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I believe in destiny. I know that destiny seems like a big, abstract concept, but I think it is simply taking on some challenge, some urgent need, some opportunity that comes your way to do something that needs doing.

When I was in my 20s, I lived in India for a year and a half on a Fulbright Fellowship. Most of that time I taught at an Indian college. I also did volunteer work with Tibetan refugees. This was shortly after the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet and began his more than 50-year exile in India, which continues today. I was moved by the struggle of those Tibetan refugees who had followed the Dalai Lama into exile. They needed to find a new life outside their native country, and it was clear to me that they would need to learn to speak and read English to succeed in the modern world.

So I took on the task of writing a small English-Tibetan dictionary. I was only 24 at the time. It was hard work and a miracle that it ever got completed and published. But it did, and 5,000 copies were printed. Then I returned to the United States and went on with my adult life.

It was only many years later, when my grown son and I took a trip together to India in 2007, that I discovered that little dictionary had been reprinted 11 times for a total of 80,000 copies. It has never been out of print since it was first published more than 40 years ago, and has helped several generations of Tibetans learn English. It was one of those little stones that you drop in the water and the ripples go out from it long afterward.

At the time, I didn’t think it was my destiny to write that dictionary, but looking back now I see that it was. I read once, much later, that your destiny is always just around the corner, but it doesn’t make house calls. You have to go out and meet it. You may think you don’t have the time or the energy or the skills or the resources to do it. Not me. Not now. Not yet.

But if you step forward anyway and take it on, somehow you find the time and energy. You learn the skills you need – not because it’s for a course you’re taking, but because you need them to accomplish your task. Partners and allies and sponsors somehow appear, drawn by your vision and commitment. That’s the way it was for me. I didn’t have a shade of a notion what I was getting into – writing a book, getting it illustrated, getting it published. But I figured out how to do it, and help materialized from unexpected quarters. That’s the way destiny works.

I learned that once you commit yourself to something bigger than yourself, you grow bigger and stronger, and things just seem to start flowing your way. It’s kind of magical, but true. The German writer Goethe wrote in the 1800s: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans. That the moment one commits oneself then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Perhaps you have already found and fulfilled your destiny. If not, remain alert. Your destiny is always just around the corner.