Wise words from Billy Shakespeare

To celebrate National Shakespeare Day, here are a few of our favourite gems of life and career advice from the Bard.

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to Heaven.
Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Helena feels that her life has been disrupted by factors out of her control: she has lost her father and is in love with an unattainable man (a man of higher social standing). This quote marks the point at which she decides to take matters into her own hands and pursue her love, despite the obstacles. She chooses to reject – or override – fate and try to forge her own path.

The lines remind us that we have within ourselves the strength and abilities to change or make the most of our circumstances – we don’t need to be blown through life like dandelions. To choose the right direction for you, you need to look inwards. All the information you need to answer that horrible ‘what do you want to do?’ question is already within you; you just need time, space, structure and great questions to help you sift through it.

Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Cassius, Julius Caesar

This quote echoes Helena’s sentiment to some extent, as it’s also about fate vs. free will. The words are spoken by Cassius as he attempts to draw Brutus into his assassination plot using the classical, Stoic idea that man is in control of his own destiny. Cassius claims that he and Brutus are ‘underlings’ (serving under Caesar) not because of fate but because they lack resolve and haven’t seized opportunities.

Clearly no one’s advocating that you go around ruthlessly knocking others off to achieve your ambitions, and it should also be noted that sometimes, as in the case of the cancer patient teens in the novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, life does happen to us and we have limited power to change the situation, but much of the time we are able to make things happen, or to go out and happen to things. Our co-founder Alastair is a strong believer in ‘making your own luck’ and creating opportunities for yourself.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus, Julius Caesar

As we see it, this quote is all about finding and seizing (good) opportunities and, to some extent, being willing to go with the flow – to make the leap when the tide is high and things are in your favour. There’s no point making long-term hard and fast plans for your whole ‘career’ because you never know what might come up: all our coaching team have had incredibly diverse and fulfilling professional experiences because they’ve managed to be flexible enough to be open to opportunities that mean a shift in direction, whilst being firm about only following paths that align with their values and approach to life.

The idea of a ‘tide in the affairs of men’ is also a helpful mantra for the newbie freelancer: as almost every self-employed person will tell you, the workload is rarely steady. When it tails off a bit, don’t panic; just wait for the tide to rise again.


Like the cut of our jib and fancy some face-to-face career-clarifying help from Eyes Wide Opened? Register for one of our upcoming public courses.

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