For the Love of All Things Good.
In my life, I have taken tremendous leaps of faith. I have risked a lot along the way. And, those brave choices have made all the difference in the world.
People often say that failure is the only way to really learn.
It's partially true. And, it's not the easiest way to go through life...
Embarrassing at times.
And it can cost everything. Believe me I know...
Just the thought of not making it creates massive fear inside us.
This fear paralyses us from ever jumping.
Years and decades go by...
Quietly we dream inside...
Outwardly we do what's expected of us...
Until one day, we come face to face with a defining moment.
We're faced with a decision: Play it safe, or risk living a bigger life.
I know from personal experience, quitting a great job at a prestigious university to give coaching a real go wasn't the most practical thing to do.
I was going off script. Friends thought I was crazy. Some family members did too...
But deep down, I knew I had to do it...
Anything else would have meant ignoring my calling.
It was the same with choosing to marry my wife after just 6 months of knowing her.
I don't recommend doing it the way we did it (a story for a different day), but that choice has proven to be the best decision I have ever made in life.
I know firsthand how fear of failure can stop us from trying.
It can erode confidence and self-belief.
It can cause us to play it safe and cripple our future.
But fear of failure shouldn't stop us from picking ourselves up off the mat and risking it all again.
Failure is not fatal. Failure teaches us which risks are worth taking.
The point is that too many of us stop taking risks and end up settling for a life that is predictable, mundane and safe.
We become creatures of habit...
We care too much about what others think...
We stick to what we know...
Stay in our comfort zones...
We dream in secret, but we never share those ideas with the world.
We never strike out on our own...
We never make the jump...
And that is a real tragedy.
Because when we don't risk in some big way, we stop risking at all. Even small ways. Like making new friends. Or, saying 'hello.' Asking for that raise. Fighting for that relationship. Standing up for ourselves or causes we care deeply about. And, that's when we grow tired, weary and dead inside.
Without a doubt, it's a gradual slide into mediocrity.
We face a bit of rejection and speak up less...
We experience a bit of criticism and we shut down even more...
We take another small risk and are knocked down, so we stop getting back up...
We stay down.
Before long we're a shell of our former self.
On cruise control. Allowing life to be determined for us.
Okay with the status quo and a job that we hate, surrounded by people we tolerate in a world that feels out of our control.
We end up living a life of regret.
In her best-selling book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Australian Nurse turned author, Bronnie Ware, sums up her dying patients biggest regrets.
In the last weeks of their lives, Ware would asked each patient what regrets they had or things they wished they would have done differently.
Their top five replies...
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
We should reread this short list daily.
It's a punch in the gut, and a beautiful reminder that our life is short.
And, right now is all there is.
Developing the confidence to choose ourselves and pursue our crazy dream is scary and might even seem impossible.
We simply have to make a choice...
Do more than just draw a line in the sand....
We have to head in a different direction.
And, this requires us to take the first step...
And, the one after that...
And, the one after that.
This may sound easy...
It's actually quite difficult.
Pursuing a better life, a new business idea, a different career, or a life-long passion can cost us everything if we're not careful.
We have to know what we're getting into before we make the jump.
Before We Burn the Boats, We Have to Do Our Homework.
A lot of people I know have jumped without looking. Blind leaps of faith sound sexy and romantic.
They're brutal and damaging.
Especially, if we're uninformed and underprepared.
This type of thinking is just plain crazy.
There's nothing worse than jumping without looking.
I met a guy who put his whole life savings in a banana farm with the promise from a friend to co-invest with him.
He quit a solid career, sold everything and the friend backed out at the last minute leaving him carrying the note.
They had a gentlemen's agreement.
Just a handshake deal.
He lost everything.
His dream of a quiet existence in a rural setting turned into massive debt, divorce and a decade of suffering.
I asked him if he regretted the decision.
He said no...
But, he did regret trusting the wrong person.
He's wiser and stronger from the experience.
But he could have avoided a lot of pain by asking for help from the right people.
