Technically, this project started when I was 24. Only I didn’t know it then. What I did know was that I was at a crossroads.
I was sitting at my desk in Boston, thinking about my longtime dream: take a break from corporate America and play the professional squash tour. I wanted someone to tell me when to go, but no one was gonna say, “Mike, it’s now July 1, time to go chase your dream, remember?” I could feel it slipping away.
Before letting that fear totally take over, I realized I couldn’t be the first and only person to be in this position. So I boiled it down to a simple question: should I stay the course in something comfortable, or take a risk to chase my passion? This seemed like a simple enough question. I wondered what others had done.
So I asked. I tracked down anyone who left something safe, whatever that was: a job in consulting or social work, in teaching or engineering. Through these conversations, I began collecting stories, with the common thread being that each person left something comfortable to pursue a passion. I stumbled into people from all over: ex-bankers, electricians, scientists, journalists–people from all walks of life who left the safe inertia of their own circumstances to try and do what they really wanted to be doing.
So I boiled it down to a simple question: should I stay the course in something comfortable, or take a risk to chase my passion?
After a while, it became clear that this was interesting stuff. I was compelled to share. I began passing these stories along to friends and family, bus passengers and bartenders—others who were at their own crossroads. The stories caught on. They were helpful and inspiring. I thought of a better way to get them out.
So that is what I am doing now. This project is about jumping. Sharing the amazing stories and ideas of those who have jumped into the unknown. Without them, I wouldn’t have been encouraged to jump. These stories enriched my life and I hope they enrich yours too.
We’ll always have fear if we don’t understand something.
If we are struggling with moving forward because of fear, curiosity might be the helper we need to call on.
Why is this fear present?
What past “information” has led us to this conclusion?
Could there be more information we haven’t considered?
Would we be willing to accept it if it is different from our current beliefs?
I remember when I used to be terrified of flying. From the night before the flight until we landed, I was a mess. Fearful with every bump. Gripping tightly. Counting every second until we landed safely.
Until I decided to overcome that fear.
To do that I gained knowledge. I asked questions like…
How do planes work?
How are pilots trained?
How safe are planes?
Why does the flight crew choose this as a career?
Once I became curious, it opened up my mind to learn. Once I learned, the fear subsided. Then, to fully overcome the fear I had to face my past beliefs head-on.
As I took my next few flights, every time there was a bump or rattle or weird noise, I would ask myself if this was a part of my past belief or a part of what I have newly learned. What seemed more logical?
In time, my fear went away.
There is no more anxiety before flights. I enjoy takeoffs now. Every once in a while a big “bump” in the sky will get my attention but I think it’s my past fears waving to me and letting me know they miss me. It is normally short-lived.
I overcame my fear of flying by being curious. That curiosity led me to knowledge that led me to a different belief.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy but if we want to give ourselves the opportunity to change then we might think about questioning our old beliefs.
They hold many unfounded “truths” that may be best to leave in the past.
Decisions are made through a mix of past experiences, current conditions, others’ judgment, fear, etc.
Being decisive is a key element to knowing if we are on the right path toward understanding who we are and what makes us happy.
Because indecision comes from our inability to make clear choices.
We want everything.
We feel we are missing out if we choose one thing over another.
We get stuck.
When we continually question ourselves and our decisions it shows a lack of focus on a vision for our future. We have no idea what we actually want and therefore will get paralyzed with fear and anxiety when having to make decisions, especially ones that appear difficult.
We can’t let ourselves go down this path. We have to be willing to stand our ground and be comfortable and confident with who we are and what we believe in. If we aren’t there yet then we have to be willing to put in the work to understand why.
It’s okay if we are different from everyone else in the room.
Have we ever considered, that maybe we are in the wrong room?
Be okay with making the decision to walk out and find a better one that fits the life we want.
Failing takes up such a small finite space in time. It exists only to be a placeholder for the next achievement, one that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the failure that preceded it.
It begs to reason, then, that we should welcome failure with warmth and kindness.
“Playing it safe” actually becomes a fools’ errand. It makes us believe that we are working in our best interest to protect ourselves from harm. In reality, we are starving ourselves of exactly what we need to achieve greater happiness; facing failure head-on and coming out stronger.
Like a long-lost friend that showed up unexpectedly, we should welcome the failures with open arms.
Starting anything can be intense and overwhelming. We’ve been great at other things and are comfortable in those environments now. It’d make sense to keep doing those things.
It’s sort of weird being the novice and having no clue what most of anything means. But that’s where the growing happens!
In times like these, it often helps to pull from your past experiences and remember how you started before. To be great at anything there had to be moments when you weren’t.
When we learned to ride a bike, it was the act of getting the helmet on that was the first big feeling, not riding down a hill at top speed with no hands.
When we learned to swim, it was just getting into a new body of water that felt different, it wasn’t doing cannonballs off the deep-end diving board.
We psych ourselves out from starting because of the fear of the unknown but generally the unknowns we truly fear are way down the road. If we started small, incremental, and took baby steps we’d develop knowledge as we moved along and the fear would subside as we built confidence.
We shouldn’t try to bite off more than we can chew at the beginning. A little movement in the right direction can go a long way to finding something that challenges us, inspires us, and fills us with happiness. That’s the whole point of starting in the first place.
Today could be that day. Maybe it was yesterday or it could be tomorrow.
At some point, there is a beginning to something new.
A new relationship.
A new endeavor.
A new way of thinking.
We’ve been here before. It’s not new, just different.
So when fear creeps in to limit us from the potential of asking out that person, taking that trip, or starting on that novel we must remember that it’s not always the “fear of the unknown” that stops us but it’s forgetting that we’ve been here before even if it might have been a little while.
We all have been curious or interested or excited at various points in our life. Don’t let today’s decisions be crippling because we forgot how exhilarating it was to go down a new path.