Summary: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? By Michal Oshman
Summary: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? By Michal Oshman

Summary: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? By Michal Oshman

The Discovery

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain


The Hebrew word for the country of Egypt, where the Israelites (the Jewish people) suffered years of slavery. The literal meaning of mitzrayim is “boundaries”or “narrow straits,” which takes the idea of slavery to a symbolic level. Each of us has a personal mitzrayim, our own narrow straits that restrict us, stifle us, trap us. These internal chains of self-slavery—our own limiting thoughts and restrictive beliefs—might be what’s making us afraid, what’s keeping us from moving forward. But now it’s time to break free.


Finding Your Flame

“From every human being there rises a light.” —The Baal Shem Tov


The Hebrew word for soul. Neshama also means “breath,” which is consistent with the Torah’s description of the creation of humankind—that God blew the breath of life into the body, making it a living being. Your soul is what makes you you. Your neshama is your essence, your unique, eternal, beautiful self. To nurture your precious soul, you must look past the superficial aspects of daily life and find your purpose.


Replace Fear With Purpose

“The secret to a meaningful life is to do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you.” —Ruth Bader Ginsburg


A Hebrew word that means “self-nullification” or “nothingness.” Bittul is the practice of internal reflection in which one empties oneself of ego and purely selfish thoughts, in order to connect with a higher reality. Bittul is not self-annihilation. On the contrary, it is a state of transcendence. It asks that you fill yourself with meaningful thoughts and actions to lift you up beyond egocentric focus. Use this method of self-nullification to remember that not everything is about you. Empty your heart and mind of unhelpful thoughts and try to “fill” yourself with the right things: meaningful, purposeful things. This will feed your soul and help you overcome fear and despair.


Cross Your Narrow Bridge

“My mother always used to say, ‘Don’t just sit around and complain about things. Do something.’ … So I did something.” —Kamala Harris

Gesher Tzar Me’od

This phrase literally means “a very narrow bridge.” It is taken from a well-known song based on the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The narrow bridge represents the scary, unknown path ahead of you in your life. The rest of the song encourages you to “have no fear at all.” We must try to take that first step onto our narrow bridge, whatever it may be. We must always move forward if we want to conquer our fears. Just the action of taking a single step may be enough to change things for you.


Grow Your Broken Heart

“In every sadness there is benefit.” —Proverbs 14:23


The Hebrew word for “brokenness.” Feeling broken is universal: everyone feels broken in some way at some point in their lives. Brokenness is not something to be feared; it doesn’t need to be fixed. Broken people should not be discarded. In fact, it is in the space between the shards of our broken hearts and our fragmented selves where we will learn and grow. The cracks are what make us us. They make us unique. The cracks make us more beautiful, more special, more powerful, and more whole.


Make Space For Others

“Distancing is for the purpose of drawing near.” —Rebbe Nachman of Breslov


The Hebrew word for “contraction” or “concealment.” In the Kabbalah of Jewish mysticism, tzimtzum is used to describe how God created the world. Tzimtzum is an incredibly holy and complex concept because it describes the process in which God made space for us, His creations. God contracted and concealed a part of His eternal light to make space for His creations: the world and us. We can use this fascinating principle to inspire us in our approach to others. Even when we have the power and authority to take all the space, we should “contract” ourselves to make space for others: space for them to express different voices, feelings, emotions, and ideas. The space we create around us should be free of judgment and ego. Taking up less space allows us to help others to grow, and ourselves to grow as well—by learning humility and compassion.


Repair Your Company Culture

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou


In Hebrew, tikkun means “repair” or “correct.” Repairing ourselves allows us to better repair the culture around us. We must always be aware of the culture we create. The way we act at work, at home, or anywhere else can influence how others feel. So think about your own actions and how you can create an inclusive, warm culture around you. Show others that they can be themselves with no fear of judgment or rejection: flawed, quirky, emotional, quiet, passionate—help them remove their masks. Mistakes are okay. Failure is fine. Show the people around you that you care about them. Give feedback in a positive, constructive, and compassionate manner. Be honest and speak from the heart—you’ll find that if you do, others will feel comfortable to do the same.


Lead Like A Mensch

“Others wait for something to happen. Leaders help make something happen.” —Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks


The Hebrew word for “charity” comes from the root tzedek, which means “justice” or “righteousness.” Giving to charity isn’t just something nice we do when we think of it, it is the right thing to do. We shouldn’t look at it as optional, it should be part of our everyday thinking. In the same way, we should strive to be a mensch—a good person. Being a mensch isn’t optional, it should be part of our everyday thinking. We should lead like a mensch, seeking fairness and justice for those who rely on us. Everyone has the potential to be a leader—at home, at work, in the community. Leading meaningfully, toward a shared purpose, for justice, while connecting people together, is something we can all do.


Guide Your Children By The Soul

“Parents can only give good advice or put them [children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hand.” —Anne Frank


The Hebrew word for “education.” When educating our children, we need to teach them according to their way. It is not about what we want them to be, it’s about what their souls need them to be. You are there to guide, not control. It is up to you, the parent, to make your home into a safe space for your children, based on higher values. Set boundaries and expectations; let them know the family and humanitarian behaviors you value, but allow them to make their own choices. Create a place where they feel accepted and listened to—and most of all, a place where you can help them discover their individual passions, ambitions, and dreams and help guide them on their own journey.


Return To Yourself

“Even a little light can dispel a lot of darkness.” —The Baal Shem Tov


The Hebrew word for “repentance,” teshuva, actually means “return.” This reflects the idea that to repent we should return to our true, essentially good essence. It shows us a way to improve ourselves and overcome the obstacles we face without feeling guilt or shame. Instead of blaming ourselves for our shortcomings, we should assess where we are on our path, compared to where we should be—where our soul wants us to be—and correct our course. If we regularly think about how to return to our essence and our own unique path, we will be able to always move forward with purpose, with meaning, and without fear.