Dealing with Dreams that Could Have Been...
But Aren't

I have written many essays about similarities that I possess with one of my mentors, Don Quixote.  Neither of us likes to fail while we joist with various windmills of life.  My life, as a 21st century clone of the man of La Mancha, isn't a life filled with joisting successfully with one windmill after another.  In reality, it is a life of many failed attempts at achieving my various quests.  I know what Don Quixote felt like.  Trust me. 

However, I have learned from Don Quixote that about addressing failed dreams.  Here are several rules or guidelines based upon the insights of Don Quixote.  I employ them, as a knight-errant, when I fail with a windmill in life.  Methinks that you also can benefit from his insights; I have.

  1. Be true to yourself and your quest.  If you deem that some windmill is important, then take it on.  Joist with it.  Be honest in your attempt, but enter the battle.  Shakespeare essentially said the same thing in Hamlet.  Polonius addresses Laertes—

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

While Don Quixote had the drive to joist with various important windmills of life, that endeavor was predicated upon being honest.  He wants us to be true to yourself.  It is critical to deal with honesty if you want to transform yourselves into Don Quixote.

  1. Fight the good fight while daring greatly.  Again, others have emulated the man of La Mancha.  Theodore Roosevelt uttered these Don Quixote-esque words at the Sorbonne over a century ago.

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 them 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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

What Roosevelt said in his Man in the Arena speech was for us all to take on Don Quixote's ability to fight the good fight regardless of what others may think or do.  Even when failure stares you in the face, dare greatly.  There is no advantage of being "cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

  1. On our various quests, we will often be beaten and bowed by suffering.  I asked my daughter, Kristin, to bring back a picture of Don Quixote when she went to Spain over two decades ago.  This is a pen and ink drawing done by a friend of hers in Spain.  It is on my office wall.

Description: Description: http://www.wolverton-mountain.com/articles/images/don-quixote/image011.png

When we fail, that night, we will go to bed broken and beaten individuals.  Nevertheless, get up the next morning and start a new day even if you have been a badly wounded gladiator in the coliseum of life.

  1. In spite of feeling broken and beaten, take on another windmill of life.  Act.  Be decisive.  Realize that life isn't a bed of roses.  Regardless of the problems and pain, believe and act.  Interestingly, again Shakespeare wrote something similar to Roosevelt's Man in the Arena comment.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

Don Quixote understood this Shakespearian truism.  He was willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause regardless of consequences that he might face.

  1. Finally, there is a nobility in Don Quixote's quests.  He knows that others might deem his dreaming as childish.  However, in spite of what others might think, he will take on windmills.  An example was Dulcinea.  While Dulcinea was the love of his life, Dulcinea is an all-encompassing group for various quests.  Dulcinea represents a multitude of windmills, which Don Quixote wishes to address.  With that understanding, let me use his love for Dulcinea as the example. 
Description: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b3dc8ee4b051b96ceb10de/51ce6099e4b0d911b4489b79/52d56284e4b01276a21d4927/1389728890991/concept-art-for-terry-gilliams-upcoming-don-quixote-project-preview.jpg?format=1000w

One of Don Quixote's windmills....

Don Quixote gets into a heated discussion with Dulcinea.  The major issue is that Dulcinea rejects that name.  In reality, her birth name is Aldonza.  Nonetheless, the man of La Mancha believes that she is Dulcinea.

Therefore, the dilemma that Don Quixote and Aldonza/Dulcinea find themselves is based upon which one is correct.  Don Quixote sees something in Dulcinea that she doesn't see in herself.  Either Don Quixote's impression of her is correct or what he calls his lady is a mere barmaid.  It is clear to each that each is correct.

Now, let us move from the early 1600s to the present-day.  This dilemma can apply to everything in life.  The Dulcinea issues represents addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever.  Don Quixote taught me to believe in my quest regardless of what others think.  I would rather look the fool and fail than not to address some Dulcinea-like issue whether a personal or a social movement issue.

These are insights gleaned from my mentor.  I have joisted with many windmills in life and have failed many times.  In fact, I am grieving over several failed joists in my life.  Trust me.  It isn't a great feeling like Don Quixote when he was unsuccessful.  So what?

It would be a different essay if I just came away victorious from both personal or professional quests.  The fact is that I look and feel like the pen and ink drawing that Kristin gave me of my mentor.  Therefore, I can bear witness to truly believing my mentor.  And here I sit in front of my computer; it is after 11 pm.  It has taken me far longer to write this essay than it generally does.  So I will go to bed beaten and vanquished...tonight.

However, trust me.  I will rise in the morning renewed and spend tomorrow joisting with the important windmills in my life.  That is merely the back story.  What about you?  What will you do tomorrow?  Will you pick up your lance and mount your stead?  The alternative is to sit back and do nothing out of fear and failure.  I can't assure you success as you confront your windmill of life.  However, I can assure you failure if you sit in the corner and pout. 

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 them 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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Therefore, a choice lies before you.  Either become Don Quixote or be like "those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."  Choose wisely.



Darkest Before Dawn

Darkest Before Dawn

Visit the Darkest Before Dawn page to read more about this topic.



Don Quixote

"Don Quixote"

Visit the "Don Quixote" page to read more about this topic.



Man in the Arena

Man in the Arena

Visit the Man in the Arena page to read more about this topic.



An old man and his grandson

An Old Man and His Grandson

Visit The Mentors and Me page to read more about this topic.

07/15/16