I’m afraid that I am not living up to my potential, that there is so much more that I can do and so little time to do it. I am reminded in Pirkei Avot, “The Ethics of the Fathers,” that someday I will stand before G-d in Heaven and He will ask me the following, “Allen, you were not Moses, or Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, but were you Allen?” I am afraid that I will come up short and admit that I did not live up to my potential. As I get older, this worry haunts me, and, at the same, time it emboldens me too.
I’m afraid that my life will be over without much to show for it. There are billions of people, so what makes me so special? The people I know are a limited bunch. I have not built a great company or a great empire or a monument that will last beyond my lifetime.
I am afraid I won’t be remembered. Oh, my children will remember me and perhaps a few of my grandchildren, but after them, who else? I see why actors long to be in the movies. They are captured for eternity. Bogart and Tracy and Monroe live on beyond their deaths, and I watch them again and again. Who will read what I say again and again? Who will study my thoughts like the Talmud? Who will take guidance from what I have to say? I am afraid my life will come to nothing, but I must go on. I just might be surprised at the impact I have had or will have. In the face of not knowing, the only path is to keep on doing what I do well, and that is all I am expected to do.
I fear that my age is slowing me down. I know it happens to all of us as we age, but I don’t like it. I want to run as I have before, to lift as much as before, and to be driven as I have been for so much of my life. I don’t like idleness, and I fear that my body demands it more than my mind wants to accept it. There is a battle going on inside of me between what I want to do and what I am capable of doing, and the mind is losing to the body. This is about life itself. My mind can take over the body, but the mind has its own fight inside itself. One part of my mind says go for it, don’t give in, fight on and be as great as you know you are capable of being. But the other part of my brain says it is too hard, too late, it will take too much effort. You are too old, so why fight so hard? Enjoy the day, have a drink, watch TV, read a book, have dinner with friends – just relax. These are all strong temptations, and the mind knows that this is the easy solution, the tempting one, the solution that is easy to take, and it often wins.
This is a fight I have every day, and I fear that I am losing the battle, but I fight on, and writing about it makes the battle crystal clear. You either decide to fight on with all the power that you have, or you concede and rationalize that you might as well accept the reality that you are just too old and no longer ready to continue the fight.
At the same time that I fear that I am losing the fight, I know that the only way to continue is to have the courage to talk myself into doing what I know will be best for me, even if it will take a long time to succeed. It is not easy to tell yourself that the battle for greatness is fought day in and day out, week after week, year after year. This is not a one-time event, but a commitment for life. It is not a passing fancy, but a long-term fight. Sometimes I win, but often I give in and don’t do the right things.
The bottom line: I am in charge and there is no one else to blame but me, and that is the greatest fear of all.