Goethe is quoted as saying,”Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

~ often attributed to Goethe,

but as you’ll see in the comments, it’s not his passage.

According to German.about.com, it’s the work of William Hutchinson Murray, from his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

The Goethe Society has a piece by Meredith Lee, digging in on the history of the quote, which says,  “it’s been found and it is partly by Goethe, in a way.”

I will leave debate about who did or didn’t write it to scholars who know more than I do. Instead, I’ll simply express my gratitude to whoever wrote these motivational words.


Categories: career, creativity, lifestyle

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16 replies

  1. Why not “Escape Current view of situation & Search for Better view of situation?” Be open to new views, opinions, options, opportunities to learn faster, collaborate, and design better futures.
    schoolofthinking.org CvstoBvs brain switch is an antidote for Plato Truth Virus thinking eg. I’m right, you are wrong, Absolutely! etc. PTV thinking style dominates and dooms western civilization.

    • Starting & doing as escape & search for better. Noticing & thinking as search for better. Starting as creative boldness, escape from doubts, fears & inertia.

  2. The quote you posted is (as others have stated above) not by Goethe, as has been discussed and dismissed by many.
    See this link for one such dismissal.

  3. I love this quote. Whenever I’m over-thinking something, especially a project or decision that requires immediacy, I reflect upon this quote. It inspires me to take action, and the necessary steps required to achieve the things I want to do in life.
    Joan Rashid

    • Thanks, yes, I’ve heard it’s misattributed all over the Internet. I love the sentiment, whoever said it.

      From http://german.about.com/od/culture/fl/A-Well-Known-Quote-Attributed-to-Goethe-May-Not-Be-Actually-Be-His.htm:

      The Goethe Society of North America investigated this very subject over a two-year period ending in March 1998. The Society got help from various sources to solve the mystery of the Goethe quotation. Here’s what they and others have discovered:

      The “Until one is committed…” quotation often attributed to Goethe is in fact by William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. The actual final lines from W.H. Murray’s book end this way (emphasis added): “…which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

      Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
      Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

      So now we know that it was the Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray, not J.W. von Goethe, who wrote most of the quotation, but what about the “Goethe couplet” at the end? Well, it’s not really by Goethe either.

      Read the full story on the link above.

      • You are a lazy blogger / ‘writer’ – and an incomplete reader. PAY ATTENTION to what you read. The material Ali referred you to (Goethe Society of North America) went on to verify Goethe is NOT even the writer of the couplet – but you replied by plagiarizing and pasting the ‘finding’ as if Goethe was.


        • I’m sorry to have ticked you off, Ed. Not my intent at all. I pulled in a snippet of one of those links to make sure anyone reading the comments saw what Ali was mentioning. In my original view, I thought it was clear it was a quote, so I’ve adjusted both my comment and the post itself to be clearer.

          Really, I have no dog in the hunt about who did or didn’t say the words. I was going through a difficult time in my life in 2011 and found the passage encouraging, and posted in case it was helpful to anyone else. I didn’t mean to offend German historians or literature fans.

        • No Ed. You misread what she wrote. It is very clear to me that she was in fact defending the very position you attacked her for; she was supporting the fact that it was not Goethe who penned the phrase. There’s no need for name calling on this kind of a website.

          • You got it backwards.
            In fact, she got back to me on it.
            You need to analyze accurately in order to interpret accurately.

            Further, simply copying or mirroring phrases is lazy. A sign of the times which is a fact that is indisputable.

      • Fake news nothing is true in this world

        • Ed, your extreme lack of understanding , or even manners, is clearly a “sign of the times” .
          I would understand if you now felt the need to politely fuck off .

          • I feel so much better you felt you told me this. If you feel I was extreme and impolite, I understand your point of view and do not fault you for it. You need to examine what is exactly being examined here, you may discover you are the one who has carried the something to extremes.

            Cheers to you. Try to smile.😀

  4. Boldness works. Give it a shot!


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