Taking the First Step

Author: Larry Dansky


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” From the Tao

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


I’ve read many essays and devotionals about journeys and destinations. Personally, I have worked hard to not focus on destinations, but to try to enjoy the journey without attaching to any particular goal. There are times though that I have struggled to even to be on the journey, because I have not had the courage to take the first step.

The times that I have taken that first step often turned out to result in wonderful journeys. I’ve run many marathons in my life, but I will never forget how hard it was to run that first mile.  After reading many books about Buddhism, I decided to begin a practice of meditation. It felt strange to just sit for 20 minutes, follow my breath, and let go of thoughts, but it is a practice that has changed my life. The most consequential first step I’ve ever taken was attending my first twelve step meeting. I will never forget the fear I felt and the difficulty I had opening the door to enter the room. It truly took divine intervention to help me cross the threshold into that room.

There are the times though, that I didn’t even take the first step. I once thought about a career in computer science, but I didn’t see a future there and didn’t pursue that goal. I once thought about writing a song, but assumed that it would be too hard to come up with words and music. I have thought about taking flying lessons and/or skiing lessons, but assumed that I was too old and might get injured. I guess I haven’t been as successful about not attaching to outcomes as I thought. It’s impossible to know what might have resulted from being able to take those first steps – would I have become the first “Bill Gates” or won multiple Grammy awards for song writing?

I began to think about what it was that kept me from taking a first step, and decided that it was an irrational fear of failure. I would worry that the song would be lousy, or I would never be good at skiing, so why start? This is why I love the Martin Luther King Jr. quote about faith. I get too worried about where the staircase is going, and don’t have enough faith to just start the journey. I’m working on it though, and have decided not to let the fear of failure influence my decision making. I recently decided to learn how to knit. Some of my products have turned out OK (a scarf and mittens for my granddaughter), some not so good (a ski cap for my grandson that turned out to be much too small). I’m not planning on taking orders or selling any of this on ETSY, but I am having fun with the projects and not worrying about where it may all lead. I also decided to relook at other journeys I didn’t take because of fear of failure, and rethink the approach I took. I’m not ready to take skiing or flying lessons, but maybe I will write that song.


Holy one, as I work toward not attaching to any particular destination, help me to let go of the fear of failure and have the courage to take the first step of the journey. I may not be able to see the full staircase, but help me to have faith, and trust in whereever it may lead me.


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