At services today, the rabbi invited a member of the congregation to read the opening monologue from Doubt. I’ve spent about 30 mins googling for it and can’t find it online, so I cannot reprint it here. If you know where to find it, leave a link in the comments.

The play starts out with Father Flynn giving a sermon about Doubt, he begins "What do you do when you’re not sure?" And then goes on to tell about a sailor who survives a sinking ship, hacks together a raft, and using the stars as his guide, sets a course to land. But then the skies cloud over for the next three weeks and he has no idea if he’s heading in the right direction. He’s racked with doubt and try as he might, he can’t be sure he’s still heading in the correct course. It’s powerful drama and its a powerful parable. The rabbi, Niles Goldstein, used the story to talk about the role of doubt in faith and how important it is to be honest about your doubts.

But all I could think of was our president, George W Bush. The thing that kills me about him is he never expresses a shred of doubt about his path. In Iraq or elsewhere. The only thing I’ve ever felt about Iraq is doubt. Doubt it was a good idea. Doubt we could win. Doubt that we should leave. Doubt that we are doing better. Doubt that we aren’t. I am confused about Iraq. Who isn’t to be honest? I hope George W Bush has doubts. I hope his absolute confidence in his path is a show. But I fear it isn’t.

What I look for most in people is an open mind. I dislike zealots, righteous people, certainty. Because there is no truth. Just opinion and doubt.

I put my opinions out there every day. And I believe they are right. But one of the reasons I put them out there is that there is always the doubt. What if I am wrong? And by expressing my thoughts and getting feedback from you on them, I can learn, change my thinking. Adapt.

Doubt is key. It has to exist. Otherwise we’ll drive off a cliff at 70 mph. And that’s a bad idea.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt

    Fred When Bush was in Australia last week for APEC at a official press conference he said He was at OPEC and said the Austrian troops are doing a great job on Iraq (that’s not a typo from me ).This guy doesn’t even know what economic summit hes at or what country hes in 😉

  2. Will

    Kudos on touching this topic, and you sum up the feelings of many folks on the issue. Whether its right or wrong that we’re there, and regardless of what we should do now, the real unfortunate truth of the matter is that we are not now and never have been in a meaningful dialog about it. Well, we may be, but he isnt.

  3. Andy Roth

    Very nice reflective post, Fred.As for your fears about George Bush’s certainty being genuine, I hope you are wrong, but I doubt it.

  4. Matt

    It is DEFINTELY a bad idea.;)Well said.

  5. greenskeptic

    Doubt is a privilege of the faithful.

  6. Kendal H

    I consider myself a Google master (so good, sometimes I consider putting it on my resume). I can not find this for the life of me. I am going to go out there and say it is not available on the internet.

  7. vruz

    When you have a power to decide on the lives of so many people, especially the ones who already died in service, humilty and doubt are a must.But I’m afraid irresponsability is too soft of a word to describe it.

  8. Don Jones

    Fred,I’ll tell you a few anecdotes about Bush – you don’t know me and have no way to confirm this, but here it is:My wife and I have a friend who is a very long-time buddy of Bush, we’ll call him Tom. He, his buddies and “Bushie” (as he calls him) have gotten together many times over the years, before Bush was President and since. When Bush first became President, Tom mentioned how he and all his buddies visited him and after they got the full tour of the White House and dinner, they all sat out on the Truman balcony overlooking the mall. They felt like they were in another universe, sitting with the “President” at that place and time, before 9/11. About two years ago, he visited Bush again in the White House and while visiting told him he thought his decision on Iraq was a bad one, and told him why. Bush politely responded that he understood Tom’s opinions, but that he believed that it was the right thing to do.My opinion is that Bush believes that what he did was right, given the circumstances at the time. In hindsight, I bet he wonders what he got himself into in Iraq. But no person with the responsibility of protecting 300 million people is going to wear that doubt on his sleeve.Lastly, even Abraham Lincoln, who held the union together by force of will, and against rabid hatred of him by the opposition party and disdain by his own party, had doubts about whether his decision to abolish slavery was right. But he didn’t speak it to the world.

  9. Michael Chui

    The play is only 3 years old. There’s no way anyone would have released the manuscript online.

    1. fredwilson

      i am sure you are right. all i wanted was the opening monologue

      1. Anselm

        “There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. I want to say to you: Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone.”…Useful?

  10. David B. Workman Sr

    One thing to realize is Iraq, and the well-being of this nation is not a play. Not only should we think what if, in all we do, but have genuine concern for the future. As America plays referee in Iraq, there are two other nations building, training, and preparing for the future. Our concern should be, will we still be able to protect our country here, when they are finished. Some had doubts with Enron, some would not face the truth, and lost everything.DBW

  11. kid mercury

    it is crucial to understand that bush is not OUR president. two stolen elections and lie of 9/11 make it clear that he is just a puppet installed by others — not the people of the United States.the problem is that the people of the United States are unwilling to face the facts, and are all too willing to accept the lies of the complicit media.

