You know the Devil Brothers, don’t you? They know you.
When you come to that fork in the road on a major decision you have to choose: do you stick with the devil you know, with all of its known challenges, or do you choose the devil you don’t know, the one you dread to see coming most of all, and step out into the unknown of something new and different, with all of its possible problems?
Maybe your decision involves a key relationship or your career. Your most viable choices may be beyond what you see and know. You are going to leave a lot of life worth living on the table if you do not examine fully the harder and sometimes more uncertain choice. And you may have to take a leap to get there.
What holds you back? Fear, mostly. You don’t call it that, of course. There is not much to crow about when you admit you are afraid, or that you may have chosen the wrong path. What if you just hold on to your present course for a while longer? Maybe what’s happened won’t happen again and it will work out.
The devil you fear is not your friend, and don’t you know it. At times he bullies you and cuffs you around. But you are comforted in your decision of indecision because you don’t frame it that way. You tell yourself it is more information you need. You vow to gather more facts, and to revisit the issue. Although you know in your heart of hearts that nothing new on the outside will help you find the courage on the inside to face a harsh truth: what has happened is fundamentally different. And you know your life’s principled shadow companion, Conscience, is watching closely what you do now.
So time moves on. And in time your decision of indecision is the decision. Your opportunity for change and facing the devil you fear have slipped away quietly into the night. And on to Life’s Ledger of Regret of fears not faced and chances not taken.
William Shakespeare had a special insight into human nature’s cautious ways. He gives this trumping directive when the turn of life’s wheel of fortune requires you to face squarely the devil you fear: “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in the shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
What I’ve Learned about Life on the Way to the Courthouse is this: There comes a time when you can no longer be held captive by your fear to attempt the hard and uncertain thing. At some point you just have to face the devil you don’t know and lay that devil down.
Don’t look for a level of certainty you will ever find on this side of the decision. You are going to have to take a leap of faith—in yourself. And to set sail on your personal River of Doubt, though the orders for the course of your new direction are still sealed and not yet fully known.
Take measured, thoughtful chances when they come your way. Narrow the odds as much as you can in the process and be patient and discerning. But don’t dare wonder about what might have been. The choice you will cherish the most, when Life takes its final measure of you, is when you choose the devil you fear. A choice, when thoughtfully made, which rarely makes it to Life’s Ledger of Regret, despite the disguise in which it travels.
Take the current every chance it serves. The ventures that matter most of all are closer than you think.