“Do you see those mountains all the way out there? That’s where you’re going,” he said to me. “Look straight at those mountains, and run – don’t stop, don’t look down, don’t stutter… or we’ll die.”
I’m standing near the edge of a cliff, strapped into about a million harnesses and I’ve got a giant parachute spread out behind me. I’m about to go hang gliding for the first time.
Below, the lessons that jumping off a cliff taught me about my entrepreneurial career:
If you don’t have faith in your vision, nothing else matters.
As soon as you jump off the cliff, you’re flying – and put simply, it’s just not scary anymore. You’re just up in the air, floating, and somehow you feel safe despite the lack of ground planted beneath your feet. The hardest part about flying (ahem, success) is everything leading up to it. But you cannot fly if you do not jump. You must hold steadfast to your vision – because if you don’t look straight toward the mountains and just go for it – failure is inevitable.
It doesn’t matter where you land.
On that note, when you’re going hang gliding, or paragliding, or skydiving… the part that matters the most is the rush of the journey. Nobody jumps out of a plane because they’re excited about getting back to ground level. But yet, as entrepreneurs, we’re so fixated on success as an end point… What are we pitching, and who is buying it? How much money &/or joy does one action bring us? What specific effort correlates directly to our success, and how do we ensure we do not fail?
My point here is that, cliche as this is, it’s about the journey. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to pivot more times that you can count, and changing course doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you’re landing somewhere else. And remember – every action has a reaction, so just because something didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
Ask for assistance.
Of course, my first time jumping off a cliff, I didn’t go at it alone. I was very much a passenger for the experience, flying in tandem with someone much more experienced and knowledgeable than myself. As an entrepreneur, know that you are not alone. Ask for help, input, mentorship, guidance, connections. Ask for advice on getting to the next level, and always, always, remember to be kind, and consistently give back more than you ask for.
You can live the life you dreamed of.
At the end of the day, yes – you can die from jumping off of a cliff. But you can also die from getting hit by a car, from cancer, from a plane crash… I choose to take risks, and live my life to the fullest. Do what makes you happy, take chances and learn from your mistakes. I cannot tell you how many times that I struggled through tears, asking myself what I was doing with my life, and why I thought I could charter this crazy, entrepreneurial dream. But at the end of the day, I am happier jumping off of cliffs than I am playing it safe. For me, this means traveling the world, working for myself, and living a purpose-driven life filled to the brim with creativity. Decide what your mountains are, and leap toward that vision.
It gets easier to reach new heights.
To date, I’ve jumped off of three cliffs, out of one plane and thrown myself to free fall from one trapeze. The first time I made the leap, I was beyond terrified. I was jittery, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t believe what I was doing. But I jumped. And you know what? The more I did it – I was still scared – but I knew I’d be okay. On my most recent jump, I was brave enough to tell my instructor that I was ready to do acrobatics in the air, and I have never laughed quite as hard as I did when I was spinning upside down in the air, floating above the birds.
I am here to tell you that it gets easier, and with each challenge, you get stronger. That is not to say that you will never be scared again, but it is to say that you will continue to challenge yourself, and achieve things, that you never knew you were capable of. You, my dear, can fly.