Yesterday, on Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday, the world lost a brilliant mind. Stephen Hawking died in the early hours at the age of 76.

Can anyone imagine what it would be like if he had succumbed to ALS just two years after being diagnosed as doctors had predicted? We were fortunate to have him on this plant for an additional fifty-five years. Fifty-five years in which he contributed so much to science.

Just a month ago I picked up a copy of Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, at a used book sale. I didn’t go there to purchase that specific book nor was a looking for it. It just seemed to leap out at me from a table after I wandered, on purpose, into the astronomy section.

I had read the book many years ago and I’m not sure why I felt compelled to buy it on that day, but I did, along with two other books from the astronomy section, a couple of novels, and a collection of short stories by Mark Twain.

It was Hawking’s book I placed on top of the stack, planning to get to it when I had a few minutes to read.

It wasn’t until I heard about Hawking’s passing that I picked it up. I tried to read the first chapter, but I had trouble concentrating. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things he had accomplished in his life, even with all the obstacles put in his way. (Or perhaps because of those obstacles.)

And then I thought about my life. There are so many things I haven’t accomplished, and the only obstacles in my way right now are the ones I have put there. So many questions came to my mind. Am I living up to my full potential? Is my life everything I want it to be? Am I letting fear get in my way of doing the things I want to do?

Each day I hear someone tell me how hard I work and how much I have accomplished. I do work hard, but I know I can do so much more.

Lately, my days have been spent helping others with their projects, tasks, or goals. Not that this is bad. I enjoy helping others. It makes me feel good knowing the work I do helps others with their careers or helps them solve a problem. At the end of the day, I feel satisfied.

But helping others often means my own projects are put on the back burner. I should be able to find the time to work on my latest novel or take the next steps to get my new business off the ground. But I hesitate. I know what needs to be done but I worry that I’m wrong or that I will fail.

But is failure really a bad thing? Failing means I at least tried.

As I was preparing to write this article, I came across this quote from Stephen Hawking:

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

He was an incredibly smart man. I would be crazy not to take his advice.