Throw Off the Bowlines

I collect quotes…sayings and aphorisms that impart wisdom. The best do so with humor. One of my favorite resources for these is Mark Twain, who just had a knack for pithy sayings that makes one pay attention and sometimes laugh out loud, often at ourselves. Here’s a Mark Twain quote that I recently stumbled onto:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dread. Discover.

While this didn’t make me laugh, it did give me pause. I’m not one to dwell on the past. I don’t obsess over missed opportunities. I tend to focus on next steps and the future. So what caught my attention about Twain’s quote was that safe harbor and how hard it is to leave it; to throw off the bowlines; to dread and discover. Most of my life, I’ve enjoyed the comfort of the safe harbor.

The Step You Don’t Want To Take

Being of a “certain age” I think about where I want to be in the next five years and what it will take to get there. In short, it will take leaving my safe harbor and catching the trade winds.

As I thought about what that entails, I did some Googling for answers. That process led to this David Whyte poem entitled “Start Close In.” Whyte’s first verse caught my attention.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

You can read the entire poem here.

Oh, that god-awful first step. The one we don’t want to take. It can feel like we’re stepping off a ledge. But if we’re starting close in enough, it may not seem too terribly risky; more like a baby step.

I like that perspective – baby steps – small increments we can feel safe taking, that added up may just get us to where we want to be.

My friend Amy Jaffe once referenced a quote she heard that seems appropriate here: “If you were 10 percent bolder, what could you do?”

I can deal with increments of 10 percent and baby steps. That can get me out of the safe harbor and catching trade winds.

Throw Off the Bowlines

Think about where you want to be, where you want to sail your ship. What’s that look like?

Can you throw off the bowlines so that twenty years from now you won’t regret actions not taken?

What’s that first step, close in, you can take now?

What can you do to be just 10 percent bolder?


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Photo: Copyright: <a href=’’>rbouwman / 123RF Stock Photo</a>