I Falter Only When I Fear To Falter

“The one who meddles will fail
The one who grasps will lose.
Therefore, the sages do not meddle and thus
do not fail
They do not grasp and thus do not lose.”

– The Tao Te Ching

There is a wonderful scene in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy where one of the main characters, Levin, a Russian landowner, is cutting the grass on his property. Using a scythe (like they did back in the old days) Levin cuts through the grass, and, as he does so, he begins to notice something about the work before him:

Whenever he tries very hard to cut the grass cleanly and evenly, he fails. But whenever he doesn’t try so hard to cut the grass cleanly and evenly, he succeeds.

In that moment, Levin becomes aware of the fact that whenever he tries too hard to execute a task, he fails at it. But when he simply trusts his innate ability to execute the task before him, he is far more effective.

The One Who Meddles Will Fail / The One Who Grasps Will Lose

As I write my novel, I’ve noticed that there is a phenomenon similar to the one Levin experiences in Anna Karenina that occurs in the writing process as well:

Whenever I try too hard to make the writing perfect it comes out sloppy, uneven, too contrived, and mechanic. It’s not at all original or refreshing.

But when I don’t take a premature swing at it, and just allow myself to be lifted by the brush of wind propelled by my soul—the writing comes out fresh and sweet.

When I don’t meddle in my writing, my writing gets better.

There is nothing new in what I’m saying.

Even The Tao Te Ching, one of the most ancient of wisdom texts, points to this universal law. It states: “The one who meddles will fail / the one who grasps will lose.”

The Tao Te Ching warns strongly against what it calls “interfering” too much with life’s processes.

We must not “meddle”, The Tao Te Ching warns. We must not pick at the scar as it heals; we must not try to rush something forward that was meant to take it’s time; we must not question the talent that we were born with; we must not doubt that when we follow our passion, the doors will open for us. (Maybe not right away, but slowly, gradually. It will be inevitable.)

To tamper with this process will only drive us into a standstill. We get stuck. Or, more accurately: we were meant to be stuck but since we don’t think we’re supposed to be stuck, we tamper with our “stuckness.” However, our tampering, instead of helping us out of our rut, only prolongs our rut even more.

By meddling, interfering, prodding, and poking at all the raw ingredients, we ruin the Chef’s meal before it’s even cooked.

If only we would stop our meddling, we might see that.

Our “Meddle-Obsessed” Culture

We’ve become a culture that is “meddle-obsessed.”

For instance:  the day before the newest fancy-smancy gadget is set to be revealed, we’re already talking about the next big fancy-smancy gadget that’s set to come after it. As soon as a musician releases his single, we have to break each lyric down, criticizes it, and assess whether the artist has now become a part of “yesterday” (and has forsaken his place in the music halls of “tomorrow”), long before the artist has had a fair chance of proving himself to the public.

As soon as one political election is over, speculation on the next political election begins. A day after Halloween ends, we’re already breaking out the Christmas decorations. As soon as one of the worst economic crisis in the history of the world hits, we expect full recovery in a few months.

We’ve gone “meddle-crazy” I tell you.

And it’s all this “meddling” that’s hurting us.

It really is.

I Falter Only When I Fear To Falter

Recently, I finally understood the lesson that Levin had learned in Ana Karenina–the lesson that The Tao Te Ching (and so many other ancient wisdom teachings) were trying to teach me.

This was the lesson:

I falter only when I fear to falter.

I writer badly only when I fear to write badly.

I stumble in life only when I fear to stumble in life.

It is the fear itself that damages me, not the task before me.

When I recognize this truth, the fear becomes weak and sometimes completely evaporates. When I remember that I falter only when I fear to falter, momentarily, I feel like I’m back on track. Back to where I always knew I belonged. Back to where we all belong: in a space of “non-interference.”

You Falter Only When You Fear To Falter

Today, if you struggle to execute the task at hand, remember that you will falter only if you fear to falter.

Please allow yourself not to “meddle” in your life too much. Allow yourself not to “meddle” in the writing too much. Allow every task to flow out of you—like a hot spring gushing out of a crack in the desert. You might end up discovering, to your surprise, that you are, in fact, up to every task. You just didn’t realize it.

Give Up All Your Meddling

Stop interfering.

Stop meddling.

Stop poking and prodding at the wound, and give it time to heal already!

Let the record of life play out as it should. The music is more beautiful when you don’t forward it, rewind it, and pause it constantly—and you just let it play.

Let the music play.

Just let it play.

And then become aware. Notice that, quite naturally, your toes begin to tap to the beat. Your fingers snap to the rhythm all by themselves. Your hips begin to sway all on their own—and suddenly, before you know it, your moving, your moving, your moving…

After a while, you might ask yourself: “What is this?” 

And, with a sly smirk, your heart will reply:

“That’s non-interference, baby.”

much love,


Say what you’re thinking right now in the comments below. Don’t meddle too much.

