Leap, and the net will appear

…said American naturalist and essayist John Burroughs.

Too often, we hold ourselves back, so whenever anyone takes a leap, I feel energized. Of course, one person’s big leap is another’s small. But that’s the beauty of leaps; they’re personal and meaningful only to the leaper.

People can encourage you to leap but the leap comes from you only when you’re ready to leap. Notice I didn’t say “want to.” Most of us want to leap, but often we’re not ready till we just can’t stand it anymore.

You have to beware the naysayers, those who want to hold you back or infuse doubt into your plan. Prudence is all well and good, but warnings usually come from a place of fear or envy, cloaked as wisdom.

The reason the net will appear?

Because you bothered to take the leap. In other words, there’s always a positive outcome from any change. It’s a law of the universe. That’s why waiting till there’s a net before you leap is unnecessary (barring, of course, financial ruin as a result of a really dumb decision).

One scoop at a time: One old friend swapped his t-square for an ice cream scooper. Architect-turned-ice-cream-store owner, he is finally able to deliver happiness, something he thought he could do with his skills and talents as an architect, but couldn’t.

Sticking to it: A friend dove into making an almost-daily series of collages after long avoiding unleashing her creative potential. Creatives are the worst at indulging in their creativity, so afraid they are to produce crap work. But it’s often the really talented ones who withhold their gifts from the rest of us. (Subscribe for a daily dose of art.)

Lasting words: A woman I met on a business networking phone call launched The Cheerful Word, capturing and telling stories of the elderly in book form. Her business was suddenly launched when a lovely old woman asked, “Honey, what would you do with your time if you had limitless time and money?” It turns out she didn’t need limitless time or money, just the will to pursue what was so obvious she couldn’t see it.

Lovin’ spoonfuls: A friend left a sexy industrial design career to do what she loved most: feed people. She did it in a bad economy in a town with a zillion restaurants. Her business has taken many forms since the beginning; she seized opportunities along the way, not planned in advance.

A new lens: Another friend left a job without having a back-up plan except to pursue all the good things her job wasn’t leaving her energy to pursue like her new interest in storytelling through video. Sometimes you have to leave the safety of a job in order to create something new and potentially more lucrative. (See related post on closing doors).

Stranger in a strange land: My sister left a lucrative career and lovely house in D.C. to join the Peace Corps and is now living in a remote village in central Mexico, and was partly inspired to go for it after the untimely death of our cousin Johnny Copp,

For the love of art: A friend is about to launch an art business, a 180-degree career move, because he’s realizing that life is too short. “If not now, when,” he said.

So what do these examples boil down to?

• You can only put off your true nature or suppress your passions for so long.

• Start small; tweak it as you go. Opportunities have a funny way of showing up after you start, not before.

• Listen to what people tell you you’re good at.

• Look around at how other people have taken risks.

• Security and comfort is overrated.

• Size doesn’t matter; leaps come in different forms.

• Surround yourself with people doing interesting things.

• You don’t need to know what the net looks like or where it is.

• You can always change your mind later.

• You almost always have most or all the tools you need, at least for a first step.

I’m about to take a leap of my own, merging my life with someone I met far away only a short time ago. I’m sure the net is there somewhere.

(Image credit: Flickr / Arty Smokes, under a creative commons license.)

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