“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”
With the incredible success of My Fair Lady behind them, Lerner and Lowe needed an inspiration for their next big musical. They found that inspiration in one of the last novels written by the infamous French writer, Colette. The book was Gigi and it was brought to the screen in 1958 by Vincent Minnelli. Colette didn’t live to see her work transformed into a musical—but no doubt, she would have enjoyed it. In her 81 years of life, there wasn’t much (both licit and illicit) she hadn’t tried and enjoyed. Both in life and art, she was vibrantly notorious and spectacularly scandalous. She pursued everything with the passion of a zealot and indifference toward convention. But there was some gravity to her as well, and it was recognized throughout her life. Following World War I, she was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor for her hospital work. In the 1930’s, she was admitted to the Belgian Royal Academy and when she died in 1954, she was laid to rest with a state funeral.
Colette offers us sound advice—as long as you don’t take it as a kind of idiot’s manifesto. The point is not to do stupid things with gusto, but to be passionate about things you believe in. And as her life demonstrated, you can have a very good time, savor your mistakes and achieve a serious purpose at the same time. Taking this advice, however, also means taking risks.
Most folks are risk aversive because they’re afraid of potential consequences. They recognize the safety of a snail’s pace. As a result, they hold back, stay non-committal and take small, deliberate steps to reach their goals. Watching them is like watching a timid swimmer try to enter very cold water. The swimmer takes mincing, shivering steps. Cringing and suffering with excruciating slowness, such a swimmer may never get more than ankle deep before running back to shore.
Isn’t it better to just jump in? Sure you may think your bones will crack when you first hit the water, but that’s followed immediately by the exhilaration of the plunge. Taking risks on behalf of things you believe in can bring unimaginable rewards. The payoffs can be incredible. Then again, if you stumble, you can always be comforted by the realization that you were living large in the pursuit of something good. What’s more, you’ll be having fun—unlike the cold fellow on the beach (slowly turning blue) who was afraid to get wet.
You will do foolish things in the pursuit of your goals and dreams—it can’t be helped. But if your pursuit is enthusiastic and joyful, you’ll never be weighted down with looking back, second guessing, or regrets. Instead, you’ll always be moving toward something of significance. So, go ahead, be enthusiastically foolish!