Dealing with Dreams that Could Have Been...
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.
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
And it must follow, as the night
Thou canst not then be false to
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
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
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."
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.
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.
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
The valiant never taste of death
Of all the wonders that I yet
It seems to me most strange that
men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary
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.
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
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
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.