Proper due diligence costs us and takes longer, but it's not as expensive or painful as being taken advantage of.
That simply sucks.
Before we jump, we have to figure a few things out first...
We Have to Figure Out if the World Needs Our Brilliant Idea.
In other words, 'Is it worth the risk?'
Clearly defining our motive to risk everything is a critical step.
One, that we should not rush past.
Our brilliant idea needs to be tested and we need healthy feedback.
Or else we're just flying blind.
In business this is called product validation.
The same rules apply for us too.
There are a handful of steps to validating any idea...
- We have to know the real problem we hope to solve. This type of investigation helps us get clarity about why we're doing what we're doing. What we're launching out to pursue should be as clear and detailed as possible. We have to figure out what a CEO client of mine once told me: 'If the juice is worth the squeeze.'
- We have to seek feedback from others. Surveying our inner circle along with people who are doing what we hope to do is key if we want to know if our idea is worth our time and investment. If we're jumping into a dead-end situation simply because we're passionate about it without asking others for feedback we're in big trouble.
- We have to test our idea. In business this is called a minimum viable product. Basically, we need to figure out if what we're pursuing is going to add value to our lives and others. If we're not becoming a better human being or making the world a better place, we're probably on the wrong path.
- We have to time our jump. Timing is everything in life. NASA never launches a rocket into space unless the conditions are optimal for success. This is a great principle for us too. If the season of life we're in and the commitments we currently have aren't as good as they could be, we should rethink when to jump.
Ideas are sacred.
We fall in love with them for their own sake.
But, we should involve others.
We should observe if our little corner of the world needs it.
And, take a look inside too.
Talented, Bored or Both?
Chances are we would not be thinking what we're thinking if we were experiencing fulfilment right now.
If we were waking up each day with the opportunity and ability to use our gifts, strengths and talents in pursuit of a worthy cause.
For the love of all things good...
We are all wired to create.
Every single human being on the planet has genius in them.
The question we have to ask ourselves before we chase after whatever it is that we're considering chasing after is: Are we naturally gifted in this area?
There are four indicators that we have the right stuff to make our dream a reality...
- Passion is the electric feeling we get deep inside our hearts that move us to take action. Passion is an overwhelming sense of rightness. We have a built-in compass that points us in the direction we should go. Passion is an intrinsic drive towards mastery.
- Retention is an indicator that we're on to something. When we're in our element we retain information almost effortlessly. Our curiosity takes over and our mind becomes a massive sponge. We're literally tapping into an insatiable state of learning.
- Fulfilment is a conscious state of immense satisfaction. We know we're in a peak state when excellence is a natural byproduct of our thoughts, actions and behaviours. Us at our best, enjoying our life and work. Everything we do seems to take on a life of it's own. We feel at peace even in the midst of chaos.
- Flow is the best indicator that we're doing what we're meant to be doing. It's when we are fully engaged and enjoying the activity for it's own sake. Flow happens when we get lost in the task at hand. Fully ourselves and fully alive.
If we are naturally gifted in whatever it is we're hoping to chase after, we should go for it.
If not, we need to do the work of getting the right knowledge, skills and experience before we start.
The worst thing we can do is chase an impossibility.
It's simply too expensive.
Empty Heads and Empty Pockets.
Can we afford it? This is not primarily a money question (although cash is extremely important).
We also have to take into consideration the investment of time, energy, and other resources we will need along the way.
We have to take a hard look at our current situation in life and be realistic about how much we're risking...
- How much is this going to cost us physically? Do we have the energy and time to pull this off?
- How much is this going to cost us mentally? Do we have right mindset to make this work?
- How much is this going to cost us emotionally? Are we living a healthy rhythm to manage the stress this is going to bring our way?
- How much is this going to cost us financially? Do we need to save more before we make the jump?
All of these are questions of investment.
Having a clear estimation of what it's going to cost us, strategy, and goals with timelines is key if we hope to be successful.
It doesn't have to be perfect, but we need to know if what we're risking is worth it.
