Audacity Done Right


In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts.

I recently finished reading Jack London’s Martin Eden. I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of the joy of experiencing this book, so I won’t say much about it. But, I would like to talk about a specific quote that left a mark on me:

Then he dozed off to sleep and to dream dreams that for madness and audacity rivaled those of poppy–eaters

I don’t believe the context of the story is necessary to appreciate what this quote is saying. But, just in case, Martin Eden is a novel that narrates the story of a sailor who, inspired by love, decides to become an autodidact writer. His circumstances are grim and his odds are even worse and yet he dreamt his “audacious” dreams. 

In my personal experience, I have found that what I considered dreams were merely plans; calculated, tangible, and realistic. I, and many others I presume, are afraid of dreaming - dreaming audaciously. We treat our dreams as a kind of investment that, if we’re not careful, might lead us to ruin. We’re so scared of disappointing ourselves that we cripple the only thing of ours that comes close to infinity; our imagination. We’re in a consensus that there’s a limit to what we can dream - any deviation from that is shunned or even mocked. Audacious dreams, as Jack London puts it, are the thing of poppy-eaters. Those who are lost or done for. 

We’re familiar with all the sayings about what we can achieve if we dream. Yet, we secretly believe that we are all limited creatures. And it is true that we are limited. The problem doesn’t lie with us acknowledging that, it lies with us fooling ourselves into thinking we know our limits. Since birth, our comprehension of the world and ourselves has been changing. So long as we keep the spirit of exploration, it will continue to do so. But we reach a point where we decide that we’re done; that this is the ceiling of our abilities and we can not progress any further. What we knew about ourselves in the brief decades we spent in school and society is a deciding factor for the rest of our lives. Our dreams are trapped within the walls of our knowledge. What we know is very small and it's very blinding. 

We lack audacity. The attitude of “so what”. So what if we’re being unrealistic? What of it, then? Are we, not the ones who reap the rewards or suffer the consequences? But it’s for our own sake, we’re told. Many have failed and regretted before us, and we’re heading down the same path. Well, maybe failing in your dreams may put you in a far better position than you’ve ever imagined. Maybe, while flying to the moon, you get to see the sky and witness the stars like never before. Sure, you may not reach the moon, but who else can see the sky as you did? 

Whether we decide to dream or not is up to us. But we must know that others will come, others that’ll do what we should have done. We’ll sit in self-pity and watch others reach the heights we once could have. They aren’t any different from us. They aren’t special. They just chose to dream while we didn’t. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, in every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts. 

Audacity is not arrogance. Arrogance is complacent; audacity pushes. Arrogance is felt by those who think they have reached the top; sadly for them, they don’t know what the top is. Audacity is not unrealistic. Are experiments unrealistic? How is seeking to explore your own potential unrealistic? The best way to explore our potential is to see what we can achieve. To see what we can achieve, we must first rid ourselves of what we consider possible. Only then, would our mind have the freedom to find out what it can do. Audacity is freeing. It tears down our limitations that prevent us from soaring high. Sit down and think for yourself - don’t make plans, just dream. 

Of course, audacity is not present only in our dreams, it should also be present in our actions. Yes, the actions we take (even audaciously) are nothing compared to what we dream. Yet our dreams must be complimented by our actions. How else would we show the audacious dreams we dream? Once again (for the last time) I’ll refer to Martin Eden. Dreaming to be a famous author, Martin wrote. He wrote because his dreams compelled him to. He had no action plan, no “SMART” goals. He just wrote, and he did it every day.

We fear to dream because we fear to be judged. Who are we to have such bold dreams, when we’re living in a world of injustice, pain, and vanity? Well, how else would the world change? How else would we change? We dream because we’re not cynics who romanticize our suffering, hoping it never ends so that we won’t be faced with the responsibility of contributing to change. My futile struggle is worth more than your intellectual complacency. Neither our world nor us will benefit from our fears. But they stand the chance of benefitting from our dreams. Is it not then noble, to take up that task, to be what the world needs?

Dream audaciously. Show up every day and do what you need to do. Don’t think about a 5-year goal, don’t bother with the specifics. Deep down you know what you want to do. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a mathematician, start studying. Get rid of your action plans, your dreams will guide you. Act upon those dreams, even if they seem so audacious that you hesitate to share them with others. Leave the rest be. Let whatever take care of it. Don’t ever shame yourself for your dreams. In fact, love yourself, and be grateful that you have a mind audacious enough to dream dreams that for madness and audacity rivaled those of poppy–eaters.

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