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New Beginnings

September 22, 2010

New Beginnings:

Each year, musician Craig Taubman collects a group of writings from individuals around the world on a particular theme that helps one take account of their life, in preparation for the High Holy Days of the Jewish tradition. He calls this compilation Jewels of Elul. This year’s theme is “Beginning Again,” and Taubman emphasizes in his introductory remarks that the theme is about the willingness to start again – no matter where our life has taken us and regardless of our age.

Philanthropist Eli Broad is one of this year’s contributors. Broad said that he was born without the gene that makes us afraid. What an interesting concept! He said that it has never occurred to him to be afraid to try new things. He explained, “Beginnings are best. They are moments of shining opportunity and exciting challenge. They are ventures into an unknown that you then get to shape.” Broad’s willingness to try new things has enabled him to have extraordinary experiences, including creating two Fortune 500 companies and two family foundations that support youth education, medical cures, and the arts.

While we can never know in advance the outcomes of our beginnings, Broad compares two questions. He says, “It is better to ask, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’ and try a new venture, as opposed to living in the question, ‘What if?’”

How many of us live in the question, “What if?” and its friend, “If only…”? Rather than live a life of wishes and regrets, why not take the risk to start a new beginning?

Broad echoes the words of an old mentor of mine, who used to say that fear was a teacher. I also had a colleague who told me that fear is excitement waiting for the breath of life to be blown into it. These wise individuals taught me that when you fear beginning something new, that is precisely the thing you must do to strengthen yourself.  Broad says, “The next time you find yourself not beginning something because you’re afraid, simply view that fear as a certain sign that you should immediately roll up your sleeves … and begin.”

What would you like to begin in your life? Are you willing to take a breath, roll up your sleeves, and dig in?

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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