The maxim of ‘Look before you leap’ advises that we should look deeply upon the matter and think over on how it is to be done, before we begin to act. It also warns that if we do not do so, we are in for trouble after having done it wrongly.
The maxim is applicable to everyone who intends to excel in his endeavours. It stresses that one must be aware of planning before one begins to act on how to undertake the work. If a person wants to start a business or a project, he must plan the procedure to be followed and the methods of doing. Also, he must analyse the dos and don’ts and the pros and cons of the project, to avoid problems that may crop up during its course. During this analysis, he should be fully aware of his venture so that he can eliminate all the hurdles and hazards. Moreover, he can learn to preclude unforeseen problems. The Tamil poet and sage ‘Thiruvalluvar’ advised people to think and analyse thoroughly and then act accordingly since it is unwise to repent after starting to act.
Aristotle is praised for naming fortitude, the first of the cardinal virtues in the absence of which no other virtue can steadily be practised; but he could, with equal propriety, have placed prudence and justice before it. Since without prudence fortitude is mad, and without justice, it is dangerous. Only a fool or a person determined to commit suicide will jump into a river without making sure about its depths, eddies and whirlpools. And even there, no one tests the depth of a river with both feet.
Rashness is an unhappy parent of misfortune. Once in a blue moon, it might bring us luck but more often than not, it is fraught with dangerous consequences. The Persian monarch Xerxes, rashly enough, ordered an expedition to conquer Greece. With a wave of the hand, he dismissed all pitfalls and dangers. When the real trial of strength came, the armies of Xerxes were dashed to smithereens and the crestfallen monarch escaped in a solitary boat, forlorn and humiliated. Those who act first and think afterwards are bound to repent forever.
History is replete with such instances. Napoleon, an otherwise calculative and sagacious warrior, in a rash and proud moment gave the signal for the invasion of Russia. He had counted without the terrible winter of that country. His armies were bogged down in the snows. The flower of his army, the Iron Guards, perished and the loss became the prelude to Napoleon’s utter downfall.
History repeats itself. In the Second World War, Hitler drank power and his pride turned his guns towards Russia, in spite of the Non- aggression Pact which he had solemnly signed. He also met disaster, and paid the price for his rash decision. True statesmanship lies in thinking hundred times before deciding on any course of action. A situation is assessed for all its potentialities and possibilities. Though you would like to beat the dog, you have to consider the master’s face as well.
Look before you leap, sums up the wisdom born out of experience. There are instances of crisis or emergency when boldness or even rashness may be preferable to cool calculation.
During earthquakes, famines, floods and natural calamities, a person should act at once without caring for the consequences. In trying to avoid rashness, one might go to the other extreme of indecision and sloth. A bachelor, said a humourist, is one who looks before he leaps then never leaps. Rashness is any time better than sloth. But the right course is quickness guided by prudence. Haste and rashness are storms and tempests breaking and wrecking business; but nimbleness is a fair wind, blowing with speed to the haven.
It is not an infrequent thing for a young man to decide on his future with the toss of a coin, to make a choice in this way between two professions, to decide whether he shall stay at home or emigrate, or whether he shall accept this or that appointment. Most boys have to earn their living someday or the other, and it is of vital importance that they should choose the type of work which they can do best. For those, who have a decided bent, there is little or no difficulty, except that they should consult their parents and friends in order that they may know what kind of market there will be for their work. Others, who evince no particular leaning, should exercise greater care, in order that they may find out what they can do best, and what is likely to be remunerative. Too often, men find themselves burdened with a profession into which they cannot put their whole heart, or which, from overcrowding or other causes, will not bring them sufficient for a decent livelihood, and bitterly they repent the hastiness or carelessness of their youth.
“Look before you leap” is a maxim which can be applied in every sphere of life. The folly of the man who makes friends without observing their characteristics or enquiring into their past lives cannot be too strongly condemned. He who hastily and thoughtlessly accepts a plausible friend, only to find subsequently that he is unworthy of friendship, has only his own carelessness to blame. No one in business would think of lending money without security to a sharper he knew nothing about, and why should affection and trust be lavished on others without previous enquiry into their worthiness? Who, with money to invest, would buy a partnership in a business without inspecting the books, and making the fullest investigation into the way in which the business was conducted, and its prospects of extension and profit?
The same principle applies to all departments of thought. How feeble must be the intelligence of the man who accepts ready-made opinions on politics, religion or philosophy! Every patriot must feel that it is his duty to consider for himself without prejudice, what state policy he should support. The man who gathers his opinions from the daily press, without verifying their truth or value, is an unworthy citizen, and prostitutes the intellect that God has given him. There are two questions of absorbing interest to him, the rules by which this life should be lived and what is to happen after death. Those, who jump to conclusions on these questions without thinking for themselves, without weighing the opinions of others, or testing the evidences upon which their religion is based, can plead no excuse for their errors. They are dangerous exponents of their policy religion, if they are unable to give satisfactory reasons for their adoption.
Once there lived a rich man called Ramesh. He reared a puppy called Vikku. It grew up into a brave and faithful dog. One day, the man and his wife went out for shopping, leaving their little son under the care of Vikku. When they returned in the evening the dog ran out to greet his master. Ramesh was shocked to find the dog’s mouth full of blood. He ran up to the cradle but he found the child missing. Seeing the ground covered with blood, he concluded that the dog had killed the baby and so he killed the dog. Just then he heard the baby’s cry from another room and rushed there. He saw the baby unhurt and close to the dead snake, the dog had killed. He repented for not thinking before acting.
So, whatever we do and whatsoever manner we have, we should think before we begin to act. No action is correct which is done in a furious mood. We should apply our intellect and intelligence before we take the final decision and act upon those decisions because man is, by nature, an animal of instinct. We are moved by our emotions rather than by our wisdom. In order to save ourselves from the trap of emotions, we have to be cautious of our actions. Then only our future will be happy and peaceful.