“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury
Yesterday I took a cliff dive. Not literally. But here’s what happened…I walked into a room full of CEOs and plunged headfirst down the face of the cliff into the beautiful abyss. The abyss taught me so much, the fall is incredibly exhilarating and it’s a dive I’ll willingly do again in the very near future.
My cliff dive yesterday was embracing the opportunity to be a guest speaker at a July meeting of the Academy for Chief Execurives North West branch. And boy was that dive scary. One attendee asked me afterwards, ‘which is more nerve-wracking: competing in a big competition or doing this?‘ How do you think I answered? I was a Nervous Nancy!
I was nervous from the moment we confirmed the talk and started preparing straight away. But when Clare ushered me into the room and jokingly asked, “Are you ready?!” we both knew the answer. In those ‘now or never’ moments the answer to ‘are you ready’ is never ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Whether you are ready or not, take the leap. Go for it. You’ll build your wings on the way down… and the best thing about scary situations that you will face now and in the future is this: you are not jumping into the abyss to land on jagged rocks or the deep blue sea (most of us aren’t anyway). Our ‘are you ready‘ moments resemble what mine was yesterday – standing up in front of a crowd of people and sharing a story, heading into a job interview for a new role or even a promotion, competing at an international competition, or moving to a new city or country! The list is of course endless and not limited to that, but you get the picture right? These are not life or death scenarios. You will survive. You will move on. If you go and you’re perhaps not ready or not as ready as you should be it won’t be the end of your life. Your cliff dive and mine is safe.
When I was a little girl I used to train and compete in gymnastics and trampolining. In one particular training gymnasium we used to practice new flips into a large pool of soft sponge squares. Sometimes I’d land on my head instead of my feet, but that was okay because the soft squares stopped me from breaking my neck! Yet If I’d started flipping straight away on the floor without this safe pool I’d surely have caused myself considerable damage (and probably would have sued my crazy instructors!) But I didn’t because my ‘cliff dive’ flips were into safe sponge squares. The same is true for your cliff diving adventures that give you butterflies and scare you to the point of giving up before you even start. What is new for you right now in your life? What do you need to just RUN TOWARDS with fearless abandon?
Love? Yes, your heart may break but hearts heal.
A new job? Yes rejection stings, but you will bounce back and with perseverance will eventually find the right position for you!
A new hobby or life direction? Yes the road is uncertain but planning forever won’t allow you to move forward without action.
The only way to move forward and to know whether you’re headed in the right direction is to take the cliff dive. When you fall, know you will survive. And when you rise again, do so with determination and a commitment to get it right.
I think the best things about diving off a cliff and figuring out how to fly on the way down is this:
(1) if – scratch that – when you fail, jump and try again. You’re diving into soft sponge squares after all!
(2) when you don’t get the perfect dive or your wings get trapped, you know how not to do it for next time.
My other corporate talk at Kitchell Corporation in Phoenix, AZ on ‘Failing Forward’ was also a scary but encouraging and well-received presentation.
(3) if you invite an audience you’ll receive honest and open feedback that will provide you with newer and better strategies for next time. Maybe your audience could be somebody reviewing your CV or like me it could be a literal audience providing you with feedback post-cliff dive !
Feedback gives you information to make things better for next time! (And you may also be surprised by how much better you are than you think!) It’s the same in long jump. Round after round I seek to improve and make little tweaks to get that as-close-to-perfect jump as possible. Like I mentioned in this post here on battling perfectionism, I’m almost never ready to jump and I’ve been doing THAT for over 10 years!
(4) when you finish, you will want to practice more and do it again! The sense of accomplishment (even if something goes wrong) and that feeling of exhilaration is unmatched. (Why do you think I keep coming back to athletics after every injury?!) Be careful, you will become an adrenaline junkie!! Risk-taking is scary but fun!
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F Kennedy.
Thanks for reading!
I’d love to read about your adrenaline-inducing ‘so not ready yet’ moments in life! You can share them in the comments below.