The World History teacher I had in my junior year of high school had quotes posted all over his classroom wall. One in particular caught my attention:
A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for. —John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic
I can’t tell you the impact that statement had upon me. It stuck with me long after high school. I was a shy kid who found it hard to meet new people and fit in socially. But after thinking upon that maxim, I decided I would have to learn to take risks.
I don’t think you’ve really lived until you know the full range of the human experience. It gives you a perspective that helps you see beyond the immediate situation. It grounds you.
I’ve loved and lost, and loved again. I’ve known rejection, but I’ve also known the thrill of romance. I’ve known triumph as well as defeat. I’ve been on mountaintops, but I’ve also suffered in deep valleys.
You will be rewarded for your risks and failures if you persist in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t expect to stand on the heights if you aren’t willing to fall down many times. It reminds me of another quote from Teddy Roosevelt that had a big impact upon me as well:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”—Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
That last line about the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat resonated with me. I saw myself going down that path. But I decided to step out in faith and take small risks one at a time. Those efforts built upon one another until gradually I felt my courage grow.
Sometimes I still take the safe path and listen to my fear instead of faith. But as I look back I can honestly say I’ve know both victory and defeat. I’ve taken chances. Sometimes I failed, and sometimes I’ve succeeded. I have sweet memories of adventure and romance that I would not have experienced had I stayed in the harbor.
Yes, it’s dangerous and scary out on the high seas. But consider the alternative. Picture a boat sitting there in the harbor day after day failing to fulfill the purpose for which it was built. That’s a sad picture, indeed.