When my father died a few years back, I spent a long time reliving the past. Many days were spent re-imagining my past. See, I didn’t speak to my father for 15 years. I had opportunities to do so, I knew his phone number, his address, I even stood in front of my old home in Germany 10 years ago but I couldn’t bring myself to ring the bell. I was imagining a past where I rang the bell, picked up the phone and dialed.

When I stopped imagining a different past, I moved on to rationalizing, explaining and finding excuses why I never did what I should have done. You know “My childhood” or “He was supposed to take the first step”. I tried to externalize what was going on, and make it about this or that, as if somehow I hadn’t made the decisions all along.

What is past is prologue – William Shakespeare

We do our best. Until we know better. Focusing on what we should have done, doesn’t change the past.

I write about failures, innovation and taking risks a lot. I know it’s the right thing to do. I know this is the only way to survive in this hyper-competitive world. Still, my heart is not always in it. It’s so much more comfortable not to grow. Actually, I want to grow. But I just want the end product, not going through the process. It leaves me in uncomfortable situations, makes me feel less at home in my skin. I do have to accept that I know nothing while knowing so much and then start all over again, learning, figuring things out, trying new paths, falling down, getting up and experience those new skills to become part of my natural self.

The real challenge is to live with uncertainty. We want to know that if we’re trying something new, it’ll actually work. We know the past. We study the past. We know everything about it, what went wrong. What went right. We can’t study the future. The future is about the unknown. We don’t know if we try something, we’ll be good at it. We might suck. Or become the best in the world. No guarantees, no guidebook, no maps. Maybe we just fail in new ways. Who the hell wants to fail again? My ego might get hurt. People might look down on me. Consider me a failure.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past – Thomas Jefferson

We’re living in uncomfortable times. Everything around us screams “change”. Every sign tells us doing business the way it was done the last few decades doesn’t work anymore. The whole culture pokes and tells us to start doing unknown stuff. Still, we tend to think “What if it doesn’t work out, why not stick with what we already know? It doesn’t work that well anymore but it’s doing okay.”

We love to stay in the place we know. It’s so much easier to keep doing the thing we know to do. We are good at rationalizing these choices. That’s why we find all sorts of excuses: “Let’s not be the first to do it. Let others make mistakes first and we learn from them, just to do it better.” There are some good arguments there, no doubt. In the end, these excuses are just there to mask the fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear to face discomfort.

Discovering new ways and new opportunities is risky. We need to put down the comfort food, throw away the pillows, the padding. We need to suck it up. Start the hard work of learning new skills, experimenting with new things. We don’t know if we will succeed. There are no guarantees. Waiting, holding out will not change the present. You know what choices you have to make. Gather the courage and do it now.