>>> Novel Update: Some of you have been asking me about where I am in the novel writing process, so I wanted to let you know: I’ve given my full manuscript to my sister to read. I am awaiting her feedback. I’m being very patient, but it’s very nerve-wracking. In the meantime, I’m focusing on freelancing, blogging, and writing that eBook I promised ya’ll.

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26 comments on “I Falter Only When I Fear To Falter

  1. Daniela says:

    State of flow … true bliss. I am so glad you wrote about it. Fear is paralyzing. Our age, information age is what spreads fear like a wild fire – fear of being left behind, of not knowing, and/or following the latest trend in whatever it is; life, health, writing, gadgets. That has a spill over effect on all aspects of contemporary life. That fear fuels a need to be ‘everywhere’ in the same time. To see and be seen. All the time. Huge number of gadgets has been produced to enable that. I believe it will have detrimental effects on our society. Time will tell.


    • Ollin says:

      I love what you wrote. You have a knack for assessing things, Daniela. I can see that you are a great writer, because great writers are expert observers. I hope you elaborate on this comment on your blog. I’d be curious to read more of your thoughts on what you addressed here.

  2. jess says:

    Thank you for this. I am a habitual and champion meddler. The other side of the coin for me is resisting (which also leads to ‘stuckness’). The timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect for me. I just had a crappy day yesterday and when I woke up this morning, one of the first things I began doing was fearing another day like the one I had yesterday. Until I read your post. 🙂 What’s funny to me is that everything you’ve written here I have come across before. Like background music, my ears heard it but it never really sank in because I was too focused on what I was doing (meddling) at the time. Thank you for this gentle reminder. My intention for today is to flow.

  3. This is a lovely post; a good reminder for me as I’m feeling anxious and creating crazy-making scenarios in my head as I look toward a huge transition later this summer. Thank you for this reminder.

  4. I had two thoughts while reading this wonderful post…
    Get out of your own way, and
    We are self-fulfilling prophecies…

  5. Great post. I am busy fearing to falter and faltering badly over a poetry assignement.
    this has helped. thankyou

  6. Rob F. says:

    Snapping fingers, swaying hips and smiling faces!

  7. Virgoan Scribe says:

    A timely lesson relearned – thank you for reminding me to stop worrying about my current piece of work because my worrying and prodding at it is hindering the piece.
    Also re the meddling, I’ve been meddling in my mind with things I want to say someone & it’s been messing with my writing progress. I will STOP meddling in what are the concerns of others and put my whole focus on my writing or else I will never complete this short story.

  8. Yvette Carol says:

    Yeah Ollin, I agree with you, I find the concept of meddling with what’s given to be fascinating too. And it’s timely, for me, anyway. I’ve been noticing lately how if I chain myself in too much with the rules of writing then I’m utterly stifled. My words come out sounding like cardboard! In the words of the great writer Andrew Stanton, ‘storytelling has guidelines not hard and fast rules’ !

  9. This is so accurate. If I stopped to count the many times I’ve tried too hard with a story, only to mess it up I think I’d hang my head in shame. Yet, when I allow the words to flow everything comes together as it should. And isn’t life like that as one saying states: Let go, and let God.

  10. Arisa says:

    There is truth. Many things happen when I let things be.
    My mom is always nagging me about how I should take action. It bothers me so much, because problems often resolve themselves when you let them be. That’s my experience.
    I also notice that many things go all by itself unless I try thinking about it, then it stops.
    Including my breathing, I can’t focus on it, because then I fail at breathing.

  11. Katie says:

    From the second that I started reading this, I was captured by it. This is exactly what I needed for exactly this point in my life.

    Your writing is brilliant. I hope you’re aware of the gift that you have. It’s no small matter to inspire and touch people’s spirits like you do with your words. I’m so glad I’ve discovered this blog and been able to follow and be encouraged by it. Thank you.

    • Ollin says:

      You know, it’s very hard to be objective, haha. So it is good to have my readers remind me. Sometimes I can be way too hard on myself, so it’s good to be reminded that I am doing very well already and that I can be more gentle on myself.

      So, your kind words are not without meaning for me, too. And you should know that. 🙂

      Thank you.

  12. […] bloggers; Ollin Morales. The trails and tribulations of our times Ollin portrayed so well in his post resonated with my own thoughts on the subject. I briefly touched on that in my comment. But still […]

  13. […] I Falter Only When I Fear to Falter by Ollin Morales at Courage 2 Create […]

  14. Misha iCan says:

    First of all I loved the way you expressed yourself and related the saying with the Anna Karenina scene. Secondly, I totally agree, my best writing has always come from me ‘letting go’ of the fear and just writing. Its like if you try and second guess yourself and think about everything that can go wrong my writing ends up being very poor withthe humour being forced and the wit contrived. The only problem with this method for me, is I really need to go back and edit and look for typos, and make sure the structure makes sense…and I’m not a great editor.

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