One of my favorite quotes comes from the Scottish explorer W.H. Murray (18 March 1913–19 March 1996). Though a part of the quote is commonly cited and attributed to Goethe, the entire passage is taken from Murray’s book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951).
In proper context, we understand the power of commitment. Speaking of the beginning of his expedition he expressed that they hadn’t done anything yet, but then clarifies:
But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too . A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’
The “couplet” referred to as Goethe’s is often attributed directly to Goethe, but it should be noted that it is actually a rough paraphrase of some of Goethe’s writing which was originally written in German.