time. He took a risk when as a young man he invested his entire savings in a loss-making textile manufacturing company in an unprofitable industry called Berkshire Hathaway because he felt that the stock had value.
He took another risk when he closed the textile business, shut down the mills, and converted Berkshire Hathaway into an insurance company. That was a crazy thing to do, but to Buffett, that was a calculated risk.
One thing led to another, and Buffett took many calculated risks like that, building Berkshire Hathaway into a massive vehicle for his investments, with a market cap of $519 billion at the time of this writing. He has a personal net worth of $87 billion today, making him the third richest man in the world.
At no point was it easy for Buffett. He took extraordinary risks in his career; most of the moves he made did pay off, and very well at that. But Buffett had his share of failures too. He was prepared for them, and learned from them, and didn’t allow any failure to dampen his appetite for risk-taking.
Don’t let fear cripple you
Like Buffett, you should not be afraid to take risks, to reach out for the stars, do something unconventional, take a leap of faith. Yes, you will fail on many occasions, and you will make mistakes. But you will never have any regrets!
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