The People In Our Corner.
Regardless of how we define family, we need a handful of people who are there for us and believe in us.
Friends and mentors who are honest with us and who can call out the best in us as we pursue turning our dream into reality.
These are the voices who will help us get up when we fall, encourage us when we lose heart and are there to celebrate our success.
We've really failed if we achieve our dream and have no one to share it with in the end.
Who do we need in our corner to have confidence to jump?
This list is small, but powerful.
We need these people to buy-in, because we're guaranteed to lose heart along the way.
We need their voices in our lives...
Cheering us on...
Picking us up...
Calling us out...
Without them we simply cannot make it.
From my experience there are about seven different people we need in life.
Here they are in no particular order of importance...
- We need a mentor. They've been there before. Made the jump. Failed miserably. Succeeded eventually. And, lived to tell about it. They know more than us.
- We need a friend. They know the real us. And, they love us anyway. They understand what hurts us. They're not perfect. Just present.
- We need a coach. They know how to motivate us. They don't let us make excuses or place blame. They call out our bullshit. And, they keep us focused on what we're fighting for.
- We need a partner. They are in the arena with us. Fighting for the same cause. Shedding their own blood, sweat and tears. Ultimately, they've got our back.
- We need a boss. They don't have to be on the pay roll, but they need to be an authority in our life. They know how to keep us in line and on budget. They give us structure.
- We need a hero. They inspire us. And, they give us a model to follow. Their life grips our heart and moves our feet to live in response to something bigger than us.
- We need a protege. They give us an outlet to share what we're learning. A generation to pay it forward to. If we can teach others we can be confident that we know our stuff.
We need to identify who these people are in our life.
With them in our corner, we can be assured that when we fall down (we will) and want to jump ship (frequently) someone is there to pick us up, dust us off and push us in the right direction.
Failure is an Option. Quitting is Not.
Failure is guaranteed in the early stages of any new venture or relationship.
No matter how well-funded, prepared and educated we might be.
At the end of the day we have to have a burning desire to persevere.
We have to have resilience and grit and a take-no-prisoners level of passion to see things through.
If we want to be successful, we can't let failure or setbacks be an excuse to quit trying...
We just can't.
In life, we have to count the cost and risk it all on something that matters. There really is no such thing as playing it safe. The real question is whether we're risking our life on something worthwhile. Every other pursuit is just secondary.
Getting brutally honest with ourselves is the first step.
Taking action is the next.
As Tim Robbins' character Andy Dufrane says to his fellow inmate Red, played by Morgan Freeman, in the Shawshank Redemption,
'I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.'
Some Things Just Have To Die.
Henry Cloud recently wrote, 'Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.'
The problem is that if we jump while simultaneously clinging to toxic people, old habits and a scarcity mindset is that we are destined to repeat the same old mistakes.
We have to stop and reflect for a minute...
What conversations have we been avoiding for fear of how people are going to react?
What mental ruts and broken patterns of living have trapped us?
We only have to replay the last wishful-thinking conversation we had or overheard. It usually goes something like this:
I have a brilliant idea. Here's my brilliant idea, but don't tell anyone about it. I'm going to do my brilliant idea one day. I should do that brilliant idea, I had. Hey. Wait a minute. That guy stole my brilliant idea. Don't you remember...I thought of that brilliant idea way back when? Why didn't I act on my brilliant idea? Sigh.
If we find ourselves constantly making excuses or procrastinating about the changes we need to make in order to live the life we want - reinventing ourselves professionally, starting an entrepreneurial endeavour, taking a year off to travel the world, pursuing the love of our lives, or finally putting ourselves first - chances are we need to let some things die.
This is what is so scary about taking risks.
It means leaving some people behind...
But if we're deeply honest, a lot of people are just 'in' our life.
Taking more from us than they're willing to give.
If they're our child, that's one thing...
We should be a good human being and do the parenting thing.
