The hardest part of anything we do is to begin. Fear will often kill the idea before it’s off the ground. Yet we all have the potential to be captains of our own ship

By Neil Scotton

It has to begin. All dreams, potential, growth and development have a beginning. All happiness and fulfilment is preceded by a change – something beginning.

John O’Donohue shares a story in his book Benedictus: A Book of Blessings.* A neighbour of his in Ireland set out to build a house. He had just stripped off the first layer of soil and began digging the foundations when an old man of the village happened to come by. The old man blessed the work and said: “You have the worst of it behind you now.” The neighbour laughed and said: “But I have only just begun.” The old man replied: “That’s what I mean. You have begun, and to make a real beginning is the most difficult act.”

Beginnings unleash adventures. “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too”, a famous quote attributed to German writer, Goethe.

But before beginning there can be many worries. I recall listening to a French explorer on Radio 4 describe how there were two types of adventurer: “Those who really want an adventure, and those who secretly don’t.” Indeed the explorer and adventurer Ranulph Fiennes also said on a separate occasion on Radio 4 how he “disliked surprises”. He had no doubt learnt that good planning kept him alive.

But I know personally, and through our work supporting people making big change happen, how fears can kill an idea before it has had a chance to breathe. My own favourites are rejection, ridicule and failure. Sometimes the fears are real and useful warnings.

There have certainly been near-misses that I have stood away from. More often though, once I or the clients have begun, the fears never materialise. Analysis becomes over-analysis becomes paralysis. It’s an art and skill we gain through life to notice the difference in those vital moments before we decide, before we commit.

I find it’s in the balance of ‘push’ and ‘pull’. Just as all my regrets from inaction have come from too much worrying, all my regrets through action have come from pushing too hard, and there not being enough ‘pull’ from others or the world, wanting it also to happen. Perhaps you have your own way to discern it.

Maybe the roots of this are in our own beginnings. We come into the world through the acts of others. Beginning our story we weave our way into theirs. The beginning, and indeed ending, just happens. And we can live out our lives this way.

The great thing about time is that something will always happen next. Politics. Technology. Life. Things change. Things age. New things appear. Everything passes. Each ending begets a beginning; each beginning causing one or many endings.

We can simply be blown by the winds of fate.But we can also be captains of our own ships. Choosing direction and destinations. We can’t change the way the wind blows, but we can harness it when it is favourable and unleash the adventure.

These VUCA times can leave us feeling confused, lost, helpless, blown hither and thither. It doesn’t have to be this way. Because we always have the ability to start something.

Looking around you, seeing what you care about and who you care about, and the direction things may take if left to themselves, and the difference you would like to see, what is it time for you to begin?


* J O’Donohue, Benedictus: A Book of Blessings London: Bantam Press, 2007