It sounded like a good idea at the time; the adrenaline rush, the wind rushing through my hair, the view that only birds get to see. Plus, I’d always wanted to conquer the fear of heights that kept me from peering over the railing into the abyss of my local shopping mall’s food court. I figured jumping off a mountain 5,000 miles away from home, while tethered to a devastatingly handsome Swiss guy and his hangglider would be a pretty good way to do that. As it turns out, I was wrong. I still can’t look down from the top of my kids’ backyard jungle fort, but at least I can say I jumped.
I haven’t launched myself off an actual mountain since that day in the Swiss Alps, but I’ve jumped off plenty of figurative ones since then. I’ve moved to new cities, taken new jobs, made new friends at each stop. I took the proverbial plunge when I married Brian. I’m currently in the free fall of parenting and don’t expect my parachute to deploy until somewhere around my girls’ mid-30’s. And lately, I jump every single week when I risk spilling my thoughts and my images onto your computer screens.
It’s easier to take a risk when you think you have nothing to lose; no dependents, no money, no skin in the game. You take risks for everything from applying for the job that’s a long shot to driving too fast on the freeway. In fact, you don’t even think of it as risk because there’s little value on the line. Real risk occurs when the possibility of failure makes your spine sweat at night. And personally, it scares the crap out of me, which is why I have a hard time jumping off mountains, literal and figurative, the older I get. Sometimes it’s easier just to watch everyone else from the safety of a comfy little perch.
But that’s not an excuse to stay at home, curled up on the couch drinking wine and surfing the web late at night to compare your worst photographs to the very best everyone else posts on their blogs (totally hypothetical, of course). It’s just the opposite – becoming a parent or getting older is even more of a reason to take risks; the measured, intelligent kind. Not the “Did I really just quit my job and blow my entire savings on a brand new camera because then I’ll take better pictures” kind.
I’m not saying you need to apply a complex mathematical risk assessment equation to your life. Or that you need to draw fancy flow charts and Venn diagrams to decide if you should start a business or ask someone out. I am saying you’ve got experience on your side and you’ve probably made some dumb mistakes. All of that is data you can use to make a smart choice about a risk you’ve been contemplating. And I know there’s at least one. So if the potential downside is limited, but the upside looks pretty good, you better get a running start off that mountain. In case you need a little shove, here are some examples:
- Start a blog: Worst case is wasted time and best case is you create and sustain a community of readership that benefits many.
- Take a photography/cooking/whatever class: Worst case is wasted time/money and best case is you gain new skills or make new friends.
- Apply for a new job: Worst case is you don’t get called for an interview and best case is you find the career you love.
- Apply for the SOAR! Scholarship: Worst case is you don’t get selected and best case is you SOAR anyway.
You know exactly what limits you’ve been living within so you can feel assured of success. It’s jump time. Go.