“I Refuse to Tiptoe Through Life….”

Don't fear transitionsNever in my wildest dreams would I have imagined finding it “normal” to stick my head out of a moving aircraft, gazing directly below at the treetops and distant specks of automobiles on the highway below.  From 14,000 feet, it’s a surreal experience, even for those of us well accustomed to the world of skydiving.

The purpose of presenting your cranium to the buffeting wind of a plane traveling 80 knots is not merely for the thrill of it.  In fact, the goal is to ensure you can see the drop zone, the eventual landing area two miles below.  It’s that final check before the green light goes on and all but one of the plane’s inhabitants fling themselves into the open air.

For those of us experienced in such things, the whoops and hollers screamed into the whipping wind are of sheer excitement, not terror.  It’s what we’ve trained for.  It’s why we’re there, to experience the essence of controlled freefall over and over again.

It’s confession time….I’m 41.  Single father of two teenage daughters.  Former insurance agent.  Military veteran of both the Army and Navy (some may say a glutton for punishment).  Long-time organizational development consultant.  Aging ice hockey goalie and skydiver.  And my career is in transition….for the fifth time since entering the workforce as a naive college graduate, eager to make the world my oyster, armed with my endlessly useful Political Science degree.  So much has happened since then, so I won’t make you do the math….that’s a career transition every four years.

Several decades ago, such career transience would have prompted the cluck-clucking disapproval (masked in an equal blend of disappointment, pity, and parental concern).  After all, such a professional trajectory was not in the model of the 1950s IBMer or the path of a physician, lawyer, or other respectable “white collar” pursuit.  But amongst Gen-X and Millenials, seemingly dramatic shifts have become the norm.  Yes, there I said it….I’m “normal.”

Sure there’s a certain amount of anxiety and tension whenever one leaps in a new direction.  But, damn, the excitement, the renewed sense of purpose, the possibilities!  It’s quite invigorating, actually!

The hardest part of any transition, I’ve found, is just deciding to make that leap.  I’ve coached and mentored others who simply could not make that leap.  But with planning and the right attitude, the leap becomes merely a big step.  Gravity does the rest!

So, what’s my point…..

Every skydive is different, believe it or not.  And every skydive is planned.  Never once have I strapped on my parachute without first thinking through my upcoming dive.  And never once have I entered the plane without having made repeated checks of my equipment.  Not a single time have I skipped visualizing what I’d do in the case of an equipment malfunction.  And never once have I leapt without first looking (or without at least trusting that individual who was responsible for “spotting” when the door opened).

Similarly, no career transition should happen without planning.  No job left behind without first pondering what the future might hold and what you will do if your “parachute” malfunctions.  And when the door to opportunity opens, no leap should be made without first checking the terrain below you.  But once all of these have been done, when you’re standing in the door to career advancement (whether up the corporate ladder, laterally within your organization or to another similar position elsewhere, or to a completely new field and pursuit), make that leap.  Throw yourself out the door, your body relative to the prevailing winds, establish stability…..and enjoy the ride, my friend!

Over the past six years, I’ve taken many friends to the dropzone for their first (and sometimes only) skydive.  For some, it’s a bucket list item.  For others, it’s about conquering a fear.  For others, well…..there are all sorts of reasons for individual insanity, and far be it for me to judge others’ sensibilities.  I’ve witnessed hundreds of others on their first jumps.  And guess what?  I’ve never run into anyone who regretted making that leap.

So, if you’re faced with a career in transition, whether of your choice or a result of the economy, be willing to make the jump.  Chances are, it’ll be worth it.  Simply follow this recipe before leaping:

  • Plan for the leap
  • Ensure you have the right equipment and “know-how”
  • Scan the terrain for the landing zone…………
  • ….then LEAP!!!

I’m often asked, “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”  For goodness’ sake, if the door’s open….stop asking questions and simply do it!

“I refuse to tiptoe through life, only to arrive safely at death.” ~ Unknown

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