  12. Aruni Gunasegaram

    Thought provoking post. I think the human feeling of doubt is part of each of our checks & balances system. Bush must feel even just an inkling of doubt now but as someone said he probably doesn’t feel like he can express that to the world (let alone to his his mother & father, his wife and kids). In Mother Teresa’s recent letters even she expressed doubt about her faith. To me, that just made what she did all the more miraculous and I felt more respect for her. Even Jesus had doubts when he said ‘why hast Thou forsaken me’ If you don’t stop and question whether you picked up the right instrument to get the job done, you might just keep using the wrong one indefinitely…I have never heard of the play so I would not be much help in finding the screen play for you…

  13. Brian

    “What I look for most in people is an open mind. I dislike zealots, righteous people, certainty.”Sounds like you are very close minded about doubt. This reminds me of the old “I really hate people who don’t love their fellow man.”Not liking people who are certain of their actions sounds pretty closed minded. I do not know of any wartime leader who has publicly expressed doubt during their time in office.I share your thinking about doubt, but I don’t believe everybody has to think like me. You could say I am a diversity zealot when it comes to thought.I love your blog, but sometimes you can be very close minded when it comes to your worldview.

    1. fredwilson

      brian, it’s comments like yours that make me think.thanksfred

  14. Dick Costolo

    I seriously doubt that george bush has any doubt that he’s anything other than absolutely right.

  15. Steven Kane

    There is such a thing as truth. Some examples:On Earth, at sea level, water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius….and…On Earth, water is two atoms of hydrogen plus one atom of oxygen.As for a USA President’s having doubts, first, no matter what one thinks about President Bush, hopefully we can all agree he is a human being. And human beings have doubts. Period.Second, leadership often boils down to the ability to inspire others and create confidence in the face of adversity. Fred, how often does a VC share panic feelings with LPs? Do VCs look for their portfolio company CEOs to walk around the office telling everyone, “You know, historically 90% of startups fail”?My absolute favorite quote of all time:When Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked what his most important job was in World War II, he answered:”To smile.”

    1. fredwilson

      stevei disagree.i do share my doubts with our LPs. they deserve to know when we are nervous about certain things.and a CEO must lead, but I do think they can be honest with the team about the challenges ahead, and the fact that some of their decisions will be wrong and the consequences could be painful.fred

    2. fredwilson

      but i totally agree about smiling. that is really important in a leader.

      1. Steven Kane

        You’re right. Great leadership manages to balance honesty and transparency with inspiration and vision and “damn the torpedos, full speed ahead”.

  16. Mike

    When someone tells me that there is no truth, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear their version of it.

  17. Nick Davis

    I rarely go wrong quoting the prescient Conor Oberst:When the president talks to GodAre the consonants all hard or soft?Is he resolute all down the line?Is every issue black or white?Does what God say ever change his mindWhen the president talks to God?…..When the president talks to GodDoes he ever think that maybe he’s not?That that voice is just inside his headWhen he kneels next to the presidential bedDoes he ever smell his own bullshitWhen the president talks to God?I doubt itI doubt it

  18. jackson

    Excellent post.As Americans, we tend to value conviction and strong will in our leadership, yet our greatest statesmen were plaugued with doubt.

  19. Tammie

    I saw the play Doubt last year at the Seattle Rep. It was a bit depressing…

  20. Ethan Bauley

    Context is everything…by being honest about your doubts, it really gives you the freedom to stretch your mind [especially publicly].I really learned this through parsing all the dogma about the collision of the music and tech industries.[Especially here on AVC]

  21. JB

    c’mon Fred, of course Bush has doubts. Churchill had doubts, Reagan had doubts, Ghandi had doubts, MLK had doubts. And i’m sure you’re seething at the fact i put Bush in the same sentence with Churchill and Ghandi. But they persevered and fought for what they believed despite the hatred and naysayers and people doubting them and their decisions along the way. And they all had doubts, they’re all humans. You’re no better or smarter than Bush, you imply that you are in your post. Take the long view and understand that the only way terrorism will stop is if freedom & democracy and hope come to the next several generations in the Middle East. Many parts of the middle east are run like countries were run 500 years ago – ridding the earth of these anachronisms wont take years, it’ll take decades. it won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. it won’t be pretty, but ‘prettyness’ isn’t the goal. Fred, for a VC who takes pride in his analysis of companies and markets and potential, and pride on taking taking the long view when it comes to businesses, your view seems awfully shortsighted and biased when it comes to foreign policy.

  22. Nelson Cheng

    For those interested in checking out the play, it’s available via Google Book Search (the link below should be to the first page):…You can also buy the play at Drama Book Shop (250 W40th)