“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
~ George Herbert
George Herbert (1593-1633) was an English poet, a very influential religious lyricist, and an Anglican priest who died a month before his 40th birthday. He waited until his thirties to become ordained and was well-loved by his parishioners who thought him a saint.
A favourite theme in History lessons during my teaching career was that there have been many changes/advancements in human knowledge and technology down through the ages, but one of the constants in history is human nature. This has not changed since we crawled out of those ancient caves and created villages. We have the same physical, psychological and spiritual needs as humans in prehistoric times. It is for this reason, that a wise quote, written almost four hundred years ago, will resonate with us today.
Too many of us would sooner procrastinate or “put off” a task that seems unpleasant or onerous, for a later time when circumstances will improve. The time just isn’t right!! Well, that’s the excuse we use. Herbert recognized this tendency, even though he didn’t live to a ripe old age. I love the way he he worded his encouragement: “Start where you stand.” Do not take another step, do not give it another thought – act now! Do not look around to make sure the circumstances are right!
I’m sure that he recognized, as a man in his thirties, what it has taken me six decades to understand. The only thing that needs to be “…just right” is in your own mind. I must make the decision to go forward and that is all I need to act. There are no circumstances or agents outside of myself from whom I need permission to put a plan into play. I am my own master. So I need to decide to act… right now, without any more delay.
As Herbert so astutely puts it: “…work with whatever tools you may have at your command…”. It is likely that we may feel inadequately equipped to complete the task or the plan. Now that we have made the decision, we need to reach down within and find the courage to push on with whatever we have – the knowledge and skills. But let’s make no mistake about it, the most crucial thing we need is the guts, the intestinal fortitude to push ahead with every bit of knowledge and skill that we command! It really is enough to get us on the road.
But what if it’s not enough to complete the job? Herbert counsels us to find the tools we need as we progress. Perhaps that’s new knowledge we can acquire by research. Heaven knows, that in our present civilization we need not leave the comfort of our own homes to research around the globe. The digital highway will take us to mother lodes of information if we just take the time and look carefully.
How about consulting the elders around us who have accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and experience? I often think that we’re too quick to write them off and ship them to retirement communities. Besides the life experience, they are wiser than we think. They’ve made their mistakes, had their successes, and now they have treasures of wisdom – should we care to listen. Or shall we indulge our youthful arrogance and ignore these precious sources of knowledge, skills and wisdom? At our peril!
As I think about finding better tools as we proceed with our plan, there is also the possibility of taking on one or more partners who have expertise that we lack. We can then work towards our goal as a team, multiplying our knowledge, skills, and perhaps even capital. Our team members may well know others who can contribute with their knowledge and skills. The possibilities are limitless!
George Herbert understood these truths even though his society worked differently than our own – in social structures, governance, belief systems and technology. But his truths were not about those elements that defined society during his time, but rather, were about the eternal elements that make us human. He believed in our intellect, but more importantly, he appealed to our indomitable spirit. He’s reaching out over the centuries, through the written word, to encourage us to be in control of our own destiny! To formulate a dream, and more urgently, to find the courage and the heart to act upon that dream. Time is not limitless, but it is one of our most precious treasures. Procrastination and indecision is a waste of this treasure and a sin against our human spirit.