My experiences attending the Boulder/Denver new technology meetings, and more recently Educon 2.2, have really gotten me thinking about just how much benefit there is in jumping off of a cliff. Let me clarify. The most inspiring people at these events are ones that have stopped working for others’ ideas and started working for their own. The most interesting conversations are about ways in which individuals have found to risk a large portion of themselves in the hopes of creating something that exists nowhere else. Chris Lehmann has done this at the Science Leadership Academy. Natty Zola has done this at Everlater. They took what expertise they had and they decided that pretty much any day of the week spent in a freefall toward their ideal life is better than the best vacation from the ordinary.
And yet, seeing these examples of people who have jumped off of a cliff really doesn’t make it that much more inciting to do so yourself. There is still the chance that there will be no parachute in that backpack of yours. It is also pretty likely that no one will be jumping with you. You will probably have to navigate to a safe landing without GPS guidance or the help of friends who are holding on and trying to help you beat the wind resistance.
So, why do it?
You may feel a sense of happiness, accomplishment or ownership if it works out, but there are so many more reasons to not leave your current work. Each part of you that craves stability and uniformity calls to you and tells you no. The timing is always wrong. The environment just isn’t right. Other people are going to beat you to it or going to take the credit. You won’t get any sleep and your waking hours you do have will be filled with nothing but the crushing G-forces that are pressing down on your body as you fall toward the unknown.
The stress is just too much, and yet that is the reason why you must jump.
You must jump because everything is telling you not to. You must jump because your instincts are wrong. You must jump because even the sensation of going “splat” on the ground is fantastic. It is the scraping you off of the earth that is the painful part. There are plenty of people to do that for you, though. People really do want to see you try again. They want to see you whizz by them at 100 miles an hour, even if they know you will be the same pancake at the end of the dive. It is a morbid fascination that everyone has in wanting to see people do the things that they can’t. And yet, you can do this. You must.
I will jump off of the cliff soon. Not because I think that there is some virtue in it or because I know that the parachute will open; I will jump off because there is no alternative for me. There isn’t anything else to do once I have climbed up and seen everything that there is to see. I have looked along the route and gathered the information I need at the top. It is beautiful at the precipice, but there isn’t much to do up there. The only way for me to see something new is to jump. I want to find the perspective that will lead me to my next climb. What I will be going after when I leap is still up for grabs, however. Let me know if you have any ideas.
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And besides… every now and then, it works and you (and all those whose lives you touch) get to fly.
And for the record, it never stops being scary. You never stop feeling like it could all go away. And you never stop agonizing over every twist and every turn. Because the thing you built matters… and it's part of you… and you fly in the face of what other people would have you do… and you feel every success and every failure powerfully and painfully.
But you know what it feels like to care so deeply for something… to work in service of something bigger than yourself… but that is also yours… that you get to share… that you see change and grow… and that hopefully matters.
Thank you so much for responding to this post and for the wonderful advice.
I do want to own my future and I think that jumping off a cliff really will
get me there. I can handle scary, so long as everyone else who depends on me
can as well. How have you dealt with that possibility of “everything going
away” with your family?
Thank you so much for responding to this post and for the wonderful advice.rnI do want to own my future and I think that jumping off a cliff really willrnget me there. I can handle scary, so long as everyone else who depends on merncan as well. How have you dealt with that possibility of “everything goingrnaway” with your family?