In the other part of my life that I write about often (which you can read about over here), I wrote today about how being daring, taking risks, pushing limits (of technology as well as other things) is all part of a day’s work.
I recognize that much of that sentence – from the career I am describing to the fact that I have a job that allows me to write as much as I do – is a huge blessing and a privilege.
As much as this understanding – that everything we have (and don’t have) is due to God’s active, constant, every-moment interaction with the universe – is central to Jewish thought, there’s another thought which is equally central: Hishtadlut, or action.
We must act in some way – going to the job interview, asking someone to teach us, showing up ready to work. Sometimes the only hishtadlut we need to do is pray. But most times we must go further.
And that moment, the moment when we know what the specific hishtadlut is but the moment before we actually do it, that requires daring.
Whether the hishtadlut taking the program we have carefully crafted and rolling it into production, or publishing an essay for readers to see and comment on and critique, or showing up to a room full of unfamiliar people to pray for the first time in your life, all of those things require a level of daring.
One of my favorite writers, Seth Godin, discusses this a lot. The thing which keeps us from daring, from engaging in hishtadlut, is what Seth calls “the lizard brain”. He wrote about its effect yet again yesterday:
“No one knows the right answer, no one knows precisely what will happen, no one can produce the desired future, on demand.
Some people are better at guessing than others, but not by much.
The people who are supposed to know rejected Harry Potter, Tracy Chapman and the Beatles. The people who are supposed to know sell stocks just before they go up, and give us rules of thumb that don’t pan out.
If you mistakenly believe that there’s someone who knows, you’re likely to decide that whoever that person it is, it’s not you.
And if it’s not you, what a great reason to hesitate.
In fact, the gap isn’t between the people who know and those that don’t. It’s between the people who show up with their best work, and those that hold back. “
There are just 10 days left in Elul. 10 brief moments before we stand before the Throne of the Almighty and beg to be given another year to do our life’s work.
That moment will require extreme daring. Between now and then, we must dare to repent, dare to face our inadequacies and plan a fix.
And we must dare to look into the future beyond these High Holidays, and say “What then?”
Because if we don’t believe and dream about our own future, how will we ever dare to face it?