As you approach the ledge, your heart quickens it’s beat, threatening to jump out of your chest at any moment. Your vision, hearing, and perception all sharpen simultaneously, and suddenly, it’s as if the world has switched from standard definition to HD. As you step closer, ultimately approaching the ledge, you look down into the abyss hundreds of feet below you, and wonder out-loud: “What am I doing?” Your legs begin to tremble, and your hands instinctively check your harness and clips, though you are aware that your life literally hangs in the balance of the competency or lack thereof of the 30 year old Englishman who is now telling you to jump. The time between you processing the word “jump” and your free fall seems like an eternity, and yet suddenly it’s over, and you are falling through the air at 9.8 M/S^2, laughing your head off…
As you settle into the cushioned bar stool, and take the first sip of your cold beer after a long day at the office, your wandering eyes suddenly fixate on a single point. She is giggling as she throws her long, blonde hair over her shoulder, and flashes an amazing smile. Her blue eyes are sparkling, and you watch as she makes her way to the other side of the bar with a large group of friends. Your buddy catches you staring and nudges your shoulder. “Go talk to her,” he says playfully. The very prospect of approaching her releases adrenaline into your body, and as your heart begins to race, you list all of the reasons in your head that it’s a bad idea. “She’ll never go for it.” “She’s with her friends.” “She won’t like me.” A few minutes pass as you make casual conversation with your friend, but you’re not really listening. What you’re really doing is going through all the possible scenarios in your head – what you might say, and how she will reject you. Finally, after you and your friend throw back a few more drinks and a buzz begins to set in, you work up the courage to walk across the bar, certain that she can see your chest rising and falling in rapid succession, and blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind: “Hi. I don’t think we’ve met.” She blushes, and looking up at you, responds shyly: “Hi.” …
The alarm clock blares, and you roll sleepily onto your side. As your eyes slowly come into focus, you can just make out the time on your alarm clock: 6:00 AM, and you exhale dejectedly. In your head you go through all of the things that will need to happen to bring you from where you presently lie, comfortably in your bed, to where you should be lying in a half hour, on the bench press at the gym, hoisting a 200 pound bar over your head. The list seems daunting, and you begin making excuses to yourself as to why you don’t need to go today. Usually you push those thoughts away, and will yourself into the shower. But every now and then the excuses win out when you give yourself enough time to make them.
Which is exactly why you shouldn’t give yourself the time to make excuses.
The hardest part of any challenge is the time that elapses between deciding you are going to undertake it and actually beginning it. Once you are free falling it is no longer difficult – the choice has been made. Once you’ve begun a conversation with her, the worst part is over. Once you are at the gym, you are set in your routine, and sometimes even enjoy the pain of the lift.
Start being unreasonable. Read that again. Start being unreasonable. Stop listening to the voice in your head that lists all the reasons that you shouldn’t undertake that challenge that you believe would make you better. Jump into the cold pool. Go speak to the cute girl in the line at “Just Salad” despite the fact that 5 co-workers surround her. Grab the microphone on Karaoke night. Too often we live inside of our own heads. We allow a negative internal dialogue to silence our ambitions. We allow the period between decision and action to grow until the action becomes unfeasible. Until the girl leaves the bar. Until the karaoke company packs up for the night. Until the start-up hires someone else that made the decision faster.
Every time we allow the passage of time to remove a potential option from us as we contemplate all of the reasons not to act, what we lose is not just the particular opportunity, but also a bit of self-confidence. While of course we backwards justify each missed opportunity as not having been meant to be, there is a small part of each of us that knows that we have made a conscious, if not intentional choice, to let fear win the day; to trade comfort for progress.
If enough of these missed opportunities add up, we may make the dangerous mistake of beginning to think of ourselves as someone “who doesn’t [insert action].” Don’t wait until you become the “kind of person who doesn’t…” to stop accepting inaction as a feasible course of action. Fight complacency at every turn. Once you’ve made up your mind, count to three, and jump off the ledge.
As my friend Charlie Houpert writes in his book The Anti-Pickup line , “Hunt your fears every day.”
Because if you don’t hunt your fears, one day, they will haunt you…