But if they're a grown-ass adult who has never grown up emotionally - talking a big game but never risking anything, never helping us, never encouraging us, never picking up the bill or giving to the relationship in even the slightest way - we have to ask ourselves, why we're wasting time investing in them?
It's a tough conversation, but one we've gotta have if we want to give ourselves a fighting chance at making our dream a reality.
When I made the jump into full-time coaching, a handful of dream-stealers questioned my motives.
A few even questioned my credibility...
I had to let these relationships die.
At first, I missed the familiarity and comfort of those loveable fools.
But, deep down I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn't have the time to invest in my past if I was going to create a better future.
Jim Rohn, said we're the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Personally, I've chosen to surround myself with real influencers, entrepreneurs and switched-on people who want more in life.
I don't regret a minute of the time I've spent with these mentors.
I want to be like them...
They inspire and challenge me...
Their lives are filled with purpose, freedom and joy.
They make me a better human being...
And, for that I am grateful...
Something surprising happened when I changed my environment: my mindset and habits changed too.
That's the wonderful thing about letting things die - new things begin to grow in their place.
Like a vacuum, the space in our lives is filled with healthy people and positivity.
I quickly realised that certain parts of me needed to die, too.
Circular thinking and blaming others.
Excuses are just verbalised fear.
Rationalisation is just us protecting our egos.
Circular thinking feels good but gets us nowhere.
And, blame is our avoidance of reality.
All of these behaviours have to die.
We have to stop complaining and start working.
We have to take a hard look in the mirror and choose to be different.
As my wife says,
'Don't tell me. Show me.'
Action is the only thing that counts.
Talk is cheap.
We have to make better choices.
We Have To Choose Ourselves.
When we were kids, we risked all the time.
Everything was a risk...
Learning to walk...
Learning to ride a bike...
The first day of school...
Trying out for the little league team...
Asking our first crush to check yes or no.
Somehow intrinsically we knew that confidence was a byproduct of taking risks.
We risked everything...
We followed our hearts...
We were happy.
As we grow older, life kicks the shit out of us enough that our courage begins to slowly die a little bit each day.
We stop risking and start playing it safe.
We stop questioning...
We give up.
We exchange wonder for safety.
And, curiosity for security.
Essentially, we become a lesser version of ourselves.
We lose our spark...
And, we end up living for weekends, vacations and the next great series on Netflix.
Just to escape from our miserable life.
I agree with my friend Mike who correlates the rise and fascination with zombies in popular culture to the death of the human spirit among most people.
We become lifeless bodies just floating through space...
Asleep in our routines...
Going through the motions...
A handful of us live by a different narrative. We rare souls regularly nurture the little flame of hope inside of us. We go to work on ourselves. We ask for help. We do the work. We refuse to be like the masses who settle for less than our best. We brave few choose to fight for ourselves and what we believe in. We build our life around our passion. And, we'll stop at nothing in our pursuit of making ourselves and the world a better place.
And remarkably we achieve our dreams.
But, it doesn't happen overnight.
It's not like the movies.
We no longer take shortcuts or avoid heartache.
We face life head on.
We don't fight needless battles or chase after meaningless pursuits.
We take the high road and do the heavy lifting...
And, still fail some too.
But it's not fatal.
It's just normal life happening.
And, we know it happens to everyone.
We're not so special...
We've just chosen to risk in the face of rejection and despite our fears.
We no longer need the adoring masses to cheer us on.
Just a select few trusted, honest voices who know us - faults, weaknesses, baggage and all - and still love us anyway.
And, we're happy that we don't let failure define us...
Instead, we embrace it and let it refine us...
We let it teach us what to do...
What to avoid...
When to jump...
Who we can trust...
And, why we're here on this spinning ball of dirt.
The most important thing I've learned from having the guts to jump is that when we finally make the leap, we end up creating a different world...
And, we become different too.
If you're reading this and you feel stuck, trapped, bored or simply need someone to process your thoughts with - please reach out...
That's a conversation worth having.
And, I'd be honoured to help you know if what you're thinking about doing is a risk you want to take.