While Bill Bryson was toiling away at a London newspaper, he was dreaming about being a freelance writer. With a wife and family to support, this seemed a risky and selfish dream. So he continued to drag himself to a job that was growing more loathsome.

One day he got a call at work from his wife Cynthia. “I’ve just put the house on the market,” she announced. Her husband was livid, but she remained firm. “You’ve been talking about quitting your job and it’s time you did that.” 

The London house was sold and the Bryson clan moved north to rural Yorkshire for a new life. Bryson’s modest goal was to earn a decent living by writing articles and books. He produced several books on the English language, which had modest sales, but it was his humorous travel tales that earned him a following and massive popularity. He’s also earned numerous awards, including  an honorary OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to literature.

It makes me shudder to think that he could still be an obscure copy editor instead of making his devoted fans, of which I am one, laugh out loud.

Thinking about Bryson’s story makes me want to jump up on my chair and holler, “Hooray for the Cynthia Brysons of the world!” People like her are in short supply. On the other hand, the world is full of people like her husband, people who dream of doing one thing while doing another. 

Self-doubt is a nasty scoundrel that kills armies of dreams and thwarts ambition of all sorts. When we allow self-doubt to keep us from going after our dreams, we dupe ourselves into thinking that we’re behaving prudently. Unless we understand the folly of this position, it’s impossible to take action.

In the end, self-doubt is just that: doubt that one allows to fester in oneself. You don’t need a Cynthia Bryson to cure it, but you do need determination to get past it.

One of my favorite reminders comes from Paulo Coehlo who wrote, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases, we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties we encounter make sense.”


3 Responses to “What We Almost Missed”

  1. Barb

    I love this article, especially the quote at the end. It’s my new favorite. 🙂 Sometimes we just have to take a risk and do it, whatever it is that we dream of.

  2. Shell

    I loved this story and quote. Really spoke to me and affirmed a creative decision I made today.

  3. Alex Damien

    I loved this story. It’s really sad that people with the courage and determination as Cynthia are in such short supply. Just imagine what we all could be capable of if only we had that little push, that little “I’m behind you” whisper of support.
    Great post.

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