While on vacation this past week I climbed a rock wall. At one point the only handhold to move upwards was above my reach, and the only way to get to it was to leave go of the one strong grip I had and take a leap of faith. There were two possible outcomes; I could successfully reach the handhold and continue my upward climb, or I’d fail and end up back on the ground to try again. I hung on there, suspended in limbo, afraid to take the leap for fear I wouldn’t succeed. But as I weighed my options, I realized the truth of the matter: either I try and risk the chance of failure, or I give up, never even giving myself the slightest chance for success.
I jumped. And I reached it, and I continued to climb all the way to the top to ring the bell and achieve an absurd sense of accomplishment for such a seemingly small, insignificant feat of physical ability.
That was three days ago. It says a lot about my mental state to admit that it wasn’t until today I made the connection between what happened on that rock wall and the facts of life. Sometimes, in order to achieve something really great, to reach our goals and accomplish our dreams, we have to take a risk. Sometimes there is no easy way, and the only possible road to success is to let go of what you know and what you are comfortable with and put it all on the line. In doing so, failure is a definite possibility. But if we don’t even try, then failure is inevitable.
It’s not a lesson that is easy to implement. It’s hard to put ourselves out there and to put our necks on the line. It’s hard to risk the ridicule of family or peers for something so important. I write this, I understand it, and yet I struggle to take my own advice. I stall, trying to convince myself that there has to be another way. I can’t be the only one: we all fall into it from time to time. We get caught in a cyclical, unproductive pattern of thinking. There must be an easier, less risky way to reach the top of that wall. There must be a safer, more certain way to publish that book, get that job, land that role.
But sometimes there’s not. Sometimes, the only choice is to throw ourselves and everything we have out there, because if we don’t, we’ll just hang there, stuck in the same place, unable to move forward, until we finally lose our grip and give up, falling back towards the ground. If we take that leap, though, it opens a world of possibility. We have a chance, and with a little help from the wind, paired with a healthy dose of courage and determination, we just may reach that handhold, grab on, catch our breath and continue to success.
And if we miss? The worst that will happen is we fall down, pick ourselves up, and start the climb over again.
Here’s to embracing risk, being brave, and taking our own advice.