“Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury
Since I left the traditional earning path, I have helped a number of friends look at life with different eyes. There are different paths out there and not everyone fits into the corporate box. The things I discuss with these friends are not new thoughts that I invented; they are processes and thoughts that I stumbled on when I was trying to find my way.
In my opinion, the biggest part of the equation is the willingness to accept something that doesn’t look the way you’ve always pictured it. One of my favorite stories on learning that lesson occurred years ago.
There was a man at the gym who I found really, really attractive. We talked and flirted a little, but no real movement had occurred on either of our parts. One night, as fall approached and it was getting dark earlier, I was walking past him on the way out of the building and to my car. I was texting someone at the time and barely looked up from my phone as I passed him and said, “Good night.” He asked me if I would like him to walk me to my car. I smiled back and said, “No, thank you, I’m fine.” He asked again pointing out that it was getting dark out, and again I declined his offer. I walked out the door and was halfway across the parking lot before it hit me; he was asking for an opportunity to talk and maybe move things forward a little. Because the situation didn’t look the way I’d expected it to look, I blithely refused his approach and lost a moment in time that might have been what I was looking for.
I’ve also found in talking with my friends who are dissatisfied with the status quo, that the more you hedge your bets, the more likely your path is going to be a rough one. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan things out and have contingency plans. On the contrary, you have to know how you’re going to support yourself and live in the gap while you’re figuring out what fits for you. But if you only look at different ways to do what you’ve always done, nothing is going to really change.
One of my favorite success stories is my friend who embraced the possibility and let go with her arms open and her faith high. She looked at how she could exist if she stepped away from her executive position and what safety nets she had. There were innumerable coffee and cocktail meetings while we talked out her options. I never encourage anyone to just walk away, I try to help them see what the possibilities are. After months of planning and waiting for everything to be in alignment, she did it; she quit her job.
It was a big deal and a really scary thing for someone of my generation who had bought into the “success” fairy tale hook, line and sinker. But she had faith and a plan. She also was willing to be open to whatever came her way, no matter how it looked.
Two days after she gave notice, another company approached her about coming to work for them. They had noticed her work before, but didn’t want to pull her away from where she had been for so many years. They were even willing to give her some time to take care of some of her personal needs before she went to work for them. Today, she is working from home doing a job she loves that gives her the opportunity to grow in the areas she loves most.
I recently heard from a man I dated for a couple of months during a difficult time of transition in my life. He was a very nice man and we talked easily, but there were just too many differences in how we looked at the world. I expected him to follow through when he said he was going to do something, and he expected me to understand other things come up.
He called me the other night because he is in the process of jumping off a cliff in his career. He has rarely worked a traditional 9-5 job and when he did, it never felt right and never lasted long. This time though, he is going back to school to learn more about better non-traditional ways of earning money. He was excited and a little scared and he wanted to share that with me. Even though it has been a long time since we spoke to each other, he knows of my passion for pursuing what you love. I love hearing from people who are excited about their lives and are passionate about what they do.
I have other friends who have also moved themselves away from what we’ve been told is the correct path to success. Not all of them have found their next step yet, but every single one of them is happier and more grateful for what they have. The higher their faith, the more supported they have felt. I support and encourage each of them in their efforts. In case you were wondering, not a single one of them has had to declare bankruptcy or been carted off to the poor house because they planned their escape.
I know not everyone is in the position to be able to take a deep breath and jump off the cliff with faith. I wish they were, because the ride is exhilarating.